Building the perfect gaming computer can be difficult, especially if it’s your first time doing it. There is a lot of information out there to consider when selecting parts to build your perfect gaming computer. One question a lot of people struggle with is simple, “How much RAM do I need?” The answer to this question should be fairly simple, but unfortunately it’s not. There are many variables and situations you need to consider before deciding how much RAM you really do need.
What is RAM?
For anyone that may be new to computers or the concept of RAM, I’ll explain it simply. RAM, or Random Access Memory, is physical hardware inside a computer that stores data temporarily. RAM is useful because this is what allows the computer to work with more information at the same time. You can essentially think of RAM as your computers multi-tasking ability. The more it has, the more it can multi-task.
RAM can be compared to your short-term memory and a hard disk to your long-term memory. Short-term memory focuses on the immediate tasks, but it’ll only be able to keep track of so many facts at one time. Once your short-term memory is used up, your brain can sometimes rely on facts stored in long-term memory. A computer works in very much the same way. If your RAM is used up, the processor needs to continually go to the hard disk to overlay old data in RAM with new, slowing the down the computer’s operation speed. Unlike a hard disk, which can become completely full of data and unable to hold any more, RAM will never run out of memory, but the combination of RAM and storage memory can be completely used up.
What’s the Minimum Memory Recommended?
Gaming computers usually come with a pretty wide range of memory options, but the absolute minimum you should have for gaming is 4GB, not just for laptops, but desktops as well. Although a system that has 4GB to 8GB of RAM can run most games on the market, there’s a balance you’ll want to meet for the best playability.
To that end, laptops have better gaming capability with a minimum of 8GB of RAM, while gaming desktops usually need 16GB. This accounts for the slightly different hardware profiles of gaming desktops, and the larger allotment of memory works better with the high-end graphics and processing hardware you use in your desktop.
Typically, more RAM will only help with processor-based performance, so you shouldn’t be expecting any visual improvements after adding more memory. Processors are just as important in gaming as graphics cards and other components, so you’ll want to make the most of whatever hardware you have.
How Much RAM Should I Get?
Anything over 16GB of RAM is currently unnecessary unless you do a lot of things at once, such as video editing and rendering, or very technical work. If you’re experiencing frame rate issues, and your computer has 8GB or even 16GB of RAM, you’ll most likely want to consider upgrading your graphics card first. You can read our article to find some of the best graphics cards for gaming and mining crypto-currency here. There is a high chance that the RAM is not affecting the game speed or frame rate if you have a moderate amount of RAM. For mostly every casual gamer or computer user, 16GB of RAM is enough, and even 8GB of RAM should be enough for everyday needs. Unless you regularly have open multiple, memory-intensive applications at a time, then 32GB of RAM is more than likely going to waste.
How Much RAM Can My Computer Use?
First, note that laptop memory and desktop memory aren’t the same thing. You can’t use laptop memory in a desktop, or vice versa. The two factors that affect the type of RAM you should select the most are your operating system and motherboard.
The operating system that you’re running will affect the maximum amount of RAM your computer will be able to actually make use of. The maximum RAM limit for a 32-bit version of Windows 7 is 4 GB. Here are the limits for other Windows 7 64-bit editions:
- Windows 7 Home Basic: 8 GB
- Windows 7 Home Premium: 16 GB
- Windows 7 Professional: 192 GB
- Windows 7 Home Enterprise: 192 GB
- Windows 7 Home Ultimate: 192 GB
For Windows 8.1 32-bit, the limit is 4 GB of RAM. For the 64-bit versions of Windows 8 the limits are:
- Windows 8.1: 128 GB
- Windows 8.1 Professional: 512 GB
- Windows 8.1 Enterprise: 512 GB
Your computer’s motherboard is also a factor in determining RAM capacity, because there is a set amount of dual in-line memory module slots (DIMM slots) on each motherboard, which is where you’ll place the RAM. Check your computer or motherboard manual to find this information, or look for the slots on your motherboard to see how many you have available.
What RAM Should I Get?
Now that you’ve established how much RAM your computer is capable of using, you’re ready to pick out which RAM sticks you’ll be purchasing. Thankfully, brands of RAM are very close in price, so there’s not much difference in price. The only factors that can change the prices drastically are the Memory Speed and Generations. The newer generations of RAM, DDR4 and DDR5, are always the best way to go, but will cost more than the older versions.
To make this as easy as possible, I’ll show you the best RAM brands to buy for each specific RAM amount you’re trying to get into your computer. This will be sorted by 4GB, 8GB, 12GB, 16GB and 32GB. Once you know how much RAM you’re trying to get, you can easily find the best choice for you.
If you’re looking to just put 4GB in your system, odds are that’s the minimum your computer came with. If you’re building from scratch and need fresh RAM sticks, there are a few 4GB sticks I would recommend over the rest.
The Corsair Vengeance LPX 4GB DRAM 2400MHz is an excellent and quite stylish choice.
The Ballistix Sport LT 4GB Single DDR4 2400 MT/s is also a great choice and at a great price.
Now you can use two of the 4GB sticks to equal out to 8GB, or you can look at some the nice 8GB stick options.
Like its 4GB counterpart, the Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB DDR4 DRAM 2400MHz is another excellent choice.
Again, like it’s 4GB counterpart, Ballistix sells a really stylish and great stick, the Ballistix Sport LT 8GB Single DDR4 2666 MT/s.
With one easy order you can also purchase two good 4GB sticks. The Kingston HyperX FURY Black 8GB Kit (2x4GB) 2133MHz DDR4 is all you’ll need in one easy order.
Like the previous setups, you should use three 4GB RAM sticks. You can follow the tiers before this for details on that.
For an easy 16GB stick of RAM setup, you can use four 4GB sticks of RAM, or two 8GB sticks. If your plan is to use four 4GB sticks, you should use the sticks mentioned earlier. If you want to use two 8GB sticks, you should use two of the 8GB sticks mentioned previously.
To get an easy setup of 32GB of RAM, you can use four 8GB sticks of RAM. Again, you can find the 8GB sticks mentioned above and use four of those. 32GB is a lot more than recommended for gamers, and is overkill unless you keep a lot of programs open at once.