Along with SSDs, RAM is the component that a user most often thinks of when it comes to renewing or improving the performance of their laptop or desktop computer. But as it happens with SSDs, it is convenient to know very well what RAM memory contributes to the performance of our equipment as well as the types of RAM memory, how to choose the most appropriate one and the characteristics of a RAM memory that we should look at before buying it to our team.
How much RAM do I need for my PC?
When a user considers buying a new PC or upgrading an existing one, the amount of RAM is one of the most important decision factors. Hitting the amount of RAM memory that one needs for a computer is not easy.
There is no magic formula but think that for a basic user with just editing documents or browsing the Internet, 8 GB of RAM is already a minimum on which to try to expand if the budget allows it. Currently, then, we would stay at 8 GB as recommended memory except in the cases of professionals or gamers who need to reach 16 GB and more. In the end it will depend on our budget, software to use and the experience we hope to have using the equipment to choose the amount of RAM.
If we are not buying a new PC but expanding the one we already have, we should try to determine if we need more memory in our computer and how much it could be. A good idea would be to check in the usual tasks that we carry out with the PC, how much memory we consume. Both in Windows and in Mac or Linux there are options to consult it, such as the Task Manager or the Activity Monitor.
Once the amount of memory that we want to buy to expand the base memory of our equipment has been decided, it is advisable to choose the same modules (for example, two 4 GB modules are better than a single 8 GB memory if it is the maximum that we are going to place and we do not plan to expand) and thus take advantage of the dual channel (or even quadruple) systems of our team if that possibility exists.
The maximum RAM memory that our PC supports
If we are thinking of expanding the memory of our computer, the forecasts you have made may not be correct for a simple fact: the maximum memory that we can put in our computer is marked by the motherboard of both the desktop and the laptop and the operating system. In the latter case, it depends on the version of the SSOO and if it is 32 or 64 bits, we may or may not have more than 4 GB of RAM. If the system is 32 bits, no matter how much we want to expand those 4 GB, it will not do us any good.
The expansion of RAM memory in laptops is no longer possible in many of the most current equipment since it is integrated and it will be just the one that we choose in the purchase process
Depending on the model and chipset of the motherboard, the type of RAM memory supported will be one or the other, and also the number of modules (and maximum capacity of each one) that we can install on our computer.
It is convenient that the memory modules installed are the same, so have applications like CPU-Z on hand with which to know all the technical details of the components of your PC.
Another important consideration when looking for RAM memory for a laptop or desktop (or the amount that we can expand) is that, depending on the chipset included in the motherboard, we will require a specific type of memory in terms of the number/capacity of the chips. internal. If that number is limited, you will have to try to find that data on the number of chips and their capacity in the manufacturer’s data sheet, although even it does not always appear there.
We should then look at the image of the memory to count those chips (if they are on the air), but making sure that it is the real one that they sell. It is always best to check it on site with the module in hand.
Types of RAM and how to identify them
When it comes to expanding the RAM memory of our computer, the first thing we must take into account is the type of memory that we can place and with which our motherboard is compatible.
An important differentiation must be made between memory DIMMs and SO-DIMMs. The second, smaller ones, are the ones that are usually included in laptops and some all-in-one computers. If we buy a DIMM type for a laptop we will not be able to place it.
Currently the reference RAM memory is DDR4, although there are computers that may require previous “generations” such as DDR3, DDR2… These different generations have a different number of contacts and their distribution, so they are not compatible with each other. We must be clear about which one we will be able to connect to our equipment, since we will not be able to physically insert any other directly. That information can be obtained from the operating system, by looking at the motherboard information or with third-party software.
In current computers (with modern motherboards and processors), support for DDR4 memory is already common, and they will get more out of it, although in general, except for very specific software, between DDR3 and DRR4 there is no jump in consumption or speed according to the price difference.
The arrival of the 12th generation ‘Alder Lake’ Intel Core processors after the use of DDR5 memories, which allow us to work with modules with higher density, lower voltage and higher clock frequencies. But for now, the comparisons do not show too many differences in performance for the higher price of DDR5.
Another characteristic associated with RAM memories is the dissipation part . In the models for desktop and high-performance computers, there are models that add a dissipating part to the memory itself, in charge of ensuring that the cooling of that hardware component is as adequate as possible. This is important because it can interfere with the placement of other items on the motherboard.
The frequency or “speed” of the RAM
Once we know the type of RAM memory that we should buy for our computer and the amount that we are going to install, it is time to look at the main technical characteristics of RAM.
The most important a priori is the operating frequency, measured in MHz. Here, the more MHz the better the theoretical performance of the memory, so in principle we want the figure associated with the type of RAM memory that we are going to buy to be as high as possible. . With the new generations of RAM memories, the speed of operation increases.
However, we must attend to the maximum working frequency with which the motherboard is compatible. Yes, again that component will be the one that largely determines what RAM we can include to expand it. It is also important to check if the BIOS is updated to take advantage of that better memory operating speed.
If we do not pay attention to this option or we do not configure it correctly (as we will see later), we would not take advantage of those extra MHz for which we have surely paid extra.
Latency and other characteristics of RAM memories
Along with the maximum working frequency of a RAM memory, the other parameter that directly measures the performance/efficiency of our module is latency . This value, which is associated with the acronym CL (CAS Latency), will be better the lower the number.
In the specifications of the RAM memory we must identify figures such as CL9, CL8 or CL7. In these cases, the CL7 memory will be better than a CL9 if we refer to the same working frequency for both.
Another reference value in RAM memory modules is the voltage. For consumption it is recommended that the value be as low as possible. In the case of overclocking, it is one of the parameters that we can modify to improve performance.
Configure RAM memory in BIOS
Once you install the new RAM memory in the PC, the maximum operating frequency may not be what the module you bought promised.
The motherboard will not have configured it correctly, so you will have to take action. A straightforward way to accomplish this task is to use Intel’s XMP profile so that the motherboard, if supported, automatically configures the frequency, voltage, and other parameters to get the most out of your newly installed RAM.
If you still have problems with this method, you have to resort to the manual configuration of all those parameters.