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How to check RAM and why it’s so important 

Your computer’s RAM refers to super-fast memory that temporarily stores the data needed by your active programs. Without enough RAM or in the event of RAM failure, you might be faced with refreezes, reboots, corrupted files, and even the dreaded blue screen of death! Learn all about RAM in this handy blog, including how much you really need, and what you have already. Then easily optimize your computer’s performance with a specialized cleanup tool.  


What is RAM and what does it do? 

Once it was a mere farm animal, but “RAM” these days is a more complex beast. It refers to random access memory—your computer’s temporary or short-term memory bank. It’s where your PC houses the data that it needs to retrieve very quickly to complete active tasks and run programs and processes. That’s because when the processor needs something, it needs it right now to execute its tasks efficiently and doesn’t have time to rummage around in long-term storage for the right data.  

Let’s see RAM action: When you open a program on a computer, it’s loaded from your storage (HDD, etc.) into RAM. If you launch Excel and want to edit a table, for example, the processor pulls the necessary data from the storage and transfers it to the short-term memory. When you save a file, it’s transferred back to the storage where it’s kept safe. A computer constantly requests and fetches data from RAM to keep programs running smoothly, so the amount of RAM and its speed are decisive to computing performance. Whether you’re playing your favorite video game, browsing online, or editing a document, RAM will shape your computing experience. As a rule, the more RAM you have, the smoother and faster system tasks will run and the more tasks you can run consecutively.  

Know what RAM is? Here’s what it’s not (exactly)! 

When understanding what RAM is, it’s helpful to understand what it’s not. Take a look at these terms, as they’re often used interchangeably although they refer to different functions:  

Is RAM storage? RAM is used to temporarily hold data and ensure that it’s available quickly and randomly. Strictly speaking “storage” refers to the storage drive, where data is stored more permanently, in a sequential format, and isn’t available instantly. 

Is RAM the brain of the computer? No, the processor, also known as the CPU (central processing unit), is responsible for the computer’s instructions and processing power. It allows your computer to operate and ‘think’, making it the most brain-like ‘organ’ in your PC.  

Is RAM memory? Now we’re talking! Yes, but a computer’s memory can be divided into two categories: RAM is primary memory and it’s filled with instantly accessible data that only exists when the computer is on. This data is called ‘volatile data’. The hardware storage components such as HDD (Hard Disk Drives), SSD (Solid State Drives), and other components, are secondary memory. This is filled with ‘non-volatile data’ which is maintained even when the computer is switched off.  

Now that you’re (nearly) an expert on computer terminology, we’ll serve up a helpful analogy to help you understand RAM even better. Join us in the ‘kitchen’! 

Whatever you’re cooking up on your PC: Keep your RAM ‘kitchen’ clean and spacious! 

There are many handy RAM comparisons and a kitchen countertop is one of the most helpful. To prepare dishes (programs), the chef (CPU) does all the work on the countertop, with produce (data) taken out of the fridge (storage). If there’s enough room on the countertop, the chef has everything they need at their fingertips and can work efficiently. If they’re digging around in dark cupboards for ingredients, they’ll work more slowly and can’t multi-task easily. When you use up all the space in your RAM, your computer has nowhere to store the data it needs to carry out its tasks. Picture a cluttered countertop with no space to organize things. The result? A…slow…machine. And where does the data in RAM go when you turn off your PC? Like any good chef that’s finished in the kitchen, it’s wiped away.   

Every computing device has RAM, because it can’t function without it. Whether you use a desktop computer (running Windows, MacOS, or Linux), a tablet or smartphone (running Android or iOS), or an IoT (Internet of Things) device, like a smart TV, you’re using RAM.  

How much RAM do I need? 

8GB, 16GB or 32GB? How much RAM is enough? RAM can start from as little as 2GB and how much you need will depend on what your use your device for. Do you love YouTube videos and browsing online? That doesn’t require a lot of RAM (lucky you).  If you’re a fan of graphically demanding video games and render 4K videos, then you’ll need a huge shot of RAM. It’s safe advice to always have a bit more than you need, but don’t get too much. RAM can be expensive, and you don’t want to waste money. Plus, more RAM alone won’t necessarily make your PC run faster (more on this later).  

It can be daunting to decide how much you need, but we’ve kept things simple with this quick guide. Pick your user persona below: 

  • “I do basic computing only”: You stick to simple computing tasks like surfing the web, using word documents, and stream content. Recommended RAM: 4 or 8GB. This should allow you to have multiple tabs open and let you switch between them. You can also do some light photo or video editing.  
  • “I do standard computing, play the occasional game, and tinker about with Photoshop”: The average person will want enough PC headroom for all the usual tasks, like browsing and streaming online, and might sometimes play resource-intensive, modern games. If you’re a budding amateur creative, you probably use programs like Adobe Photoshop. Recommended RAM: 16GB. Even if you have multiple open tabs, this should be fine.  
  • “I’m a creative pro and/or an avid gamer”: Now we need to bring out the big guns. Do you use resource-heavy pro software, like Premiere Pro, to edit and render 4K videos? Do you record and edit audio and photo files in Photoshop and have multiple tabs open at once? Recommended RAM: 32GB. If you’re a 3D animator or game developer, you may even need 64GB.  

To be honest, if you’re asking how much RAM you need, and are reading a blog about RAM, you’re most likely an office user and may be fine with 4GB or 8GB. For slightly more ambitious users, 16GB of RAM is usually plenty and you’ll be able to play demanding games and easily perform everyday computing tasks. Remember: You can always start off with the RAM you need now, and purchase more as and when you need it later.  

While 8Gb doesn’t sound impressive these days, it’s worth remembering that when hardware was based on Pentium CPUs, you needed just 8MB of RAM! That was more than enough to run Windows 95 and early games like Doom. You don’t want to run low on RAM though! When your active computing tasks exceed the current amount of memory on your computer, the operating system is forced to choose an application and move it to the hard drive. Then, when you switch back to that application, the information it needs to run isn’t instantly available. This is called ‘paging’ or ‘swapping’ and it causes delays and performance drops.  

Whether your PC is slowing down or you’re already seeing the dreaded “Your PC is low on memory” messages, read on to how free up RAM and reduce your RAM usage.  

Get more RAM and reduce RAM usage to boost PC performance! 

A regular cleanup of your PC will reduce space-wasting clutter and help your PC run faster and better. It’s also a great idea to clean out your Mac to help keep it in tip-top shape. You can do this manually, but why would you when it’s faster and easier with specialized software tools? Optimization software like Avira System Speedup scans for and helps clear digital junk and clutter so you can easily clean, defrag, monitor, and maintain… to your heart’s content. The result: A smoother PC and a happier user experience. Consider the Pro version for deeper, automated cleaning tools, as well as backup and restore functions.  


There are other helpful tricks to help you maximize your existing RAM.  

  • Restart your PC: This will completely clear the contents of your RAM and restart all running processes. 
  • Uninstall or disable apps you don’t use: This way you can prevent programs that you never use from consuming RAM. Navigate to Settings > Apps > Apps & features and click Uninstall on the app/s you want to remove. If you want to keep apps because you occasionally use them, you can disable them during startup 
  • Update your apps: This is essential for your ongoing online security, but new apps can also include optimizations that make them more efficient, so they use less RAM. Did you know that, like humans, older apps can also suffer from ‘memory leak’? This means that their data is not properly allocated and is not deleted when it’s no longer needed, so it can clutter up your PC system.  
  • Scan for malware: If your RAM suddenly seems to disappear, perhaps rogue software is stealing your resources? Your devices should all be protected from online threats with reputable anti-malware and regularly scanned for infection. Avira Free Security combines a Software Updater with Avira Free Antivirus, plus a VPN, and performance boosters.  


If you’re still running low on RAM, there may be no way around it and you’ll need to add more. The only way to do this is by adding physical memory ‘sticks’ to your machine. It’s not free, but upgrading your machine is still kinder on your wallet than buying a new PC altogether! Look at your manufacturer’s documentation to find out what RAM is compatible with your device. Online forums can also be very helpful. Before you go down that route, get to know your RAM using the steps for your operating system below.  

How to check RAM capacity, speed, and usage in Windows 11 

Many people want to check their “RAM memory”. You can just say RAM as the ‘M’ already stands for ‘memory’! Thankfully, Windows 11 makes it easier to monitor system health. You can easily see the total amount of RAM installed in your PC by using the Settings app: 

  1. Open the Start menu and select Settings. 
  2. The System category opens by default (or find it on the left). Scroll down to the bottom and click About.
  3. Expand the Device specifications section and you’ll see the amount of RAM installed.

The Settings app only provides you with a very brief overview of how much system memory your PC has. For additional details about your RAM, such as the speed and the number of available RAM slots, use Task Manager. 

  1. Right-clicking the Start button and select the Task Manager. 
  2. Task Manager launches. Select the Performance tab (on the far left) and then Memory
  3. At the bottom you can view your current RAM usage, check RAM speed, and see other memory hardware specifications.
    The number of slots used is useful if you want to upgrade your PC with more RAM. If all the slots are in operation, you’ll have to replace the modules inside with bigger modules. If you have a free slot, you can just buy whatever capacity you want to add. Having two slots usually means you have dual-channel memory, which results in enhanced performance.   
  4. Still in Task Manager, open the Processes tab to see which tasks are consuming the most RAM. To reduce current RAM usage, force-quit any task that’s currently in operation by right-clicking on that process and selecting End Task.

How to check RAM capacity, speed, and usage on MacOS 

Your total RAM capacity is always a good place to start. Here’s how to get there: 

  1. Click on the Apple icon to open the Apple menu. Choose About This Mac.
  2. In the window that appears, look next to Memory to view the amount of RAM.

How much RAM is your Mac desktop or MacBook laptop currently using? The Activity Monitor is your window to the workings of your Mac. It tracks CPU, Memory, Energy, Disk and Network activity: 

  1. In the MacOS menu bar click Go and then Utilities.
  2. Double-click Activity Monitor and then choose the Memory tab in the top row.
  3. You’ll now see all active processes and how much memory is currently being used. 

What are the main types of RAM?  

There are two main types of RAM: Dynamic Random Access Memory or DRAM (pronounced DEE-RAM) and Static Access Memory or SRAM (pronounced ES-RAM). Each type comes with its own pros and cons. DRAM has longer access times so it’s slower, but it costs less and tends to consume less power. SRAM is faster but this comes at a price. This memory is costlier, and it requires a constant power supply, so some users find it a bit more expensive to run. It also offers less storage capacity compared to a DRAM chip which has a higher packaging density.  

For the fastest read/write speeds, SRAM emerges as the winner. DRAM still tends to be the more widely used choice as it’s usually cheaper and offers more storage space. The choice is yours! What are your priorities?  

Here’s how to find out what type of RAM your PC has (Windows 11):  

  1. Open the Start menu and search for Command Prompt. Click Run as administrator. 
  2. To get the full list of specs for the RAM on your PC, including memory type (e.g.: DDR3 or DDR4), type wmic memorychip list full. 
  3. Alternatively, type in just the name of the individual specs you’re looking for. For example, to get the MemoryType and FormFactor fields, type wmic memorychip get devicelocator, memorytype, formfactor.

And here’s how to check your RAM type on MacOS: 

  1. Click on the Apple icon to open the Apple menu. Choose About This Mac. 
  2. To find the detailed specifications of the RAM on your Mac laptop or desktop, click on the System Report button. Then navigate to Memory. 

For detailed information on how to upgrade memory on a Mac, see this report by Macworld.  

Faster RAM or more RAM? Which is more important for performance? 

So, you’ve decided that RAM may be to blame for your machine’s performance woes. What now? More RAM or faster RAM? There are no easy answers and you’re best off getting the combination of both that suits you. More RAM is important if you have too little. If you run out of RAM, you’re in trouble, so having enough is essential. Thereafter, adding endless amounts of RAM probably won’t make a noticeable difference to performance. If you have enough RAM and your machine still feels sluggish and unstable, then RAM speed may be the answer.  

Here the differences between volume and speed: We measure RAM capacity in megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB). RAM speed is measured in Megahertz (MHz) and refers to the millions of cycles per second (so it can be compared to your processor’s clock speed). A bigger MHz number means faster data transfer and more speed. For example, DDR4 RAM has frequencies between 1600MHz and 3600MHz, while the latest DDR5 has a frequency range between 3200MHz and 8400MHz. Faster RAM may improve game performance and frame rates, so if you’re an avid gamer, look into your RAM speed.  

There’s no escaping regular maintenance when it comes to keeping your PC or Mac in (nearly) out-of-the-box shape. Remember to clear the clutter that could be holding you back. A specialized optimization tool like Avira System Speedup can make it easier to help free up gigabytes of space so you can hope for extra speed and faster starts. It also helps erase digital traces for extra privacy. 


“Microsoft and the Windows logo are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the U.S. and other countries. Mac, MacBook, Apple and iPhone are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries and regions.”

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Freelance Cybersecurity Writer
Nicola Massier-Dhillon is an experienced cybersecurity and technology writer. Nicola spent many years as a senior copywriter and creative lead in marketing agencies, crafting compelling content and campaigns for major tech brands like HP, Dell, and Microsoft. She originally hales from Namibia and is a passionate advocate for the conservation of wild habitats--also putting her words to work for charities, eco-tourism, and healthcare. Nicola spends her time looking after her (wild) twins, rescue cats, and a crested gecko called Giles.
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