How to pick the right RAM for your desktop or laptop. How to buy ram

Laptops / notebooks and desktops use a different type of RAM that mainly differs in shape, that is, in size and pin configuration of the connector through which it connects to the motherboard.

How to pick the right RAM for your desktop or laptop

Let’s face it. Smartphones are doubling up in a memory game faster than personal computers. Until two weeks ago, I was using a smartphone that had the same amount of RAM as my desktop computer. Of course that changed when I made the decision to add another stick, boosting it to 16 GB.

RAM, or random access memory, is critical to any computer system, it is short term memory for your computer that stores your most used programs and instructions to speed up the entire system. It is also the fastest storage medium on your system compared to, say, hard drives. RAM is also responsible for multitasking as it allows you to load multiple programs simultaneously.

On a computer, RAM acts as a buffer between traditional storage and the processor. Think of it as a temporary space for information that programs and the processor need to complete a task. When the computer is turned off, all information stored in the RAM module is lost, so running programs after turning on the computer takes a little longer than programs that have already downloaded data to the module.

As internet bandwidth, data, and media consumption increase, the need for a fast system is growing day by day. One of the easiest ways to increase the performance of your computer is to increase the amount of RAM.

Here’s a simple guide on how to choose your system memory, whether it’s an upgrade or you’re building a new PC.

How much RAM do I need?

This is not a very difficult question. It all depends on your needs. You need more performance then need more RAM. If you feel your current system has slowed down while loading programs, throw in a different stick. As I mentioned above, RAM is responsible for loading programs faster than traditional storage. Retrofitting will obviously lead to better performance, thus improving overall performance.

An easy way to find out if you need more RAM is to start a workflow, then go to the Windows Task Manager (press CTRL + ALT + DEL) and go to the Performance section. On Windows 7 or 8 / 8.1, you’ll see a RAM section at the bottom. If you are using Windows 10, a RAM frame will appear on the left side, press it and you will see system memory statistics. Now, theoretically, if the available free memory is less than 20-25 percent, an update could improve performance. If the average consumption of your system RAM reaches 100 percent, you should definitely consider upgrading.

When building a new system, 8 GB of RAM became standard. However, if you’re building a system for, say, gaming, then 16GB to around 32GB of RAM should be fine. If you’re building a system for production work, I’d suggest 32GB or even more so programs can load faster.

First, the price. Getting a lot of low capacity modules is usually cheaper than getting one high capacity one. For example, if you’re building a computer with 16 GB of RAM, you can save a few dollars on your final bill by purchasing a 2 × 8 GB or 4 × 4 GB kit instead of a single 16 GB module.

Why might you consider a RAM upgrade?

Some applications use a lot of system RAM. The Chrome web browser is notoriously RAM hungry as it treats each open tab as an individual process with its own memory allocation. Sandboxing, as it is also called, has the advantage that the failure of one tab does not disable the entire browser. The trade-off is that it uses your RAM extensively.

If you regularly work with several applications or browser tabs opening simultaneously, updating your RAM is almost a sure way to improve performance. If your PC is running slower than you think it should be at the moment, Windows Task Manager is a good way to check that you’re not overloading your available RAM.

Open Task Manager on Windows 10 (or Windows 7 or Windows 8 on an earlier system) by pressing ALT + CTL + DEL.

Click the Performance tab. The memory graph monitors your RAM usage in real time.

Task manager showing RAM usage

Task manager showing RAM usage

A good rule of thumb is that if available memory is less than 25% of total memory, upgrading the RAM will provide a tangible performance boost for the end user.

In the Task Manager, observe the RAM performance when opening a new application. If new apps open slower than you’d like and you notice usage is approaching 100 percent capacity, a RAM upgrade will likely serve you well.

How much RAM do you need?

As of this writing, in 2021, 16GB is considered the best place to consider price-performance ratio in the context of your main work-related computing tasks. If you have several applications running simultaneously and a dozen Chrome tabs, you should still have plenty of space before you notice any lag in performance.

Anything above 16 GB would make sense for workstation computers used for graphics rendering, scientific modeling, and CAD applications. It’s common for 3D design workstations to have up to 32 GB of RAM.

But again, it’s not something you need to worry about if you’re building a gaming PC as it would be hard to find a new motherboard model that doesn’t support at least 32GB of RAM.

How Much Memory Do I Have?

One of the easiest ways to find out how much memory you already have is to open any folder in Windows 10 (in the default view), find the This PC icon on the left side, right-click it, and go to Properties. The following report from an older, previously upgraded Dell notebook shows that it has an older Core i5 processor and a total of 8 GB of memory, 7.8 GB of which can be used for programs. (The rest is reserved for use by the processor’s integrated graphics.)

The above report may also include the manufacturer’s name and model, but it was not available on this system after upgrading from factory install to Windows 10. If you need more details, you can download a third-party utility which will show you much more System Information. Our goal is the free CPU-Z program.

In this older sample system, the program’s memory card shows that this computer has a total of 8 GB installed in dual channel mode, running at a clock frequency of around 533 MHz, which is equivalent to the memory type “DDR3-1066” as all generations of DDR for desktop computers have double the data transmission speed.

We also see that the actually installed memory is a pair of 4 GB DDR3-1600 modules that are backwards compatible with a few slower settings. Note that the slot number of the “SPD” tab has a pull-down menu which is especially useful when the default “Slot 1” is empty. Extra tabs show things like your motherboard model, which can be useful if you’re having a hard time figuring out what chipset and platform are at the core of your computer. (For more information on checking RAM on your current system, see this feature.)

Okay, So I Know What I Have. What’s the Easiest ‘Next Step’?

The search ends here for some PC updaters as some machines just can’t be upgraded. The above screenshots, for example, are from an old DDR3-equipped notebook that doesn’t support 8GB each and already has two slots filled with 4GB memory modules. Key thing to get started: DDR3 is a sign of an older computer, and you can’t just swap DDR4 modules in their place. In both laptops and desktops, DDR3 and DDR4 memory have different keys and are incompatible. But if you’re not getting this information from the manufacturer, there are other ways to figure it out.

Memory vendors specializing in sales to end users (especially Crucial and Kingston) offer online “memory configurators” to help potential customers find a range of compatible memory module options from their massive product suites. Unlike the outdated memory “compatibility lists” that desktop system and motherboard manufacturers maintain on a per-board basis, memory vendor lists are constantly updated to reflect real-time availability. Buyers can simply select the fastest kit with the desired capacity recommended for their system, but keeping in mind that these lists tend to lean towards the safest parts rather than necessarily the fastest or best value. (Crucial to Crucial System Advisor,and Kingston is Kingston Memory Finder.)

Now, if all you need is an increase in memory capacity and you don’t worry about running out of every drop of performance or overclocking, your search may end there. Using the memory configurator is a safe choice, and is often the best idea for laptop upgraders whose memory upgrade options are usually quite limited anyway.

However, if you’re a PC enthusiast and are looking for a high-performance desktop computer, the memory manufacturer’s setup might not be deep enough. We like to choose our own memory in which subsequent parts appear.

Computer RAM modules are standardized by the DDR aspect ratio. Motherboards only support one, which depends mainly on the age of your motherboard. The most popular varieties of desktop computers are:

How to install memory (RAM) in your PC

the memory of the corsair dominator

One of the simplest hardware improvements you can make to make your PC run faster is a memory upgrade.

Over the years, operating systems like Windows, software like Photoshop, and now even web browsers like Chrome have earned a reputation for untamed memory hogs. Meanwhile, older computers often have 2 GB to 4 GB of memory. Loading too many tabs in Chrome or leaving many programs open on the desktop can use up all the memory your system has to offer, slowing down its indexing.

If your PC feels cramped when a lot is going on, consider upgrading your RAM. As little as 4GB might work if you’re sticking to light tasks and not using Chrome, but 8GB is really the minimum we recommend for a modern desktop, and 16GB is the perfect storage for most people considering its slight price increase from 8 GB. Future-proof gamers may even want to consider 32GB – the downside, of course, is the increased cost. (Here’s how to find out what type of RAM you have right now.)

RAM buying considerations

There are different types of RAM. Most modern computers use DDR4 memory, but older systems may require DDR3 or even DDR2. High-bandwidth DDR5 kits are expected to make their debut with the upcoming 12th Gen Intel Alder Lake processors, but they will be very expensive and the processors will continue to support the older standard. For now, DDR4 reigns supreme.

Mentioned in this article

Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 3200MHz Desktop Memory

Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro 16 GB (2x8 GB) DDR4 3200 MHz desktop memory

In addition to the capacity of your memory kit, you should also consider the speed of the RAM you buy. Of all the memory bandwidth tests performed over the past decade, the only thing these tests have consistently found is that the purchase of the fastest RAM possible is very little. Most people should look beyond the flashy 5000MHz kits and focus on the optimal price / performance ratio: DDR4 from 2666MHz to 3600MHz. Opt for a RAM kit, which comes in two modules rather than one-stick or four-channel offerings if you can.

rAM install 8 of 11

Another thing to consider is the brand. Many memory brands are available, such as Corsair, G.Skill, Kingston, KLEVV, Patriot, ADATA, Crucial, PNY, Super Talent, Mushkin and more. The biggest difference between these brands is the design of the heat sinks on the RAM modules. Choose the memory that has the best compromise between the look you like and the price you can stand. You will find constant debates about the reliability of the various brands, but in general, all well-known RAM manufacturers provide very solid products.

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Improve PC Performance With Desktop Memory

Before purchasing any memory cards, determine the capabilities of your system. Check the type of RAM and determine the maximum clock frequency allowed by the specified PC system. If your PC only supports 2666 MHz, it doesn’t make sense to pay the extra cost for 3600 MHz. Hash rates also don’t work because the computer system will only handle memory at the slowest speed available. If you want to improve the clock speed, you will have to upgrade any existing memory modules. Motherboards also have the maximum amount of RAM they can handle, as well as a specific number of slots. If you’ve already exhausted the maximum number of memory slots on your desktop computer, you may want to expand your memory capacity or consider upgrading to a new system. Select the latest possible DDR RAM version,depending on the capabilities of the motherboard to enjoy the best performance.

You can take advantage of the extra and improved laptop memory if you play the latest titles. 3D rendering is memory-intensive, and while some systems have dedicated graphics processing units (GPUs), others rely on integrated graphics. The integrated graphics uses the same RAM as the rest of the operating system and software, which causes a higher load. If you regularly play the latest releases or play online, updating your system to at least the recommended game requirements may have an impact on your gaming experience.

Whether you’re building or upgrading your PC, getting the right memory modules is key to boosting performance. Our mega-guide covers everything you need to know about increasing your DDR4 speed (before DDR5 changes everything).

Choosing Your New RAM

As with most things related to updating your computer, figuring out what you need and then making comparative purchases is the hard part. Compared to this, physically installing the new memory is very simple. Here are some things you need to consider when making your decisions.

How Much RAM Do You Need?

Overall, more RAM is better. That said, the law of diminishing returns applies. Moving from 4 GB to 8 GB of RAM is likely to make a huge difference. The move from 8 GB to 16 GB still shows good performance gains, but not so much. And going beyond 16GB will be even less of a boost. Of course, some of them depend on what you use your computer for.

At the moment, we generally recommend at least 8 GB of RAM for most people. This is the perfect place for how most people use their computers. If you’re a gamer or frequently multitask with many larger programs, you’ll likely need 12-16GB if that’s within your budget.

And if you work with large media files (such as projects in Photoshop or Lightroom), use virtual machines on your computer, or have other specialized needs, you’ll need as much RAM as you can afford (and that your computer can physically hold).

How Much RAM Do You Have Now (and In What Configuration)?

Just open the Settings app, go to “About This Computer,” and see how much RAM you have.

However, that only tells part of the story. The 32 GB mentioned in the screenshot above (yes, that’s a lot – this system is used to run multiple virtual machines at the same time) can be four modules of 8 GB each or two modules of 16 GB each. This is important during an upgrade as memory is typically installed in pairs and different systems may have a different number of available sockets.

For example, suppose we wanted to upgrade this system to even more RAM. We need to know some more information now. How many total memory slots does the computer have? How many RAM modules are installed? Are there any slots available?

To do this, you can open the case and count the number of modules and slots inside, or you can use another tool. There are a few hardware information tools out there, but our favorite is the free version of Speccy (made by Piriform, the makers of CCleaner).

After installing and running Speccy, we simply switch to the RAM category on the left and the right pane shows us the information we need.

Unfortunately, we now see that we have four slots available and that all four are occupied with memory modules. Since we have a total of 32 GB of RAM, we can assume that we have four modules of 8 GB each. This means that in order to get more RAM in the machine we need to replace some or all of what’s there.

If we discovered that only two slots were occupied by two 16 GB RAM modules, we could just add another pair of modules – two 8 GB modules for a total of 48 GB, or two more 16 GB modules for a total of 64 GB. GB.

How Much RAM Can Your PC Handle?

The second part of the RAM equation is knowing how much total RAM your computer can handle. There are two factors here: the maximum RAM that your version of Windows supports, and the maximum that your motherboard can support. What’s lower is what you’re stuck with, but typically the motherboard is the more limiting factor.

How To Upgrade Desktop Memory

Replacing memory on the desktop is usually quite simple. You will need a Philips screwdriver to open the case, and that’s it. Note that these instructions are for the standard ATX tower-style case – if you have a more exotic case design, you may have to do some work or weirdly position your PC to open it up and access its internal components.

Remove all cables and external accessories from the computer, then take it to a table or desk. Ideally, you need a cool, dry, carpeted workplace. If your home is particularly prone to static shocks, you may also want an anti-static bracelet.

Remove the screws on the back securing the access panel. You are going to remove the access panel on the left side of the computer (assuming you are looking at the front). In some cases, it will be necessary to remove the entire cover. Then lay the case on its side with the insides exposed.

At this point, you should be looking at the motherboard. RAM should be easy to spot. These will be two or more modules protruding from the slots that are usually near the processor, but more towards the front of the computer.

To remove existing RAM, look for the plastic tabs on both ends of the RAM slots. Just press these tabs (away from RAM) until they click. The module should pop out slightly and is ready to be pulled out. Repeat this step for all modules you want to remove.

Press these tabs to release the RAM module.

Then simply lift each module straight up and remove it from the slot.

Before you plug in new RAM, take a look at the slots. Remember when we said RAM is installed in pairs? The installation location matters. On the motherboard in the image below, the paired sockets have different colors – black for one pair and gray for the other pair. If you are installing fewer modules than will fit on your motherboard (or you have two mismatched pairs – for example, two 8 GB modules and two 4 GB modules), you must install the pairs in the matching slots.

Note: Some motherboards use different indicators for socket pairs. Check your specs if you’re unsure.

To install new RAM, align the electrical contacts with the memory socket, making sure the notch on the connector is properly oriented – they can only fit in one orientation. Then, gently press the memory module into place until you hear the plastic tabs on both ends of the slot click into place to secure the memory module.

Three locked tabs on the back and an unlocked tab in the foreground. Lock all the tabs on the corresponding recesses on the RAM modules to make sure they are fully seated.

If you’ve disconnected any of the power or data cables on your computer to gain better access to the RAM slots, reconnect them now.

If you go shopping for (or read about) memory, you’ll also see a few other specifications that are often talked about: RAM speed and latency (also called clock speed).

RAM Capacity

Best Ram on PC

As we mentioned before, capacity is the most important factor in gaming, and at the moment, 16 GB is the golden number. Stabbing 32 GB or more of RAM into a gaming PC is just overkill in 2022, while 8 GB will usually be too little.

Nevertheless, you can still use 8GB initially and then upgrade later down the road, or you can reach up to 32GB if you also intend to use some RAM intensive programs or just want a more forward looking build.

Still, the GPU and CPU are more essential in gaming PCs, so don’t save on them due to more RAM, especially if it’s just a future-proof. As mentioned above, RAM is the easiest component to upgrade in a computer, and if you ever find that 16GB is not enough for your needs, you can always add more.

On the other hand, upgrading your CPU or graphics card is more difficult, so they should be prioritized over RAM.

Closing Thoughts

Finally, we should also note that although the different models are technically interchangeable, this is not recommended. Combining different RAM modules, potentially from different vendors, can lead to unexpected compatibility issues, crashes, and overall malfunctioning performance.

Moreover, if you are using modules that run at different clock frequencies, all modules will be limited to the speed of the slowest one.

Bottom line: prioritize capacity over speed and latency, choose kits over single high-capacity modules, leave room for expansion if necessary / possible, and don’t mix and match different models if you upgrade your RAM in the future.

Speaking of upgrading, if you’re buying RAM right now, you can check out our pick of the best gaming RAM in 2022 as you might find something you’ll like.

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Samuel is the editor-in-chief of GamingScan. He describes himself as a dedicated gamer and developer. He likes to help others discover the joy of gaming. Samuel follows the latest trends in the gaming industry closely to keep visitors moving.

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