Building a PC: Choosing the Memory

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The system memory, or RAM, is a vital component to any computer. More RAM means that you will be able to run more programs and run more demanding games and software. The price of RAM is generally dropping often, so there is rarely any need to skimp on memory. RAM is also exceptionally easy to upgrade. If you are building a new computer on a tight budget, you can always get less RAM now and upgrade later.  If that is the case, then you should consider upgrading as a pair and if you have four RAM slots, leaving the other two slots open for later.  Make sure to add RAM in matching pairs.

Capacity

How much RAM?The capacity of RAM is measured in gigabytes (GB). For an average or better home PC, 2 GB is the minimum you will want but 4 GB is often becoming a normal amount of RAM. If you are running a 32-bit system, the computer will max out at 3.2 GB recognizable RAM, even if you have more than 4 GB installed. However, all but the most basic of new computers should be running a 64-bit operating system these days. A 64-bit system can access all the RAM you have installed up to a total of 512 GB depending on Windows version.

*A chart is below if you are using Windows 10 for the Max Ram Allowed.

Edition Amount
Windows 10 Home 32 bit 3.2 GB
Windows 10 Home 64 bit 128 GB
Windows 10 Pro 32 bit 3.2 GB
Windows 10 Pro 64 bit 512 GB
Windows 10 Enterprise/Education 32 bit 3.2 GB
Windows 10 Enterprise/Education 64 bit 512 GB

 

Also, be sure to check the specs on your motherboard for maximum RAM supported.   Your OS may support it but if your motherboard doesn’t, then it won’t do you any good.

For a mid- to high-end gaming systems, 8 GB of RAM is really minimal.  Having more RAM is a good thing and will help overall performance considerably.  16GB to 32 GB is common currently.  Obviously, the most important part for gaming and high-end 3d modeling computers is the GPU.  It is good to have a balance of RAM, CPU, GPU, HDD speeds and specs to really maximize your budget for a high-end gaming PC or workstation.

Speed

RAM is available with different bandwidths. The older SD-RAM is now obsolete and difficult to come by. To a lesser extent, the same goes for the original DDR, DDR2, and now old DDR 3 specification. Motherboards will only support one type of memory. Because of this, you should try to go for the latest specification. DDR4 is the standard currently.  DDR5 is often available for onboard GPU RAM.

The actual speed of a memory chip is indicated by the number following PC4 (PC4 for DDR4 RAM) in the specification. DDR4 memory chips are varying speeds. Unless budget is not really a consideration, it is best to go for something at the lower end of the spectrum as the difference in overall system performance will be minimal.

When buying memory for a new computer, make sure that the memory you buy comes in a single kit. Mixing and matching memory of different speeds and brands can lead to reliability and performance problems.  Matching RAM is the key!

Other Considerations

Higher quality and more expensive memory might not necessarily be faster or have higher specifications, but it can be more reliable. Higher quality memory sticks usually have aluminum heat spreaders installed over them as well. This helps to keep your system cool and can allow for overclocking.

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