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How to upgrade your PC’s RAM 

Do you dream of a more powerful machine? The good news is you may not need to dig deep into your wallet and buy that new PC or laptop. A RAM upgrade could be the key to faster, smoother performance. Yet what is RAM exactly and how much do you really need? We’ll tell you all about it below, including how to install more RAM—and don’t forget to make the most of your device with a specialized performance booster.   

 

What is RAM and why do you need it? 

PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones…they all have random access memory or “RAM” for short. You can also simply refer to it as “memory” (although this is a little vague), and it’s an essential part of any computing device, regardless of the operating system. Whether you’re using Windows, iOS, or Linux, none are RAM-immune. Today’s computers typically have anywhere from 2GB up to 32GB of random access memory and some high-end machines have even more!   

Humans have “RAM” too. We call it our “working memory”. It’s where our senses gather information about our environment and store it in a memory system that’s temporary and readily accessible for a few minutes. You couldn’t remember what you were doing if you were out of RAM! 

Your computer has different types of memory and it’s important to understand what kind of memory RAM is and why it’s different: 

Secondary memory refers to hardware storage components like HDD (Hard Disk Drives) and SSD (Solid State Drives) and is long-term memory. It’s filled with ‘non-volatile data’ (i.e.: more permanent data) which is kept there even when the computer is switched off.  

Primary memory contains the temporary data that is used by your computer right now for it to execute its tasks. This is RAM—so it’s the short-term memory of your computer. Without it, your device would have to search through all the data sitting on your hard drive and performance would be very slow indeed. Data in RAM is very speedily accessible and only exists while your machine is on.  

Different programs require varying amounts of RAM, but all software and processes need at least a little helping of RAM. Be careful—it all adds up! If you don’t have enough random access memory for every program to take what it needs, the applications you’re using will slow down significantly. You really don’t want to run out of RAM, but you also don’t want too much of a good thing. It’s all about balance. If, for example, you’re only ever using 12GB of RAM and upgrade to 32GB, you won’t achieve notable performance gains and may have wasted your money. Choose wisely, friends. Find out more about RAM here and how to maximize what you already have.  

How much RAM do you have?  

Before considering whether you need more RAM, it goes without saying that you should know what you already have. You could take your machine apart to find these answers, but there are easier ways. Your Task Manager is a useful window into your PC’s digital soul, so open it up to get started.  

  1. Press the Windows Key on your Keyboard and type Task Manager. 
  2. Open Task Manager. 
  3. Select the Performance tab on the far left.
  4. Click on Memory on the left of your screen. You’ll now see the RAM type, installed capacity, and the number of used and free RAM slots (these are the physical spaces where the RAM is stored). In the example below, we can see that this computer has 8GB of installed capacity and two used RAM slots. Rather tragically, it has no free RAM slots.

How much RAM do you need? 

Now you know how much RAM your PC or laptop has, but is it enough? It all depends on your computer’s workload. A good guide is to choose a capacity that slightly exceeds your needs. That sounds easy, but many of us don’t know how much RAM we typically use.16GB will cover most users and allow you to run many modern games while having plenty of browsing tabs open. So, it’s generally a pretty safe number to aim for. It’s also important to remember that as you install updates, they will generally consume more resources than older software. So, you’ll gradually need a more powerful machine over time even if your digital habits don’t change. 

Here’s a detailed guide based on usage scenarios if you want to see how low you can really go (or high if you’re feeling ambitious. Remember, that buying much more RAM than you need won’t harm or enhance performance but could make an unnecessary dent in your wallet!).  

  • Are you on an extremely tight budget and strictly use only resource-light applications like Windows? 4GB, but more is recommended.  
  • Do you need only an entry-level laptop and do some basic Windows gaming? 8GB but aim higher if you can afford it. 8GB was plenty for many years, but new AAA PC games demand at least 16GB.  
  • You have a Windows or MacOS computer and use more demanding programs, like modern games and video editing software: 16GB. You’ve now hit the RAM sweet spot for most users. If you’re building a new gaming PC or plan on streaming or running multiple applications while your games are running, consider 32GB.  
  • Are you a power user like a high-end gamer? 32GB can offer a great performance and multi-tasking boost but is still affordable.  
  • Are you a top-tier or pro gamer? You may be fine with 32GB but 48Gb of non-binary memory will give you more wiggle room. (Non-binary memory refers to RAM sticks that offer mid-step memory quantities, so you don’t need to leap from 32Gb to 64GB, for example).  
  • Are you an engineer or pro audio-visual editor using a purpose-built workstation? 64GB or more.  

A good tip is to avoid overspending on system memory and allocating your budget towards other components like a new CPU or graphics card.  

Is it time to upgrade your RAM? 

If your computer has the RAM it needs, everything should feel and run more smoothly. You’ll be living the dream of faster startups, more freedom to multitask, keeping lots of browser tabs and apps open with no interruptions, and higher FPS (more frames per second when gaming). All in all, you’ll enjoy a snappier, happier digital life. On the other hand, if these symptoms sound familiar, you may need more RAM: 

  • Multitasking with more than one app or program is difficult. 
  • Programs frequently stop responding.  
  • You have display problems, like a page partially loading or not loading at all. 
  • When you type, you wait for your computer to catch up. 
  • Clicking an icon means a delayed response. 
  • You get system notifications about low memory. 
  • System updates slow you down.

Before you go down the path of more RAM, be sure that your PC isn’t simply crying out for some long-overdue maintenance. Digital clutter can weigh it down over time, leading to slower and more “buggy” performance. Thankfully, specialized optimization tools like Avira System Speedup make it easier to stay on top of your spring cleaning.  

 

Did you know that many computer manufacturers don’t always reach the installed memory capacity in their systems? It’s all about keeping costs lower. So, if a desktop computer can hold 32GB of RAM, it may only come with 8GB. That’s why a memory upgrade can deliver such a performance boost. You’re helping your computer realize the potential it was designed for! It can also help you breathe new life into an older PC. Plus, RAM costs far less than a new device, and it’s usually considered the easiest component to upgrade, so it’s a win on every front. If you use a Mac, find out here how resetting the PRAM on a Mac can help remedy bugs.  

Before you get carried away, please remember that every computer has a cap on the amount of RAM it can use—more on this below. You can’t turn every human into an Olympic athlete either, no matter how awesome the kit you buy them.  

How much RAM can your PC handle?  

Your PC’s motherboard and its operating system will dictate how much RAM it can handle. Please note that the lower limit is the maximum RAM for your PC! 

Find out your motherboard’s maximum RAM:  

As we showed you earlier, the Task Manager offers helpful basic information, but you’ll have to dig a little deeper to explore your RAM upgrade options. Put down that screwdriver—there are third-party software options that let you take a quick free peek. Speccy by CCleaner promises to display your computer’s core information, including your motherboard manufacturer and model. You can then look up its maximum RAM capacity online or see your device manual. 

Another popular choice is Crucial, which scans your system to analyze its current memory and storage and then offers compatible upgrade options. 

Thankfully, RAM modules come in a range of capacities so you can make the most of your available slots by choosing higher-capacity RAM modules. If your motherboard has four RAM slots, for example, and can handle 32 GB of RAM, you can safely install four 8 GB RAM modules. If your mouse is now hovering over an order for RAM, please wait as there’s something else to consider! Your purchased RAM must be compatible with your motherboard. The current generation of RAM is called DDR4, so if your computer’s motherboard has DDR4 slots, that’s precisely the RAM it needs. Please don’t even think of squeezing in older DDR3 RAM modules, even if you find them on sale.  

Are you done exploring your computer’s motherboard? Then let’s find your operating system’s maximum RAM: Even if your motherboard is packed with RAM, your machine’s operating system has a maximum amount of RAM that it can recognize. If you load up any more RAM, your OS will simply not use it. Here’s a quick guide to finding out the RAM limitations of your operating system, so you don’t fall into the ‘wasted RAM’ trap! 

  • 32-bit operating systems can support up to 4 GB (for all versions) of RAM. 
  • 64-bit operating systems can handle more RAM, but the limits vary depending on the OS: 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium can use up to 16 GB of RAM. Windows 10 Home can handle a maximum of 128 GB of RAM. Windows 10 Education, Enterprise, and Pro are good with a whopping 2TB of RAM.  

You can quickly check whether the Windows on your machine is 32- or 64-bit by opening the System Properties window: For Windows 12, press the Windows key plus Pause. For Windows 11, right click the Windows key and open Settings. Select System. Scroll down to click on About.

The Device specifications appear at the top. 

How to upgrade or replace RAM on a desktop PC 

So, you’ve done all the necessary research as outlined above on this blog, bought suitable RAM, and have your PC’s manual and a screwdriver to hand? Good. It’s time for the final step as you add RAM—or 7 steps to be precise:  

  1. Turn off the PC and unplug all cables and cords. 
  2. Lay the PC on its side on a smooth, flat surface. 
  3. Access the motherboard by opening your computer’s casing using the screwdriver. Consult the manual for detailed instructions.  
  4. Touch an unpainted metal surface to ground yourself. This helps prevent static discharge which can damage the sensitive internal components of your computer. 
  5. Release the RAM modules by pressing down on the clips at either end. They should then pop up from the slot and you can lift them out. 
  6. When installing your new RAM, make sure that the notches on each module are aligned with the slot and then press down firmly and evenly until the clips snap into place. Be careful to only touch the corners and edges of the RAM or you might damage the gold connectors and other sensitive components!  
  7. Close the PC casing, plug the cables and accessories in, and reboot your machine.  

How to upgrade or replace RAM on a laptop 

In some laptops, the RAM modules have been soldered directly onto the motherboard so you can’t add RAM yourself. Assuming your laptop RAM can be tinkered with, here’s how you do it:   

  1. Switch off your laptop, close the lid, and unplug all cords, cables, and accessories. Then leave it to cool down completely.  
  2. Place your laptop upside-down on a flat, hard surface. 
  3. Depending on the laptop make and model, either unscrew and remove the bottom casing, or open the part that holds the RAM. 
  4. Touch an unpainted metal surface to ground yourself. This helps prevent static discharge which can damage the sensitive internal components of your computer. 
  5. Remove the existing memory modules by gently pushing the clips that hold them in place. When the RAM module partially pops out, you can gently grab it and pull it out. 
  6. Insert your new RAM by aligning the module with the slot. Then press down firmly on the module until it locks into place. Be careful to only touch the corners and edges of your new RAM modules or you might damage the gold connectors and other sensitive components! 
  7. When you’re done, close the casing or RAM access panel and turn your laptop the right way up. Then plug the cables, cords, and accessories back in, switch it on and then read on for a vital last check.  

Did your RAM upgrade work? Find out fast 

Before you give yourself a pat on the back, please check that your upgrade worked and that your new RAM is being recognized by your system. You can see your Task Manager or use the Control Panel and click on System and Security as we’ve outlined below. 

Then select System to see your device settings. 

If the amount of memory shown in the Control Panel matches the RAM you installed—congratulations—your upgrade was successful.  

An optimization tool can maximize the performance of your device 

If your computer can’t handle more RAM or you don’t feel confident grabbing a screwdriver, specialized optimization software can help you squeeze more performance out of your machine. Avira System Speedup is designed to help keep your PC or laptop in tip-top shape with faster start-up times and more storage space. It helps remove digital clutter like junk, temp files, and duplicates. Plus, the helpful real-time monitoring software sends timely reminders that it’s time to clean your machine—and you can customize the alerts.  

 

Microsoft and the Windows logo are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the U.S. and other countries. 

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