RAM Basics, How Much Memory Is Enough?

By Gordon Ryan

Software is hungry for memory, we now have the ability to run multiple applications on our computers due to multiple core processors and larger capacity Random Access Memory (RAM) but how much RAM do we actually need? Do we just shell out our hard earned bucks on having the latest memory or is there a limit to the performance that we will notice with memory upgrades?. It is possible that for your particular needs you have enough RAM and your upgrades can be better made on more storage space, a new monitor, accessories etc. but it is also possible that the amount of RAM you currently have is not enough and you are suffering constant crashes and slow performance. There are some basics when choosing RAM, we have consulted with many specialists for tips, here are some things to consider before investing on an upgrade: Limit on your computer The first thing to check is the limit that your current computer has on RAM, you can check this by going to the manufacturer of your computer and checking your model to see your specific limit. To see how a specs sheet looks you can visit this Dell Spec Sheet. Here is an example on how the memory specs might look:

RAM Specs

This particular model supports 8GB max and comes with 4GB from the factory so you have the opportunity of doubling the RAM to see increased performance. Form Factor Another crucial thing to consider when buying RAM is the form factor, there are a variety of different form factors on the market, some are for laptops and some for desktops. The form factor is basically the hardware design standard, it involves its shape, size and other attributes that will allow you to fit the RAM on your specific motherboard, in the following sample you can see that the same memory modules these vendor is selling comes in 2 different form factors:

RAM Form Factors

You can visit the following link to see all the other product specifications related to this particular model. Be sure to check your computer specs before ordering your new modules. Capacity When buying RAM you have several options on the capacity of the modules you are buying, if you have an 8GB limit you can opt to get a single 8GB module or 2x 4GB modules, this will all depend on the limit on your specific motherboard. You have to take in consideration future upgrades and the amount of available slots on your system, if you’re planning on more future upgrades it would be wise to get a higher capacity single module so you have another empty slot for when you need to upgrade.

Typical desktop configuration.

 Typical desktop configuration.

The amount of slots varies from system to system, laptops usually just have 2 slots, and for desktops the common configuration is 2 or 4 slots, be wary that it is good practice to install memory modules in pairs, matching speed and capacity, in order to not have trouble with the memory communicating invest on the same brand, model and capacity modules, if you have 16GB you can get 2x 8GB modules of the same model, or 4x 4GB if you have the RAM slots available.

Your memory needs are going to vary depending on how memory hungry the software you use is, if you do a lot of video editing for example you are going to need way more RAM than your typical office worker. You now have a starting point on one of the best upgrades you can do to your computer.