It may be time to upgrade your PC's Memory

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 29, 2021

In times where smartphones have often more memory installed than desktop PCs, tablets or laptops, it is a good idea to at least think about upgrading RAM.

More RAM may improve the performance of the device, as it may speed up certain operations. One example: a work PC that I'm using VirtualBox on has only 8 Gigabytes of RAM. Whenever I run a Windows 11 VM using the software, everything slows down considerable as it takes away 4 Gigabytes of RAM from the system.

Gamers and users who use memory-hungry applications may also benefit from more RAM.

There is one caveat: not all devices can be upgraded. Depending on the device, RAM may already be at the limit of what is supported, or it may be soldered and not replaceable because of that.

Why it is time to upgrade RAM

RAM is relatively cheap right now. I bought a 16 Gigabyte G.SKill kit last week for less than $50. Installation was quick on the device I mentioned above, and the experience has improved significantly while running virtual machines on the device.

Memory upgrades are one of the simplest options to improve the performance of the device. Obviously, if your device has a lot of RAM already, say 16 Gigabytes or more, then you may not see much of a gain if you double it. Any device with 8 Gigabytes or less, may see an improvement; this depends on the actual amount of RAM that is installed and the activity on the device.

If you do a bit of text editing and Internet browsing, you may not need more than 4 Gigabytes of RAM. Since RAM is cheap, it may still be beneficial to upgrade it.

16 Gigabytes of RAM start at about $50 right now. If your PC has four RAM slots, you can double that to 32 Gigabytes for about $100.

There is also the option to use 16 Gigabyte or 32 Gigabyte RAM modules instead, but these are more expensive.

How to upgrade the RAM

The process is slightly complicated. The main reason for that is that you need to find out a few things first:

  1. What are the RAM specifications of the device, i.e. how much RAM is supported and which types?
  2. How many RAM slots are available.

Both answers are found in the manual of the motherboard. Most PCs come without such a manual.

You can check out my guide on finding out how much RAM a motherboard supports here. It is from 2013, but the information is still valid. RAM pricing has gone done significantly since then.

Here is a quick summary in case you don't want to read the entire guide:

  1. Use a system information program like Speccy to determine the make and model of the motherboard.
  2. Run an Internet search on your favorite search engine for the make and model of the motherboard, e.g. Gigabyte P55-USB3. One of the results should be the manufacturer's support page. The page may list the information right away, or it may contain a manual that you can read to find out about supported RAM.

Once you have the information, you can go RAM shopping. Where you do that depends on the region you are living in.

To give you one example. If you live in the United States, you may visit Newegg to buy RAM. While RAM is cheap, it may make sense to compare pricing nevertheless.

Select Menu > Components > Core Components > Memory > Desktop Memory to open the main entry page for all things RAM. There are also sections specifically for laptops, Macs and other devices.

Use the filters on the left to filter by type, speed and capacity. You may sort the listing by best rating or other factors. 16 Gigabytes of RAM start at about $50 on the site. Again, you should look elsewhere, or may use price comparison sites to find the best deal  for the RAM you are interested in.

Replacing the RAM

Replacing the RAM on desktop devices is quite easy. It is just a few steps:

  • Disconnect the power cable from the device.
  • Open the case at the back. It is enough to open the main side, the one that gives access to the motherboard (usually the left side when you look at the front). If you want more space, disconnect all cables and put the PC on a table.
  • Locate the RAM slots on the motherboard and remove the existing RAM. It is locked in place and you need to press the two plastic tabs down on either side of it.
  • Put the new modules one after the other into the device. Note that orientation matters, so make sure the contacts match with the memory slot design. The plastic tabs should click in place automatically when done correctly.
  • Repeat the steps for the other modules.

Note that RAM slots may come in pairs. If you see that on your motherboard, e.g. if the RAM slots have different colors, you need to place the slots you have into these pairs.

The process is nearly identical on laptops, provided that the RAM is replacable.

Now You: How much RAM do your devices have? How much would you like to have?

It may be time to upgrade your PC's Memory
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It may be time to upgrade your PC's Memory
Memory is an essential component of every PC. Adding more RAM to the device may increase performance of the device significantly.
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  1. Bd said on December 3, 2021 at 8:50 am

    Didn’t Piriform become bundleware and come packed with adware, install shady services etc even before it was bought by avast? Very surprised to see a piriform software’s screenshot in a ghacks article, that too in one by Martin.

  2. John G. said on November 30, 2021 at 11:45 am

    It would be a good idea that W11 will be able to compress all RAM, not only a few Mb. :[

  3. ULBoom said on November 29, 2021 at 10:31 pm

    “…or it may be soldered and not replaceable because of that.”

    The Cool Kid thin stuff (mostly junk IMO) is like this. But their spaghetti arms…although iPads are way better than the 20 lbs of textbooks we carred around in school.

    Ours are all 16-32GB, dual simm’s. 16 is enough for most everything but some video editing. 8 is not except for really simple things, regardless of whether you never catch all of it being used.

    Any decent SSD if you’re still using HDD’s (beside the few hybrids still around) will give a bigger kick than extra memory unless it’s woefully lacking.

  4. Yuliya said on November 29, 2021 at 4:39 pm

    There is more to memory than just size, speed and latency, which can easily be found on its spec sheet. Density can have a tremenduous impact over performance, and generally speaking, lower density modules (sticks which have more memory chips of lower capacity) are preferable as they are much faster than high density ones.

    Think of a 16GiB stick of RAM:
    high density = four memory chips of 4GiB each per stick
    low density = eight memory chips of 2GiB each per stick <- this is the 16GiB RAM stick which you want

    There is a terminology for this, but I can't remember it off my head.

    Filling all your motherboard's channels is ideal, and from a performance pov, one stick per channel is preferable.

  5. Dave said on November 29, 2021 at 3:20 pm

    Gamer here, I have 16GB on my old Z87 Mobo. Many games push total mem use over 8GB.

    FYI On many Mobo, 2 of the more expensive DIMM is better then 4 because, using 4 can cause the mem controller to throttle under heavy load.

  6. Davin Peterson said on November 29, 2021 at 2:16 pm

    Oracle’s Virtualbox does cause PCs to run slowly

  7. Harro Glööckler said on November 29, 2021 at 1:23 pm

    I’ve always tried to have as much ram as possible:
    – 1999 512MB SDR PC133
    – 2001 1GB DDR-266
    – 2005 4GB DDR-400
    – 2009 8GB DDR3-1333
    – 2014 32GB DDR4-2133

    I haven’t upgraded for some time because right now it’s more fun to spend money on fdm 3D printers to make phallic-shaped objects. My next machine will probably have 128 or 256GB DDR5. Why? The same reason as why i have two 4TB industrial-grade SSDs as movie storage drives – because why not?

    1. ULBoom said on November 29, 2021 at 10:14 pm

      Ouch! Sounds painful.

  8. ard said on November 29, 2021 at 12:59 pm

    Now I do use 8 Gb but recently started to explore software in VM, virtual machine. Than it slows things down. Just ordered an extra strip of 8 GB to make it 16 in total: 8 for the PC and 8 for the VM.

  9. welp its not like i can afford upgrading now anyways. said on November 29, 2021 at 12:08 pm

    its double the price here hahaha…sad

  10. Tom Hawack said on November 29, 2021 at 9:50 am

    Nothing top-notch. No games, no memory-hungry applications. As it was in the old times when today’s teens weren’t even born : PC RAM : 8,00 GB Dual-Channel DDR3 @ 666MHz (9-9-9-24)

    But I do remember the improvement nevertheless when I increased native PC RAM from 4GB to 8GB
    This said, I think I’ve never even reached a 50% RAM usage …

    1. Anonymous said on November 30, 2021 at 1:35 am

      8GB is enough if you don’t use heavy processing softwares.

      I need 10GB just to decompile a program, and another 8GB for graphics software.

      If you don’t have enough RAM, Windows will take the space needed from the swap file and it really will slow down your system.

    2. Richard Allen said on November 29, 2021 at 5:05 pm

      Good morning Martin, Tom…
      I’ve been fortunate to have computers with 16GB of ram for years now and I actually do use more than 8GB on occasion. Opening up my browser and ending up with a dozen or more tabs open will very often happen while going through my feeds. Not a gamer but will often have two browsers open, qbittorrent and maybe LibreOffice open. And I’ve done very little if anything to try and limit how much memory my browsers use, I’d rather they use as much as they need as long as they are… fast. For myself, 8GB might work some of the time but it would be too close, too often.

      I’m probably opening up a can of worms but I’ve been playing with a ram disk for a couple weeks now as an experiment. My laptop has an Intel 660p M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 drive which is a very energy efficient and cool running drive but not very fast compared to something like a Samsung 980 PRO PCIe 4.0 drive. I’m using an old version of SoftPerfect ram disk set to 4092MB. All my browsers are using the ram disk for browser cache (1GB cache for FF), and the system temp files are using it also. On this laptop everything was already fairly fast but with the ramdisk browsers feel Very snappy. I was surprised by how stupid fast the ramdisk is on this laptop. As an example, sequential read/write is around 10,000 MB/s on my hardware (16GB DDR4 2400 MHz single channel dual rank). Because SoftPerfect doesn’t dynamically allocate memory, after a reboot system starts off using around 6.5GB of ram, memory use once I get going is 9-10GB used minimum. I’ve got the memory might as well use it. For now anyway. ;)

      1. Tom Hawack said on November 29, 2021 at 6:02 pm

        @Richard Allen, hi! long time no read!

        The human factor indeed beyond applications’, environment’s RAM hungriness. My neighbor and best friend opens far more than he closes (apps, not doors!) and indeed no need to be a savant to conclude that such a generosity implies RAM!

        I’m going to confess something which is not in my favor. In the same way people who have been poor all their life often continue to behave as a poor once they’ve made their way to big cash, in the same way I’ve kept computing habits taken at the very beginning of my computer experience (Commodore64 then 128) : always struggling with RAM. Ever since I’ve continued to close apps I no longer use nor believe I’ll be calling for shortly. I may buy tomorrow or after-tomorrow the latest, the greatest computer (PC fan here) with more than more than the best… I’ll still close apps once no longer needed. Mama mia!

        Read you later :=)

    3. Dumbledalf said on November 29, 2021 at 11:31 am

      8GB RAM is enough now, everything above is just finding ways and reasons to blow your money on something.

      My first PC from 2005 had 256MB RAM and after some time I installed another stick of 512MB RAM and with 768MB RAM it felt so much faster.

      1. Yash said on November 29, 2021 at 11:04 pm

        Back then, with 1 GB my PC was sorta flying.

    4. Mr Stank said on November 29, 2021 at 10:50 am

      Check your swap file. If set to dynamic or better to none,then do your everyday use and you will get an idea on what is the need in total memory for your system. The 50% in usage by itself shows nothing. Memory usage is a little more complicated subject and always depends on the user.

      1. Nathan said on November 30, 2021 at 11:28 pm

        Some programs behave poorly or will even crash or refuse to run if you have no swapfile, so to deal with that you do want to have a swap file, static is best for performance reasons, generally it’s 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 times the physical ram that you have.

      2. Tom Hawack said on November 29, 2021 at 5:50 pm

        @Mr Stank … Ah! the swap file, indeed. I had completely forgotten it. Mine is set to static 8GB. Why static, why 8GB?

        In the beginning, in the beginning, long time ago (like in the song but more recently!) I remember having searched on the Web for advice about choosing static, dynamic or no swap file, and I remember that my quest was one of those which meets no consensus : different arguments for the pros and cons. Same with the size, if static or dynamic. Why exactly did I opt for static (min size = max size) and why had I set that size to 8GB… can’t remember! I do remember that there was a consensus on one point : keep the swap file if any on the system drive…

        I’m afraid to disable this swap file given I had read that it may be required in given circumstances out of any consideration of the system’s available RAM, something to do with post-boot processes or something in that area…

        But I know that unfortunately many non-techies may opt for choices based on myths, which I do try to avoid (diversified and as many sources as possible given there’s no Cyber God in this computing world…

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