Adding memory is the best way to increase the performance of your desktop or laptop computer. This buyer’s guide covers the most important criteria that you should keep in mind when upgrading your RAM.
Upgrading RAM is not a simple decision, as it depends on a number of limiting upgrade factors. By following this guide, you will be able to correctly check each factor, thereby greatly reducing your choices.
If you’re not sure what a RAM is, check out this article.
Know your existing RAM and its maximum capacity
Before upgrading, gain an appropriate understanding of your computer’s existing RAM and the maximum RAM limits it can support. This procedure has been covered extensively in this article for macOS, Windows, and Linux computers. The article also helps you determine the clock speeds of your processor and whether the laptop has DDR3 or DDR4 RAM, as both values govern your buying decision.
Factors Governing RAM Upgrade Limits
Each computer chipset has limits in terms of the RAM it can support. The final amount of RAM that you can upgrade depends on the following factors.
1. Number of memory locations
First, find out if your motherboard has two, three, or four memory slots. (Again, this topic was covered in the previous article.) To reduce stress on the computer, it’s always best to divide your RAM between multiple locations. The processor must be able to access all available slots at the same time. Therefore, for a two-slot motherboard, a RAM of 2 × 8 GB is always greater than a RAM of 1 × 16 GB.
2. Operating system
Your operating system gives an indication of the maximum scalable RAM. For example, Windows 10 Professional can supports up to 2 TB compared to 128 GB for Windows 10 Home. However, these limitations of the operating system are “only theoretical”. In the end, it all comes down to the capacity of your processor and your memory locations. Actual RAM values would be much lower than your operating system.
3. Clock speed
If you are adding more RAM to your machine, make sure the newly added RAM is running at the same clock speed as your existing RAM.
If you are replacing your existing RAM with a new set of RAM, make sure that the RAM you are upgrading matches the clock speed of your processor. When they are not identical, the processor must wait for the RAM to provide instructions, which is a waste of precious computing time. That said, some overclocking is allowed within certain limits. If a processor is operating at a clock speed of 2666 MHz for DDR4, you can easily find DDR4 RAM at 2666 MHz online. And that’s what we recommend here!
One thing, however – it is not a hard and fast rule. Do not be too upset if the clock speed of your RAM does not match the clock speed of your processor. This will not affect your computer performance much.
How much RAM is “too much?”
The specifications of your processor hold the key to the amount of excessive RAM for your computer. For Intel, you can find the maximum amount of RAM supported by your processor to this link. An example is shown here.
The processor, Intel Core i5-10400T, can support two slots (memory channels) for a combined “theoretical” maximum memory size of 128 GB. In practice, however, you will be hard pressed to find a single 64 GB stick Double DDR4 RAM, which is both affordable and compatible with your laptop or PC model.
Typically, purchasing a pair of 64 GB DDR4 with a single key can cost you $ 1,024 ($ 512 × 2). Instead of going for such an overly expensive single 64GB stick, you can instead switch to a new laptop running Core i7 or even Core i9.
Also, you don’t want to underuse your RAM, so even 64 GB is not a good choice. So this 32 GB DDR4 RAM, 2666 MHz (2 × 16 GB) is the maximum RAM upgrade for your Core i5 with two slots, costing less than $ 160. In this particular example, the maximum scalable RAM is a quarter of the theoretical limit. So in this example, anything over 32 GB is way too much!
Here we discuss the analytical process for determining optimal RAM values for a given Intel chipset. You can also pre-check AMD Ryzen processors to this link.
How much RAM should I get in 2020?
The section above gives a quantitative overview of the maximum possible RAM upgrades for a given chipset. However, even in this case, you don’t want to stretch it to its maximum limit. This is why we have summarized our recommendations with a more realistic and optimal RAM upgrade value.
As of 2020, 16 GB or even 8 GB of RAM is sufficient for navigation, software development, Full HD video entertainment, and most commercial activities. If you are playing intensive games, you will likely need more GPU memory than physical RAM, and a maximum RAM of 16 GB can easily support most games. This is the ideal RAM memory to which we recommend that you upgrade if your device does not already support it.
The good thing about RAM is that it is generally inexpensive and will cost less over time. There’s no point in upgrading your RAM right now to crazy limits like 64 or 128 GB and under-using it. Even when you will need to upgrade to 32 GB of RAM (from 16 GB) in the future, you can be sure that it will be much cheaper than the price you pay now.
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