We bring you a guide with everything you need to know if you want to expand RAM of your computer. In this way, if you have never expanded this capacity, you will have all the information, from a description of what this type of memory is and what it does to other things that you must take into account to choose what you are going to buy well.
We are going to try to give you basic and simplified explanations, without going into technicalities. The idea is not to inform you less, but that any user without knowledge can have general ideas that help him in this procedure.
What is RAM memory
RAM memory is a type of storage memory that devices have. Its acronym means Random Access Memory, and it is a type of memory that you can find in any device, from desktop computers to mobile phones.
In your device you will find two types of memory, ROM memory and RAM. The ROM memory is that in which the data is permanently saved when you restart the computer or mobile, it is the memory used by the hard drives that you have in it.
Meanwhile, in RAM memory the data is only stored temporarily. This means that every time you restart or turn off your computer, it is normal that the data that is stored in RAM is lost. In addition, its speed is much higher than that of hard drives.
RAM is used to manage the data used by your applications and programs. When you use an application, it usually has ephemeral data that is saved in RAM until you restart it, while on hard drives it only stores a small part of information, yours as a user or things you save to use again later.
This is why the amount you have directly affects the performance of your device. The more RAM you have, the more applications you can handle at once, and if at any time you have more applications running than your amount of RAM can handle, then your computer may become slow and you may need to close applications or upgrade RAM.
What you usually refer to as RAM memory when you are talking about it as a physical component is some cards that are connected directly to the motherboard of your computer. These cards have different integrated memory modules that are connected together.
In a computer, you usually find a certain number of RAM memory slots so that you can mount the ones you want with different sizes. For example, if you want your PC to have 32 GB of RAM, you can have two 16 GB cards, or four 8 GB RAM cards. It all depends on the slots you have and how you want to set them up.
In mobile phones, tablets or devices connected to the TV, you usually do not see the RAM slots or be able to change it, but it is a type of memory that is also there. In fact, it’s pretty much the type of memory you care about the most.
what exactly is it for
A device such as a mobile or a computer does not run the applications directly from the hard drive, since if they did, they would take too long and everything would be very slow. Therefore, a faster type of memory is used to perform immediate tasks.
This is RAM, and things like CPU instructions or data that applications constantly need are stored in it. These instructions stay there until the computer is turned off or until they are replaced by new ones.
Imagine that you are working at your desk. In it, your drawers are the hard drive, which is where you keep everything you can use. However, then you have the desktop itself, which is where you have the tools and files you’re using now. Well, RAM memory would be like that desk, where you have what you need at hand without having to open and close drawers.
RAM can be used by programs and applications in various ways. For example, if you use a browser, all the data from the websites you visit are usually in RAM so that when you access them you have them ready there and they don’t have to be loaded again. That is why browsers tend to take up a lot of RAM.
In addition, open applications remain stored in RAM, so that if you need to use them again they don’t have to load from scratch again, and they load quickly without always having to write to the hard drive. Therefore, the more RAM you have, the more applications you can use at the same time, which affects the multifunction of your device.
What types of RAM are there?
There are several types of RAM. DDR (Double Data Rate) type memories are characterized by being able to carry out two operations in each clock cycle, unlike SDR (Single Data Rate) type memories, which only execute one read or write operation. To make it possible, the DDR chips are activated twice in each cycle of the clock signal, either by level (high or low), or by flank (rising or falling).
This way of working is the same, as for example in the DDR3, DDR4, DDR5 or DDR6 standards that are already under development. However, the more modern the standard you are using, the higher the speed at which it can operate. This means that it is not the same to have a DDR4 with a data rate of 3.2 GB/s and a maximum transfer rate of 25.6 GB/s than a DDR5 with 6.4 GB/s and 51.2 GB/ s respectively.
This means that the new generations of RAM have higher performance than their predecessors, as well as greater scalability and energy efficiency. Hence, if you want better performance, it may be interesting to upgrade. However, as we’ll tell you right away, if you have to upgrade your RAM, it’s not enough to just put the most modern type in your computer.
Finally, you should also know that RAM modules can have a heatsink, which is a kind of plastic hood. Normally, the modules that carry it tend to be more modern and have better performance, and although this heatsink does not always improve RAM, one that does have better internal chips than those that do not, at least in memory for home computer.
What you need to know to change or expand it
Upgrading your RAM isn’t too complicated, though there are a few things you should keep in mind before you jump in. Because it’s not as easy as just buying the latest one out there and that’s it, there are a few things you need to look at first.
Check your RAM type
The type of RAM you can use depends on your computer’s motherboard. Motherboards are where you install all the components that make up a PC, and it is where you will find the RAM memory slots.
The problem is that different RAM modules are physically different, and not only do they have a different number of contacts and teeth on their connector, but they also have their notch in a different position. This means that the slots are also different, and that in one that has been designed for DDR4 you will not be able to install DDR5 RAM.
Therefore, before starting to buy new RAM memory modules, it is convenient to know which one your PC uses. First of all, you have to identify what its size format is, since it can be DIMM and SODIMM. DIMM memory is the common one, the elongated one, while SODIMM is a much smaller type that we can find in some laptops, as well as printers, networks and other smaller devices.
And once you have identified its size format, you have to identify the standard of your RAM memory. To know your RAM memory, it is advisable to resort to an application called CPU-Z, and which is characterized by detailing all the internal components that your computer has. It’s free, and when you install and launch it you’ll have a Memory tab where it will tell you what type you have.
Here, I am going to give you another bad news. If you have an older computer with an older type of RAM, buying new modules may cost more than the newer standard. This is so because if you are already one or two generations behind, the spare parts are not as common and can be more expensive.
How much RAM is needed and how to distribute it
The maximum amount of RAM that you can install in your computer is determined by the motherboard. Here, what you will have to do is find out the exact model you have on the invoice or with the CPU-Z, and then look in its documentation to see the maximum.
However, it is normal that you do not need more than 32 GB of RAM in a computer. With 16 GB you should have enough, and with 32 GB you will have plenty for practically all the uses you give it. In some extreme cases, if you do very heavy and demanding tasks such as video editing, you might need more, but for everyday use today it would be between 16 and 32 GB of memory.
Another limit when it comes to expanding the RAM of your PC or laptop is the number of slots your device has, something that also depends on the motherboard. Therefore, if you open your PC and see that you have four slots, then you already know the maximum number of modules that you can install.
And then comes another decision to take into account, in how many modules to distribute the RAM memory you want. Imagine that your PC has DDR4 slots, which has modules up to 16 GB of RAM, you have four slots available and you want to get 32 GB of RAM. You could use two 16 GB modules or 4 8 GB modules.
Here, you should know that in general terms you will not find a big difference. Many motherboards will work with dual channel configurations, which improve the joint performance of two modules, whether you use 2 or 4 RAM modules. So there shouldn’t be big differences.
In general, it is usually recommended to use two RAM memory modules in home computers, since in many tests they tend to work the same, and although in gaming cases four modules can give better performance, the difference will be very small.
In some professional applications where bandwidth is very important and a quad channel motherboard is used, then four modules can have higher performance. Although not in speed, but in bandwidth. But in most cases with home computers this will not be the case.
In order not to get involved, it is usually recommended to install two modules, although if for aesthetic reasons you want to install four you will not have a negative performance either. Of course, if you buy packs of four modules you should make sure that to make the set cheaper they are not selling you modules with worse specifications.
Other things to keep in mind
There are a few other things to keep in mind when you want to change your RAM. For example, you will be able to mix RAM memory modules from different manufacturers, of different sizes or even different speeds. However, this is not always going to be better for your computer’s performance.
To improve the performance of your RAM, it is best to bet on a single brand, of the same size and with the same frequency. The frequency or speed of the RAM is important, and your whole array will go to the frequency of the module that has the lowest. So if there is some “worse” module, then it might slightly “slow down” the whole set.
In this regard, it is best to buy several modules of the same model that have the same components, since they will get along better with each other and you will have better performance. Although if for some emergency you need to mix, you can do it although it is not recommended.
Because you have to know that beyond the number of gigabytes of RAM, these modules also have their speeds and frequencies. If your RAM is clocked at 2000MHz and your motherboard only supports 1333MHz RAM, then the remaining 700MHz will not be used. And if you mix RAM modules and you have one running at 2400MHz and one running at 3600MHz, both modules will run at 2400MHz.
It is often recommended to have even amounts of RAM. This is so because if you put two modules, they will work with a dual channel mode making them more efficient and have a higher performance. You could put a third module to have more RAM, such as 24 GB instead of 16 with three 8 GB modules, but depending on your motherboard this could disable dual channel mode, causing performance to drop.
And finally, you should also know that having more RAM will generally make your computer faster when it comes to working with more programs. Even if you think 16 GB of RAM is enough, you may notice a lot of improvements if you upgrade to 32 GB.
There are a couple of exceptions. For example, if your CPU and GPU have significantly different powers, it can create a bottleneck that slows down the entire computer, and this is something that you are not going to solve by increasing the RAM. Come on, buying a super graphics card for a computer with a somewhat bad processor could slow everything down.
The same happens when you are using an old or defective hard drive in your computer, one of those that is not an SSD. So, no matter how much RAM you put into it, you will not notice great speed improvements, since what your computer needs is an SSD.
How to change RAM
Changing RAM is easy. You have to open your computer, and inside you will see the specific slots where the memory modules are placed. Once you have made sure to buy the ones that correspond to you according to the model with which the motherboard is compatible, it is as easy as connecting them and putting some tabs on them that leave them fixed.
On a laptop it can be more difficult, and in some cases you won’t even have access to the slots or you won’t be able to expand it, needing to go to a specialist. But in the case of desktop computers it is something quite simple, and almost anyone will be able to do it.
Of course, remember that your computer has to be turned off when you are going to make any internal changes. And don’t turn it on until the new modules are properly installed.