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Tips for Adding RAM
A group of PC memory units. Maximum PC Magazine/Getty Images
Most modern computers come with two or more RAM chip slots, and anywhere from four to 16 GB pre-installed. The factory chips may be enough, depending on the use case. If you find your computer starting to drag, however, there’s an easy way to test if more RAM is needed. Open up your operating system’s task manager while running your typical programs, and check RAM use under the diagnostic section. If your computer is nearly maxing out its RAM capacity under normal operation, then an upgrade will probably speed things up quite a bit. As far as PC upgrades go, RAM is relatively cheap and simple. The procedure can usually be done with a screwdriver in a matter of minutes. If your computer is using 50 percent or less of RAM capacity under normal use, though, then this upgrade really won’t change much. In such a case, you would probably be better off with a new CPU.
There have been great strides in processor technology with the advent of 64-bit computing, and multi-core CPUs are available all over the market. Going back to our assembly line analogy; the CPU is the worker. A dual-core CPU is like having two workers, and can nearly double processing speed if it has ample RAM to work with. Six and even eight-core processors are now relatively common and affordable. Higher-end machines also have dedicated graphics processors (GPUs) which take the load of rendering graphical effects during gaming or video editing.
Similarly to RAM, processing capacity can be checked in your operating system’s task manager. If it’s constantly getting maxed out, then it’s time for an upgrade. Replacing a CPU is much more technically involved than switching out RAM chips, so it may be best to consult a computer specialist on this procedure.
In a nutshell, installing more RAM may improve computer speed if you frequently use many programs or browsing tabs at once, or if you do memory-intensive tasks like gaming or Photoshop. Under regular use, however, a CPU upgrade will probably have a greater immediate effect on performance. Upgrading both together will ensure your PC not only runs faster, but is also able to complete more tasks at one time.
Originally Published: Apr 1, 2000
How much RAM does my computer have Windows 10Answered By: Jason Patterson Date: created: Feb 06 2022
If you’re using a Windows 10 PC, checking your RAM is easy. Open Settings > System > About and look for the Device Specifications section. You should see a line named “Installed RAM”—this will tell you how much you currently have.Asked By: Angel Watson Date: created: Feb 08 2021
How do I know if I can upgrade my RAMAnswered By: Patrick James Date: created: Nov 22 2020
To find out if you need more RAM, right-click the taskbar and select Task Manager. Click the Performance tab: In the lower-left corner, you’ll see how much RAM is in use. If, under normal use, the Available option is less than 25 percent of the total, an upgrade may do you some good.Asked By: Leonars Ross Date: created: Aug 17 2021
Can I Run Different RAM Than My Motherboard Supports?
The computer’s motherboard must support the amount of storage the modules contain. For example, if a system supports memory modules of up to 8 GB, it may not be able to read a 16 GB chip properly. Similarly, if the motherboard doesn’t support memory with error correction code (ECC) memory, it can’t work with faster modules that use this technology. Check your motherboard’s manual or look it up online to see the maximum amount of RAM it supports.
Consider a solid state drive
SSDs or Solid State Drives have come down to a price level where they are within reach of most. While they don’t reach the same capacity as their traditional spinning platter brethren, they typically have more than enough space to act as a replacement drive for most machines.
SSDs improve system speed simply by being faster to read. Write speeds vary, so the gains aren’t as dramatic, but when it comes to reading data, SSDs are significantly and noticeably faster.
The process for switching to a SSD is the same as for simply replacing your hard drive with another:
- Create an image backup of your hard disk.
- Physically replace the hard disk with the SSD.
- Restore the image backup of your hard disk to the SSD.
- Make any final adjustments, such as adjusting partition sizes.
SSDs do use flash memory, and flash memory does wear out. Fortunately the quality of flash memory used in SSDs is such that it now typically outlasts the useful life of the machine, in normal use.
Nonetheless, I strongly suggest that you plan for failure anyway and backup regularly. (This holds true even with a traditional hard disk, since they, too, can fail catastrophically and without warning.)
Faster modules may not always run at faster speeds. When the motherboard or processor can’t support the faster memory speed, the modules are clocked at the fastest speed that they can support. For example, a motherboard and CPU that support up to 2133 MHz memory can use 2400 MHz RAM but only run it up to 2133 Mhz.
Installing newer memory modules along with older ones can also cause memory to run slower than expected. If your present computer has a 2133 MHz module installed in it, and you install one rated at 2400 MHz, the system runs the memory at the speed represented by the slower of the two. Thus, the new memory will only work at 2133 MHz, even if the CPU and motherboard support the higher speed.
Is 16GB RAM goodAnswered By: Wallace Hughes Date: created: Oct 15 2021
16GB of RAM is the best place to start for a gaming PC. Although 8GB was enough for many years, new AAA PC games like Cyberpunk 2077 have an 8GB of RAM requirement, though up to 16GB is recommended. Few games, even the latest ones, will actually take advantage of a full 16GB of RAM.Asked By: Philip Turner Date: created: Mar 30 2022
Is upgrading RAM worth itAnswered By: Bruce Bailey Date: created: Aug 23 2021
If the answer is no, then you need to look into upgrading. If 4GB is just barely enough, upgrade to more comfortably run your programs. If you’re not even at 50% RAM usage, upgrading to 8GB would likely be a waste. Upgrading your RAM from 4 to 8GB may hold value depending on your needs.Asked By: Norman Sanchez Date: created: Sep 15 2021
About Virtual Memory
Back in the days of MS-DOS, the amount of memory installed in a computer presented a serious limitation. If the computer had insufficient memory to store the code for a program, the program simply wouldn’t run. Virtual memory is a feature of Windows that eliminates this problem by using a portion of the hard drive as storage space when the computer is out of physical memory. If your computer doesn’t have the physical memory available to launch a new program, Windows “swaps” an inactive program to the hard drive to create more free memory.
Virtual memory is a great feature that prevents your computer from crashing or becoming unstable when it runs out of physical memory. However, you can start to run into problems when the computer has so many active processes that it has to utilize virtual memory constantly. This leads to a condition known as thrashing — the computer has so little memory available that it has to swap large amounts of data to and from the hard drive each time you open a new program or switch to a different window. You’ll know this is taking place because doing anything on your computer results in a long wait while the hard drive chugs and the hard drive access light blinks. If your computer is thrashing constantly, you probably need more memory.
How Much Memory Do You Need?
Windows XP tends to run happily with as little as 512 MB of memory, while 512 MB is the bare minimum for running Windows Vista. Windows 7 requires at least 1 GB of memory. In general, though, you want your computer to exceed the operating system’s minimum system requirements by as much as possible. In light to moderate usage environments — browsing the Web, working with office software, playing the occasional game — 2 GB of memory is typically plenty. However, with memory as inexpensive as it is, upgrading to 4 GB can’t hurt. Past 4 GB, you are unlikely to see a speed benefit by installing additional memory unless you run an application that makes heavy use of RAM such as VMware.
Top image via Wikipedia.