Everything You Need to Know about RAM

Most people know that their computer has and needs RAM — but not many could tell you exactly what is it and what it does. Current new PCs and similar devices range from around the 2GB to 16GB or more. Here’s how to gauge how much RAM you need, how much your computer has and how to get the most out of it.

Let’s start with what Is RAM?

RAM or “random-access-memory,” is a type of data storage that allows files to be written and read at short notice, no matter what order individual entries are being accessed in. Within reason, the more RAM your system has, the more programs it can handle simultaneously.

This makes RAM well-suited for temporary storage, used by software for data that needs to be accessed quickly and frequently. For instance, if you’re using a word processor to create a text document, it’s stored in your computer’s RAM while you’re editing it — the speed that RAM can be read and written to allows you to see your edits shape that document in real time.

Now, how much RAM do I have?

To check how much RAM is installed on your computer:

Open a new File Explorer window > Find the icon for your system (often labelled ‘My Computer’ or ‘This PC’) > Right-click icon > select Properties > This will present you with a screen that gives you a rundown of all your computer’s specifications > look under the System subdivision for the entry “Installed memory (RAM).”

How Much RAM Do I Need?

The baseline for RAM in a computer is 4GB; that’s how much you can expect from a budget model, and it’ll be just enough. 8GB is closer to the current norm, and it’ll be enough to keep your computer fresh for the immediate future.

How much RAM for laptops

4GB is about as low as you want to go in Windows or OS X. This is an ideal combination of capability and price for most people. If you intend to run dozens of browser tabs at once, or you plan to do more intensive tasks like high-resolution photo editing, consider a bump up to 8GB.

How much RAM for desktops

RAM for desktops is less expensive than RAM for tablets or laptops, so it might be easier to find computers with more memory at lower prices. 8GB is a comfortable middle ground for desktops. If you’re planning on using it as your primary work machine, especially for intense programs or dozens of browser tabs, Office documents, and similar uses, consider upgrading to 12 or 16GB.

In summary, 2GB is the bare minimum, and is only suited for entry-level specialty tablets and laptops, like Chromebooks. 4GB is the comfortable minimum for a Windows or OS X machine, and 8GB gives some room to grow.