What is RAM?
Selecting RAM for your Computer
Adding additional RAM to a PC that is often pushing the capacity of its memory cache is a surefire method to get your things running a little quicker. However, selecting RAM to add to a computer can be a little daunting to first timers. OutletPC, for example, carries several hundred different memory kits, and no two are exactly the same. So let's spend a couple of minutes learning how to sort through this mess and selecting memory for your system.
The first and most basic distinction you'll want to make in your RAM selection will be form factor, or, more simply, do you need the memory for a laptop or for a desktop? The most common descriptions a RAM seeker will come across are DIMM and SODIMM. The term DIMM refers to dual-inline memory module, which is just the technical term for the common pattern from which most modern memory is made. The specifications are identical across all brands, making interoperability almost a non-issue. SODIMM memory refers to small outline dual-inline memory module, which refers to the smaller, laptop-compatible brother to standard DIMM memory.
The nugget of information to take home here is that DIMM memory is (typically) for desktops and SODIMM memory is (typically) for laptops.
The pin-count of your memory selection can also play a determinative role in your RAM selection, enough that I think it deserves a quick mention in any case. The most common RAM pin counts are 240-pin for DIMM RAM and 204-pin for SODIMM. There are other, relatively common pin counts that still find occasional pertinence such as 184-pin and 200-pin, but fortunately, you don't need to think much about memory pins as they are all determined with memory's class, which we'll discuss next.
Memory Class (DDR#)
DDR is the acronymical shortening of Double Data Rate, the memory class which has achieved a consummate ubiquity since its completion in the year 2000. DDR's dominance is well deserved, as it transmits data much more quickly than its predecessors and is relatively energy efficient. Since the launch of DDR memory, two additional revisions have been released, DDR2 and DDR3. These different classes are not co-compatible, so selecting the correct will be crucial.
The class of memory your system supports is determined by your motherboard, so checking your motherboard's specs would be the primary source for this data. However, if you, like most people, don't have any idea what model of motherboard you have, this can be a little tricky. SO for everyone else, there's a handy program called CPUZ. You can use CPUZ to find your motherboard model number, but, even better it will just tell you what class of RAM your computer is already using.
It's not particularly difficulty to imagine what impact speed has on a stick of RAM. Faster memory is able to communicate more quickly with the system's CPU, and faster is always better. Memory speed is measured in megahertz (Mhz) and again, the limits of this spec are determined by your motherboard. If you're simply looking to upgrade the quantity of RAM in your system, then you'll want to purchase the same speed of memory as whatever is currently installed in your system, (which can be determined with the CPUZ program I already mentioned.)
If you'd like to upgrade the speed of your memory then you'll need to check your motherboard manufacturer's specs' page to see which speeds beyond your current model are supported. RAM overclocking is also possible, though it's beyond the scope of this article. (https://www.google.com/#hl=en&tbo=d&output=search&sclient=psy-ab&q=How+to+overclock+RAM)
While it's generally true that faster is better, there is a pattern of diminishing returns that standard users will face with out proper companion hardware and the knowhow on how to properly configure it. The odds are that if you don't care enough to learn about these finer points, than you won't be picky enough to notice the speed gains from the highest-speed RAM. (Also, I don't really understand it myself)
The final issue that will be important the vast majority of users is the size of the memory, or its cache size. This is measured in bytes (GB, MB, etc) and expresses the amount of data that your RAM can handle before spilling over to the page file.
Just as with memory speed, bigger numbers are generally better, however, also like RAM speed, you'll begin to see diminishing returns after a certain point. 90% of users don't need anything beyond 8GB of RAM, and 99.9% will never need anything beyond 16GB, (though some motherboards can hold up to 64GB!)
Heatsinks & Attractiveness
The fancy heatsinks you find on most memory kits these days are mostly snake oil. Their theoretical value is increased heat dispersion, and, it's likely that they do manage this task. However, the usefulness of better heat dispersion from memory is questionable at best. A quality heatsink can be important in cases of extreme overclock, which requires greater-than-recommended energy consumption and, as a result, more heat. However, when used at factory specs, or even with a modest overclock, RAM really doesn't produce much heat.
Heatspreaders do look awfully sexy however, and I won't deny that to some, ram sexiness is a valid concern. So, in choosing RAM, if you want a heatspreader, buy it for looks, not for utility.
Finally, and least importantly, is the question of brand. RAM modules are treated as a commodity, like rice or flour. This means they're purchased in bulk by various companies who then attach them to a stick of PCB, slap a cool heatsink on them, and ship them out. While there are some specific tunings and timings that go into their production, users who don't fit into those upper echelons of tech-tweakers will again find little value in their differences. The moral of the brand story is that is doesn't really matter, RAM is RAM, no matter who makes it.
Upgrading your RAMFor most people this will be the single most meaningful upgrade they can make to their PC. Desktop memory is relatively inexpensive, at under $5-$7 per gigabyte, and many folks only have 4GB or less in their system, though they can probably support much more.
Imagine that your computer's processor is a worker at a desk. He has all his tasks laid out around him, each project taking up a set amount of space on the desk. He may have iTunes on one part of the desk, Microsoft Word on another part, World of Warcraft on another. When he's finished working on a task he removes it from the desk and files it away in a drawer for later use. Your computer's RAM is like desk spacee; the more space you've got, the more your processor can set out to work on before it has to start filing things away to make space.
Most motherboards can make use of at least 4 to 16 gigabytes of memory, so it's odds on that you can squeeze in a little more. RAM is easy to install; it's just a matter of popping it into the right slot, though it can be tricky to find memory that's compatible.
The type of memory that will be compatible with your PC is determined by your motherboard and can thus be a little tricky to determine, especially if your computer came from a place like Dell or HP where they don't provide detailed specs about your PC's innards. The very best way to ensure that you're buying compatible memory is to match the memory you've already got. You can figure out what type of memory you're currently using with a free, downloadable program called CPU-Z. This program will run a quick check of your system and then spit out a report that tells you about the major hardware you're running, including memory.
Most memory today comes in two flavors: DDR2 and DDR3. DDR2 is an older type of memory that will eventually be phased out. Most new motherboards require the newer DDR3 which is faster, more spacious, and uses less energy. Both types, however, are still widely available at computer supply shops. They're not interchangeable so you'll have to make sure you get the right one.
You'll also need to check the speed of your memory, memory that doesn't match speed-wise won't work in your system. The speed or type of memory is expressed in one of two ways; you'll have to know both, since some vendors use one and some the other. The first is in MHz and will be written thus: DDR2-800 or DDR3-1333. The second way is with a PC number that will look like this: PC2-6400 or PC3-10666. These numbers refer to the speed and type of the memory; match these when buying your new RAM and it will work fine.
Two caveats on the value of memory upgrades:
1. If you're running a 32-bit operating system (i.e. Windows 7 x32, Vista 32-bit, Windows XP, or anything older), your computer will not recognize anything beyond 4GB of memory. This is just a limit of the system. You could put in 16GB and it would just stick its hands in its pockets, whistle, and turn its back on everything above 4GB.
2. Depending on the way you use your computer, you may not notice any improvement in your system speed after 4 to 6 gigabytes. Your processor doesn't need a desk the size of a pool table if it's only working on a couple of tiny things. Programs that deal with very large filessuch as Photoshop, video conversion tools and editors, or high-end gameswill see a boost with more memory, but if these aren't your things feel free to call it good at 4GB-8GB.
Does RAM have to be installed in Pairs?
With DDR1, DDR2, and DDR3, DDR4 memory you DO NOT have to install your memory in pairs (matching or otherwise). If your motherboard supports it, though, you may be able to take advantage of certain technologies and performance boosts by installing multiple memory modules (such as Dual Channel or Triple Channel operation, etc.)
What ram do I need for my computer?Buying ram involves two basic questions - what type of RAM do I need for my computer and how MUCH memory does my computer need? Making sure you have enough RAM is one of the most effective ways of making sure your PC runs smoothly - computers without enough memory will run very slowly when you run multiple programs or work with large files. Most modern desktops use DDR3 or DDR4 RAM for memory. These different technologies are NOT compatible with one another so you have to be sure. When you build your own PC, it's important to get a good amount of memory. With Apple now using the same basic hardware configurations as PCs, memory buying has become a lot easier - so if you have a Mac desktop you can buy standard desktop memory or if you have a Macbook you'll want to buy basic laptop memory.
While laptop memory and desktop memory are physically different in size, the software you're running accesses them in the same way so a memory boost serves as a great upgrade no matter what computer you have. Laptop RAM modules are often referred to as SODIMMs, Notebook Memory, or laptop modules. It's easy to visually spot the differences between laptop and desktop ram, as laptop memory is much shorter in width. Laptops also have the same DDR4, DDR3, DDR2, or DDR1 categories that desktops have so it's important to know what type of memory your computer takes. It's safe to assume all modern computers operate on DDR4 and DDR3, but you can always give us a call to verify your model.
A modern PC or Mac will need at least 8GB - 16GB of RAM, while a high end gaming PC will need 16GB or more. Most modern motherboards support 16GB to 32GB+ of RAM.
RAM actually runs faster if you use multiple modules, as compared to using a single module of the same capacity. For example, two 4GB modules of RAM run better than a single 8GB module. This is because of a technology called 'channeling'. You may have heard of dual channel memory? That's what we're referring to.
If your motherboard is Intel XMP (Extreme Memory Profile) compatible, choosing XMP-Ready RAM can give you a dramatic boost in speed. Check your motherboard's specifications to determine XMP compatibility.
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