Every part of your computer works together to determine the kind of performance you see on the screen. RAM is a significant consideration because it affects how well requested information is relayed between the various parts of your computer.
However, it doesn’t operate in a vacuum, and its performance can be aided or hindered depending on its paired components. A deeper understanding of how RAM works in your system can help explain exactly how RAM affects PC performance.
What is RAM?
RAM is short for Random Access Memory. It’s a type of memory designed for only short-term storage, unlike your hard drives that can store information for years. When a program needs a piece of information quickly, that information is often stored in the RAM until it’s used.
The amount of RAM and its speed determine what your computer can do. For example, if you’re only running a word processing application, you may not need much RAM. You’ll need significantly more if you’re running a chat program, screen recording, and playing a video game.
RAM generally refers to the memory sticks installed on your computer’s motherboard. Your graphics card also has memory, but that isn’t the type of memory we’re referring to here. For one thing, it isn’t upgradable like the RAM installed on your motherboard is.
RAM has a pretty noticeable impact on the performance of your computer. When the RAM is full, the computer can’t efficiently transfer information that might be immediately required. In those cases, the computer will slow down a lot and can impact whatever task you’re doing.
How Does RAM Work?
RAM holds information about everything you’re doing on your computer. When you jump from ARK Survival to Discord, RAM helps the computer remember where you were on each so they can quickly appear on the screen. It’s involved in almost every active function your computer undertakes and is never unused.
Think of RAM almost like your short-term memory. When you sign into a website with a two-factor authentication code, you forget it almost as soon as you submit it. But when your mother-in-law tells you her birthday, it’s best to keep that in your head forever. Your RAM stores the authentication code while your hard drive stores the birthday.
RAM always clears when the computer is turned off. Unlike hard drives, it doesn’t store things in the memory during that time. It’s also much faster at transferring information than standard hard drives.
How Can I Know What Kind of RAM to Buy?
Your motherboard is compatible with certain types of RAM, generally either DDR4 or DDR5. It’s essential to get the kind that works with the board because otherwise, your computer probably won’t start at all.
Check the documentation for your motherboard to see what kind of RAM you need. You can also see what speeds it supports. If it won’t support a higher speed, there’s no need to buy a higher speed.
How Do I Check What RAM I Already Have?
To check whether you’re running the best possible RAM for your computer, check the documentation for your motherboard and then look at what’s running in your system.
- Launch Task Manager and click on the Performance tab.
- Click on Memory in the left pane.
- Read the speed and the number of slots used in your computer at the bottom right.
You can fill every slot in your computer with RAM. Your motherboard determines how much RAM your computer will support. For example, you can put sticks with 2GB of RAM each in four slots, which means you can only have 8 GB of total RAM in your computer. If you put 16 GB of RAM in each space, you’ll have 64 GB in a computer with four slots.
The number of slots will vary per motherboard.
How Do I Check How Well My RAM is Working?
You can stress test your RAM with one of many programs available for such things. However, you generally won’t need to stress test your RAM unless you think it might be having issues.
Windows also has a built-in memory test called Windows Memory Diagnostic. You can run it from the start menu. Your computer will restart during the process, but you’ll have an idea of whether you have any memory problems once the test is complete.
RAM and PC Performance
Your RAM affects different aspects of your computer’s performance differently. Knowing what areas it affects more than others can help you decide whether a RAM upgrade is worth it for you or whether you can subsist on what you already have installed.
Since RAM is so active on any computer, more RAM is always better than less. However, some users can get away with significantly less than others, depending on what they do with the computer.
RAM and Computer Speed
Your RAM has a great deal of influence on the speed of your computer. Since it is the bridge between the long-term memory of the computer and the immediate actions you’re doing, computers with more and speedier RAM generally run faster. You may notice an immediate difference if you go from 8 GB of RAM to 16 GB of RAM, especially if you’re running multiple programs at the same time.
Gamers, video editors, and people who multi-task will benefit more from increased RAM than others. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a noticeable improvement for almost any user when you increase the amount of RAM in your computer. Its significance in computer speed and smooth performance can’t be overstated.
RAM and FPS
If you want to improve your frames-per-second, take a look at the RAM usage in your computer. When it’s consistently used at a high level, you might need more to get the best performance. Increasing the amount of RAM in your computer can absolutely help boost your frames.
More frames per second mean better performance in video games. The game will feel more even and smooth. You might even notice that you can do better in games requiring quick reaction times. Higher frames are desirable to most gamers and something to consider if you’re thinking of upgrading your RAM.
RAM and Graphics
RAM doesn’t have much of an effect on the graphics in your games. While it can have some impact, most of it is on performance, gameplay, and smoothness – not the images themselves. The CPU and GPU determine what kind of graphics your PC can display far more than the RAM does.
RAM and Bottlenecks
One way to tell whether you should upgrade your RAM is by looking for bottlenecks in your system. If your CPU and GPU show usage rates of 30 percent but your RAM is being used at 90 percent, then the CPU and GPU may be waiting on the RAM. This will slow their performance more than necessary and have a noticeable impact on your PC.
Keep an eye on the usage rates of your significant components in Task Manager to get an idea of where your bottlenecks are. It’s a good indication of whether you should consider upgrading your RAM or other PC parts.
Can I Improve the Performance of the Ram I Already Have?
A lot of RAM performance improvement is about streamlining what you’re doing on your PC. Restarting your computer, closing unnecessary programs, and being diligent about not running things in the background can help what you have go further.
For example, closing Firefox while I wrote in Chrome and had two instances of Discord open took my memory usage from 44 percent to 30 percent in Task Manager. Closing Steam only reduced it by two percent. Keep an eye on how what you’re doing affects your memory usage to better improve the performance of the memory already in your PC.
Does the Speed of the RAM Matter?
RAM speed is measured in MHz and can vary depending on what type of sticks you buy. The RAM speed doesn’t affect performance nearly as much as the amount of RAM in the computer. However, it does play a role.
People who upgrade their RAM to a higher speed with the same amount of memory generally see minor improvements in computer speed and FPS. The harder on your CPU a program is, the more noticeable that difference is likely to be. If you notice that your CPU is creating a bit of a bottleneck but can’t switch it out yet, faster RAM may help in some programs.
Some users also say that AMD CPUs depend more heavily on the RAM speed than Intel CPUs do. However, that is not officially supported and is just something some computer enthusiasts notice.
Is There Any Reason Not to Get More RAM?
There’s no reason to get more RAM if you don’t regularly use a lot of yours. That’s why keeping an eye on its usage is so important. It lets you know whether the amount you have is sufficient for what you do with your PC.
Buying RAM that won’t be used and installing it on your computer isn’t bad for the machine. It’s just a waste of money if you have so much that it’s never in use. However, some users prefer to put as much RAM as possible into their computers to try to future-proof, and there’s nothing wrong with that if it’s what you prefer to do.