RAM (random access memory) is one of the basic components of a computer or a smartphone. Its job is to remember computations for a limited amount of time, so that your processor does not need to redo those computations each time.
But despite how important it is, people have several misconceptions about RAM. The ensuing confusion can mean people buy things they don’t need, or not use the resources they have. Let’s bust some of those myths about RAM once and for all.
1. “I Don’t Need More RAM”
“This amount of RAM is enough to run the software, you don’t need any more.” Yes, it might be enough to run apps, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be faster. More RAM does help. And that’s because of how programs are made.
Most developers write their programs in a way where the app requests for a certain percentage of the RAM available. So if you have more RAM installed, the same requested percentage will mean more size for the program.
Just because you’re using only 60 percent (or any small percentage) of your total RAM capacity, it doesn’t mean you don’t need more RAM. Your regular tasks might only request 60 percent of RAM, saving the rest for other tasks that you might start in the future.
That said, there is a general rule of thumb these days for how much RAM you really need. For regular users, 4GB is the minimum and 8GB is the recommended size for best performance. Gamers, professionals who work with graphics, video or sound, and PC enthusiasts should look for 16GB.
2. “RAM Size Is All That Matters”
You probably know how much RAM your phone or PC has. And when someone says they have more RAM in their PC, you automatically assume their system runs faster. But that’s not necessarily true. The capacity or size of the RAM isn’t all that matters.
There are several things that determine the performance of your RAM. Apart from size, RAM speed or frequency plays a big role. Generally speaking, the regular computer user won’t see much of a difference between 8GB and 16GB of RAM. Only someone like a gamer or a professional audio/video editor needs those extra gigabytes of RAM.
If you have a computer with 8GB of RAM, upgrading it to 16GB won’t give you much of a performance boost. However, changing it to a faster RAM of the same 8GB can lead to a significant boost. Depending on how you use your machine, you should figure out which is more important for you, faster RAM or more RAM?
3. “You Can’t Add RAM of Different Sizes”
Generally, most laptops or computers come with two slots for RAM sticks. And there’s a prevailing misconception that both slots have to have RAM sticks of the same size.
Yes, it is advisable to use RAM sticks by the same manufacturer, of the same size, and of the same frequency. But there’s a simple reason behind this. Like we said earlier, RAM has several components that all come together to make it perform well. For two RAM sticks to perform optimally together, they need to use the same voltage and their respective controllers should play well with each other and the motherboard. That’s why it’s best to use the same model in all slots.
However, this doesn’t mean you can’t use RAM sticks of different sizes. For example, if your first stick is 4GB, you can still add a new 8GB stick. Once you switch on dual channel mode (also called flex mode), it will perform as two 4GB sticks running side by side in optimal performance. The remaining 4GB of the new stick will run in single channel mode. Overall, it’s not as fast as using two sticks of the same size, but it’s still faster than what you had before.
It’s the same with frequency or speed. Your RAM sticks will work together at the frequency of the lower stick, by default. But if you’re feeling adventurous, you can tweak the RAM’s XMP profile in BIOS so that all the sticks work at their best.
4. “You Should Clear RAM to Improve Speed”
This is the most frustrating and persistent myth about how memory works. It’s one of the misconceptions that came out out of an influx of “RAM booster” or “memory optimizer” software.
If your RAM is full, that’s a good thing! The job of RAM isn’t to sit empty. In fact, your operating system and your software should be using up every little bit of RAM available. Freeing up RAM with one of those booster programs does nothing. In fact, it might actually slow down your system, since “freeing up” means you are removing certain computations from the RAM’s memory. It’s also why task killers are bad for Android.
Repeat after me: RAM or memory isn’t the same as a hard drive or storage! RAM auto-adjusts itself. If you have 4GB of RAM, then it is constantly writing, erasing, and rewriting data in those 4GB. And all of that is data which you don’t want to store for posterity. “Storage” is what your hard drive does, and it doesn’t auto-adjust. In a nutshell, having free space on your hard drive is a good thing, but having free space on your RAM is a bad thing.
If you’re riddled by slow performance, then there are other ways to troubleshoot low RAM or memory leaks. But don’t use one of those memory cleaning apps, they do more harm than good.
How Much RAM Do You Really Need?
Despite how important it is, RAM has plenty of confusion surrounding it. For example, 32-bit operating systems will restrict you to 4GB of RAM. So if you’re on a 32-bit version of Windows, you probably never got the benefits of installing 8GB of RAM (unless you installed the PAE patch, which you can by following our guide here). There are so many other such common myths that affect computer speed.
Things are not as simple on smartphones though. We are seeing Android phones with 8GB of RAM, like the OnePlus 5. But at the end of the day, do you really need it?
How much RAM does your phone have? How about your PC? Did you notice a big speed boost last time you upgraded? Let us know your thoughts below!