What is RAM (random-access memory) on PC? How much RAM do you need?

Hi guys! In this article we are going to cover these questions:what is RAM in general?’, ‘how to choose RAM?’ and ‘how much RAM do you actually need?’. Before we start, don’t forget to check our other articles on topic “How to build a PC by your own”:

RAM - random-access memory

  1. How to build a computer for beginners (overall) 
  2. How to choose a PC case
  3. How to choose power supply for PC
  4. How to choose a motherboard
  5. How to choose a CPU
  6. What is RAM? [you are here now]
  7. How to choose a graphics card for PC

So, what is RAM?

In simple words your PC has different kinds of memory. Some of them (like SSD or HDD) belong to the secondary storage of the device (your PC in this case) and are commonly used to store data for a long period of time. The other kinds of memory belong to the primary storage, for example CPUs cache memory and RAM. The primary storage uses to store temporary data of the running applications.

RAM is an abbreviation for random-access memory, actually.

RAM is much faster than HDD or SSD, but it also has much less memory capacity. When you run a program or a game, your computer puts all the data it wants to have quick access to into RAM. If computers didn’t use RAM, they would have to constantly get data from slow storage drives and all programs and games would be very slow.

Key Technical Characteristics of Computer RAM

The main characteristics of RAM include, perhaps, only the type of memory, the frequency of memory and its volume. There are other characteristics such as timing and supply voltage, but we will ignore them to keep article more simple for you.

Main types of RAM

When you read in an online store or in a magazine about RAM, the abbreviation DDR often appears there. This is the type of RAM.

Main types of RAM

This is how the DDR1, DDR2, DDR3 and DDR4 look

DDR stands for Double data rate – double the data transfer rate. At the time of this writing (mid-2022), there are 5 types of RAM in use, respectively DDR1, DDR2, DDR3, DDR4 and DDR5. The most popular is DDR4 memory, since DDR1 and DDR2 have long been obsolete, DDR3 is also gradually becoming obsolete, and DDR5 has only recently appeared and has not yet managed to conquer the market. It does not cost much more than DDR4, but to use DDR5 you need to upgrade your computer. You need a new generation processor and a motherboard that supports DDR5 memory.

RAM clock speed

As you may have guessed, the speed of the memory depends on the clock frequency of the RAM. But this option will be of interest only to gamers. The rest of the users will not feel any difference. Here everything is similar to the previous paragraphs. First, we check the compatibility of the frequency with the motherboard. And then select the RAM with the maximum frequency allowed by your motherboard.

If the frequencies of the mother and RAM are different, then the system operates at a lower frequency from those presented. The same thing happens if two or more sticks have different clock speeds.

“How much RAM do I need?”

Many PC users wonder about “How much RAM do I need?“. It actually depends on how you prefer to use your future computer.

The size of RAM is measured in gigabytes now, but I’ve caught old times when even 256 megabytes was the norm for a PC. On the Internet, you may accidentally stumble upon false information that 4GB of memory is enough for office computers and computers designed for Internet surfing and watching videos. Don’t get fooled. This is either outdated information, or someone is very mistaken. I recommend using at least 8GB on your PC. So, let’s describe some popular scenarios.

4GB – get ready for everything to slow down. And some applications will not start at all.

8 GB – average usage of the computer, running games and applications that are not very demanding.

16GB – all games will run, but not all will fly, that is, at the maximum detail settings of some modern games, there may still be slowdowns. It is also suitable for a “workhorse” if, for example, your computer is a working tool, and you do not work in MS Word, but in professional programs for processing media files.

32GB – everything will work extremly fast. More suitable for gamers and for some very specific tasks.

64GB is already a luxury and, in my opinion, overkill. But you can show off to your friends. It will most likely not bring any more benefit.

So, I advise you to stop at a volume of 16GB. Let’s call it the unspoken standard of RAM size for modern computers.

Keep in mind that not every motherboard can support large amounts of RAM. Be careful!

I hope I have answered the questions: what RAM is and how much RAM you need. If you have any other quastions, you can ask them in the comments section below the article and I will try to give full information aboit it. I wish you good luck and to build a computer of your dream. =)

Author of the article: Цифровой
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