Much like the human brain, a computer’s memory is basically split into two categories: short-term and long-term. Random-access memory (RAM) is your computer’s short-term memory. It’s the component of your computer that holds all of the information that your operating system and applications need while being actively used.
The component that handles your computer’s long term memory, storing our pictures and music and system files, is often referred to as a “hard drive.”
The amount of storage you have in your hard drive can have a significant impact on your computer performance, but it pales in comparison to the RAM’s importance because information stored on RAM can be accessed much faster than in a hard drive.
There are other computer parts and components that affect performance as well, which we’ve covered in other articles. We’ve even given advice on an easy way to pick a CPU.
When you ask your system to juggle more information or run more programs than your RAM can accommodate – usually referred to as a bottleneck – your system and computer will struggle to complete easy tasks quickly.
Today’s technology requires various amounts of RAM to run efficiently. For example a text document may only need a tiny amount of RAM, but a large program like a AAA video game consumes a lot more space.
How much RAM does your computer actually need? That is a common question that we’ve tried to help solve in this article.
RAM Guidelines for Most PCs
- 2GB (or less) – 4GB: Most commonly found in low-power devices such as budget tablets and mobile-phones running operating systems like Android Go. There are exceptions to this range. The standard iPhone 8 has 2GB of RAM.
- 4GB – 8GB: Newer smartphones such as the Galaxy S9 and Google Pixel phones make excellent use of 4GB. Generally this is enough to power nearly all devices if they are used for daily tasks such as email or light usage of streaming services like youtube. Chromebooks have a general standard of 4GB but some more expensive models can have more than 8GB.
- 8GB – 16GB: Ideal for heavy multitasking, 8 GB allows Windows 10 and Mac operating systems to run smoothly with multiple applications being used simultaneously like editing text documents, using more than a few tabs in an internet browser and streaming HD video. 16GB RAM will even give more serious gamers or video editors enough bandwidth to work and play comfortably without lag.
- 16GB – 32GB (or more): Assuming your system also includes an advanced graphics card, CPU and memory, 16GB or higher is the way to go for gamers who want to live on the bleeding edge (you know who you are). Professional purpose-built workstations for video and graphics creation, engineering design, or heavy transaction processing would fall here as well.
Should you choose DDR3 or DDR4?
Double Data Rate or DDR and the number 3 or 4 represent the most recent versions of RAM memory chips.
The main difference between the two is the speed at which they transfer data to and from the CPU. Speed is measured in megahurtz (MHz) with DDR3 being slower than DDR4 by around 500MHz. It’s also of note that the two versions of chips are different sizes, so you’ll need to know the size of your current RAM or future motherboard slot before you consider increasing RAM.
For best performance, computers use 2 memory chips at a time so most packaging will state DDR3 2x8GB to show a total of 16 usable Gigabytes in your device.
If your system could use a RAM upgrade give us a call at 402-965-3300 or set up an appointment to stop in the store– we’d love to help you figure out what’s right for your needs!