In our last post, we discussed an easy way to pick a CPU. Today, we want to talk about another component that’s very important to a computer’s performance: random-access memory (RAM).
Much like the human brain, a computer’s memory is basically split into two categories: short-term and long-term. RAM is your computer’s short-term memory: it holds all the information necessary to keep your OS (Windows 10, for example) and other applications running. The component that handles your computer’s long term memory, storing our pictures and music, is often referred to as a “hard drive.”
While a computer’s hard drive can have a significant impact on system performance (especially in the case of new Solid State Drives, or SSDs), it pales in comparison to RAM’s importance. Information stored in RAM can be accessed much, much faster than data stored on a hard drive, but when you ask your system to juggle more information than your RAM can accommodate (this is called a bottleneck), your hard drive has to pick up the slack. Really, without sufficient RAM installed, your computer will struggle to complete even simple tasks, as the system is forced to bend over backwards to compensate.
Now that you have a better understanding of what role RAM plays in a computer’s performance, it’s time to ask the question of the day: how much RAM does your computer need?
Technically, even Windows 10 can run on a computer with as little as 1GB of memory, but we wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone. With this setup, you could nearly cook dinner in the time it would take you to turn on your computer and check your email. More realistically, our minimum recommendation is 4GB of RAM. At this level, Windows will run smoothly and you’ll be able to browse the internet comfortably while working on a text document for the office, and even stream HD videos.
If you’ll be using your computer to work on more complex tasks like spreadsheets and Powerpoint presentations, or if you are a multi-tasker who tends to work in a few applications (or many browser tabs) at a time, or if you’d just like a smoother computing experience, we recommend a step up to 6GB of RAM.
Most often, we recommend 8GB of RAM. With 8GB of system memory, you can multi-task to your heart’s content, and will be able to run more intensive programs like Photoshop and video games without grinding your system to a halt. As software becomes ever more complex, you’ll want at least 8GB of RAM to feel confident that your computer will maintain its utility for a few years.
For more serious gamers, advanced users who are stretching the multi-tasking experience to multiple screens, and video editors, we advise an upgrade to 16GB of RAM. Assuming your system also includes an up-to-date graphics card, at 16GB, you will be able to play all but the most advanced video games at high resolution without sacrificing performance.
For gamers who live on the bleeding edge (you know who you are), 32GB of RAM is the way to go. At this level, you can be sure your system memory will never lead to jerky motion or a drop in frame-rate.