Last updated: August 11, 2021

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The main memory or RAM is an important component of every computer system. By temporarily storing data, the RAM ensures that your programmes run smoothly. The type and size of RAM has an influence on how quickly and smoothly the computer can work.

At least 8 gigabytes of RAM are usually available. If this RAM is not sufficient for your own user needs, the RAM can be expanded.

The RAM test 2021 shows you what you should look for when expanding your RAM. In this guide, we have compared the most common types of memory and established purchasing criteria that will help you find the right memory for your computer.




Summary

  • The main memory of a computer is responsible for opening and using programmes. It ensures that the PC works smoothly. The necessary size of a working memory depends on the operating system and user behaviour. If the main memory is too small, programmes often take a long time to load. This problem can be solved by expanding the main memory.
  • The choice of new memory depends on your computer. The mainboard and processor determine which type of memory is compatible with a PC.
  • Compatibility is the biggest requirement when choosing memory. You should choose the latest type of memory. It is always better to have too much RAM than too little. Important decision criteria when buying RAM are the size, memory clock and latency.

The best RAM: Our Picks

Not all memory is compatible with your computer. In the following, we will introduce you to different types of RAM. We show you the most common types of memory in different versions.

Past Recommendations

RAM: buying and evaluation criteria

In this section we show you which criteria you should consider when buying a new RAM. We take the following criteria into account:

In the following paragraphs we will explain what each criterion is and why it should be taken into account when buying a RAM.

Size

The size of a RAM is measured in gigabytes. The larger the RAM, the smoother you can work with your computer. How many gigabytes of RAM you need depends on two factors. The decisive factor is which programmes you use and whether this is done at the same time.

You can distinguish between three types of use. The following list will help you to find out which RAM size suits you:

  • Office - 16 gigabytes: This user profile allows Office programmes to be used simultaneously. Playing modern computer games is also possible without problems with a 16 gigabyte working memory. The focus here is on multitasking of Internet, mail and other work software.
  • Gaming - 32 gigabytes: In gaming, the focus is on playing complex computer games. In addition, 32 gigabytes of RAM allow the use of video and photo editing programmes, for example. This user profile therefore includes game lovers and creative people.
  • Professional - 64 gigabytes: A working memory capacity of 64 gigabytes is worthwhile if you work with professional software, complex database processing, animation programmes or architecture programmes. A 64 gigabyte memory is useful for work computers.

Currently, 8 gigabytes of RAM is the norm. With 8 gigabytes of RAM, you can use the most common programmes simultaneously. Playing older computer games is also possible.

We do not recommend a RAM smaller than 8 gigabytes. With 2 or 4 gigabytes of RAM, only the smooth use of typical office applications and the Internet is guaranteed.

Memory clock

The memory clock of a main memory indicates how fast the memory can work. The higher the memory clock, the faster the memory works. The speed is measured in mega transfers per second, or MT/s for short.

The clock speed of the working memory depends on the performance of the processor and the mainboard. This means that the slowest module always determines the maximum clock speed.

The speed of a working memory also depends on its latencies. Therefore, a higher memory clock is only worthwhile to a limited extent. The memory clock is particularly important for data encryption and video editing.

Latency

Latency means delay and refers to the reaction time of a working memory. Latency is measured in the number of clock cycles that the memory needs to play back data.

The lower the latency of a memory, the faster it is.

As a rule, latency is hardly noticeable when using programmes. However, latency is important for real-time applications such as online gaming or video calls. A lower latency enables shorter loading times.

To make the latency value meaningful, it is worth looking at the latency in nanoseconds instead of the number of clock cycles. Both values can be found in the data sheet of the respective main memory.

Ideally, your main memory should have the maximum speed in MT/s and the lowest latency in nanoseconds.

Type

Main memory comes in two types. SDRAM and DDR SDRAM. SDRAM is only suitable for older computer models. The compatibility of a RAM depends on the hardware of the computer.

In modern computers, DDR SDRAM is installed. DDR stands for Double Data Rate and means that the working memory works twice as fast as the original SDRAM.

The newer the memory technology of a main memory, the more performance you can expect. DDR4 memory thus offers the most advantages.

DDR SDRAM comes in 4 generations so far: DDR-SDRAM, DDR2-SDRAM, DDR3-SDRAM and DDR4-SDRAM. With each generation, the RAMs become faster and have lower energy consumption.

Since memory is constantly evolving, we recommend you get the newer memory types. The next generation DDR5 SDRAM is expected to be available this year. Therefore, we recommend DDR3 or DDR4 memory.

Type of memory

The form factor determines which type of memory is suitable for your computer. This means that you need the right slots to install memory.

When buying memory, check which form factor is compatible with your memory module. This will also tell you whether DDR3 SDRAM or DDR4 SDRAM is suitable for your computer.

Common memory module designs are DIMM and SO-DIMM. DIMM stands for Dual In-line Memory Module. SO-DIMM means Small Outline Dual Inline Memory Module and is more commonly used in laptops.

RAM: frequently asked questions and answers

In the following, we answer the most important questions about RAM. This guide gives you all the essential information about RAM and answers open questions.

What is RAM?

A working memory, also called RAM, is an essential component of a computer. RAM stands for random access memory. The RAM is a temporary memory that can access all stored data.

To open programmes, the computer needs RAM. The larger the RAM, the more programmes you can use at the same time. The main memory ensures that you can quickly switch between open programmes. In computer games, RAM ensures a smooth gaming experience.

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The RAM allows you to use programmes at the same time. In the home office, RAM helps you to work effectively and quickly. (Image source: Luke Peters/ Unsplash)

RAM stores data for as long as the associated programme is open. This makes RAM faster than the mass storage from which the data is copied. When the computer is switched off or restarted, the RAM is deleted.

The fact that the RAM stores data only for a short time guarantees the smooth use of programmes. If your memory is too full, your computer will automatically slow down.

When does memory need to be upgraded?

Most computers today have 8 gigabytes of memory. The more programmes you want to use at the same time, the larger your memory needs to be.

If your computer is noticeably slow, you should increase your memory.

You will notice that you need more memory as soon as your computer slows down. Increasing the amount of memory in your computer will make your programmes run faster and smoother. Also, more memory allows you to use more applications at the same time.

By viewing your memory on your computer, you can find out how busy your memory is. You will see if there is room for improvement or if it is time to upgrade your memory.

To estimate how much memory you need, it is helpful to know which programmes you use frequently. For normal office programmes, 8 gigabytes is sufficient. If you want to use your computer for gaming or video editing in the future, a memory upgrade is a good idea.

What types of RAM are there?

The type of memory depends on your computer's processor and mainboard. Your choice therefore depends on whether you are also willing to replace the latter.

The following table shows you the two most current types of RAM and what advantages they bring. Since the next generation of memory technology will be available this year, we have also listed it.

Memory type Available since Advantages Disadvantages
DDR3-SDRAM 2007 DDR3 RAM is compatible with older mainboards and CPUs and slightly cheaper than DDR4 RAM DDR3 RAM needs more slots to cover sizes over 64 gigabytes.
DDR4-SDRAM 2014 DDR4 RAM contains the latest memory technology. DDR4 RAM is currently standard in new computers DDR4 memory is slightly more expensive than DDR3 RAM.
DDR5-SDRAM expected 2021 DDR5 RAM is the further development of DDR4 memory technology. As such, DDR5 RAM should work faster and more effectively than its predecessors DDR5 RAM will not yet be standardised. DDR5 RAM will generally not be compatible with older mainboards and CPUs.

As a rule, it always pays to use the latest memory technology. If your computer is not equipped for a DDR4 RAM, a DDR3 RAM is still a good choice.

It usually takes 1-2 years for a new memory technology to become established. The release of DDR5 in 2021, therefore, points to a phase-out of DDR3 memory.

Are there alternatives to RAM?

Generally speaking, there are no alternatives to main memory. However, there are two ways to expand a working memory, at least in the short term:

Alternative technology Advantages
USB stick Expanding your RAM with a USB stick is a good idea if you want to increase your RAM as quickly as possible.
SWAP area Increasing the working memory through the SWAP area provides a quick remedy if your current working memory is already full.

The working memory can be expanded with a USB stick. To do this, insert the USB stick into the computer and select the option "speed up my computer" in Auto Play. The USB stick must be empty and formatted.

The second alternative to upgrading the memory is to increase the swap area. The swap area ensures that data that is not needed in the working memory is exchanged. To increase the swap area, you must change the numerical value of the swap configuration.

We recommend these two types of memory expansion only as a temporary solution. Using the swap area in particular will slow down your computer noticeably.

How do I know if a RAM is compatible with my computer?

Before you buy a RAM module, you should check whether it is compatible with your processor, mainboard and graphics card. Only then can you choose a memory.

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Whether a RAM module is compatible with your computer depends on the rest of your PC. The processor, mainboard, hard disk and graphics card must be compatible with the RAM. (Image source: Jairo Murillo/ Pixabay)

There is free software for reading out the RAM. This way you can find out which RAM has been installed so far. It should be DDR3 SDRAM or DDR4 SDRAM. The manual of your mainboard provides information about the maximum size of the RAM.

In addition, you should take a look at the computer case before buying the memory. This will show you directly how many slots you have available and what dimensions the new RAM should have.

How do you install RAM?

You can install a RAM yourself. First unscrew your computer's case to gain access to the motherboard. Do not use any tools during installation to avoid damaging your computer. .

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Installing a RAM is not complicated. Plug the RAM into the appropriate slots. If you want to replace the old RAM, remove it first. (Image source: JESHOOTS.COM/ Unsplash)

The following list should help you to install your RAM step by step.

  1. Turningoff the computer: Turn off the computer. Also unplug the power cable from the socket.
  2. Remove the old memory: If you no longer need the old memory modules, remove them from your computer's mainboard. To do this, loosen the white latches on the memory module.
  3. Insert the new memory: Place the new memory in the remaining or now vacant slots. Secure the memory by switching the white latch.
  4. Starting up the computer: After you have closed the housing of your computer, you can switch on the computer.

If you have enough slots to expand your RAM without removing the old memory modules, you can simply insert the new RAM modules. To attach the new memory modules, you will also need to toggle the white switches.

The RAM is automatically configured by your computer. As a rule, maximum performance can only be achieved by manually setting the RAM.

As soon as you have installed your new RAM, switch on your PC. In the control panel of your computer, you can now see whether the RAM has been recognised and, if necessary, change the settings.

Conclusion

Long loading times, system errors and overloads are just a few reasons to upgrade your memory. A change in your user behaviour can also mean that your current memory is no longer sufficient. In principle, everyone is able to upgrade their memory on their own. The choice of new memory depends on your existing components.

When buying memory, always make sure that the new RAM modules are compatible with your computer. Once you know what type of memory you need, choose your new memory based on your needs. Base your choice on the load limits of your computer. If possible, it is always worth going for the latest type of memory.

Picture source: 123rf / 105028810

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