What is RAM and how much do you need?
When you buy a computer or plan an upgrade , you often hear people say, install some extra RAM in your computer. But what is RAM actually and what is it for?
Random access memory or RAM, is a fast type of computer memory that is used to temporarily store information. The RAM, along with the CPU, GPU and motherboard, is one of the most important components in your computer. Laptops, tablets, smartphones, game consoles and even your operating system, be it Windows, macOS or Linux, also continuously use RAM. When your system or device does not have enough RAM, it can slow down the applications you are trying to run. There is also the possibility that these applications cannot be executed at all.
How RAM works?
Whenever the processor of your computer processes data (e.g. when opening an application or while browsing the internet), the RAM is used. This temporarily stores information that your PC needs now and in the near future. This temporary information or data can be quickly retrieved and read from the RAM afterwards.
You can actually view it as the short-term memory of your system. For example, it keeps track of data about your web browser, application (s) or game (s) that you play. Frustrating, every time you want to open a new tab or spot an enemy during your game, no matter how fast the storage media have become, they are still much slower than current RAM memories.
Data in RAM can be read everywhere at almost the same speed. This is because your RAM is mounted directly to the motherboard. Thus, there is no real latency (delay in data transfer) that could occur due to cabling or connections. Just like your short-term memory is not designed RAM is also not designed in order to always stay focused. He is ready to proceed directly to the next task. When the computer is without power, all information disappears immediately. This is also the reason why we need storage systems such as hard drives and SSDs. These will remember our information even if your computer is without power.
Different types of RAM
Most of the time when people are talking about RAM or memory, what they are actually talking about is DRAM (dynamic random-access memory), or rather for modern systems, SDRAM (synchronous dynamic random-access memory).
The most common type of RAM that you will find in current computers is DDR4. Older systems use DDR, DDR2 or DDR3. These type designations simply represent the generation of RAM used in that particular system. Each generation of RAM is also physically different from each other. You cannot exchange them with each other. The speed of RAM is always expressed in megahertz (MHz).
Related Read: How Much RAM Do You Need for PC games?
Yet another type of RAM, especially when it comes to video games, is VRAM or video RAM. VRAM was once a standalone piece of technology. Today it is used to indicate the available video memory of the graphics card. This is then called DDR, SDRAM or GDDR. Modern graphics cards use the GDDR5 or GDDR5X standard. The newer RTX Turing graphics cards from NVIDIA to use GDDR6.
How much RAM do you need now?
You need a minimal amount of RAM to run a desktop or laptop operating system. Game PCs usually have 8, 16 or 32 GB of RAM available.
- 8 GBis the minimum RAM you need for serious gaming. With 8GB of RAM, your gaming PC will run most games effortlessly.
- 16 GBis recommended for a contemporary gaming PC. Your RAM will never run out, as it were. It doesn’t matter which game you play, provided your PC is not running heavy programs in the background. This amount is also recommended if you want to game at a 2k or 4k resolution.
- 32 GB and above is recommended for workstations or power users who use applications that use a lot of RAM, such as graphics or video editing applications, digital drawing programs and Google Chrome
Many games and applications therefore have system requirements for a minimal amount. Those requirements are listed in gigabytes or GB and, depending on how demanding the application is, they are often between 2 GB and 32 GB. It is wise to install more RAM than the minimum stated amount. It is unlikely that you will only run one application at a time, this will fill your RAM and slow down your system. Please note, more RAM will not always result in a faster system.
While more RAM is better for multitasking, faster RAM is not going to give you more speed right away while gaming or running applications. Most DDR4-RAM memories work between 2,133 MHz and 3,000 MHz, but there are some that can reach speeds of up to 4,000 MHz.
Another aspect of memory that affects RAM performance is timings , although they have become less important than they used to be. Timings are basically the time between memory clock cycles. As the memory speed has increased over the years, the timings or the latency of the memory have also increased. Timings only matter if you’re considering using high-performance memory for benchmarking or top-level gaming.
Related Read: The 12 Best Graphics Card Under 200, 500 & 1000 for Extreme Gaming
Also important is the channel configuration of your RAM modules. Most RAM modules sold are dual channel. It is therefore recommended that you run two identical memory modules on the RAM slots of your motherboard. If in doubt, consult the manual of your motherboard. High-end RAM sets sold with three or four modules and support three or even four channels of memory.
Related Read: The 18 Best Gaming PC Motherboards – Best Motherboard Brands You Can Trust
RAM is extremely necessary and an indispensable component in your computer. It is therefore advised to do enough research on the required amount and speed that you will need. The cost will increase in proportion to the amount and speed of the RAM. Do not install more than you need with a limited budget. You can always review RAM purchase additional or replace your current one. Check out our best picks of DD4 RAMs for gaming and professional editing.