4 Myths and Misconceptions About RAM You Need to Stop Believing
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RAM (random access memory) is one of the basic components of a computer What's Inside Your Computer: The Story Of Every Component You Need To Know What's Inside Your Computer: The Story Of Every Component You Need To Know Whether you're buying a new computer or building your own, you're going to be subjected to a lot of acronyms and random numbers. Read More 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 How Much RAM Do You Really Need? How Much RAM Do You Really Need? RAM is like short term memory. The more you multitask, the more you need. Find out how much your computer has, how to get the most out of it, or how to get more. Read More . 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? Which Is More Important: Faster RAM or More RAM? Which Is More Important: Faster RAM or More RAM? You've narrowed the source of your PC's sluggishness to RAM. What do you do? Increase the amount of RAM? Or would you be better off with faster RAM? It isn't that straightforward. Read More

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 RAM Speed Not Running as Advertised? Try Turning on XMP But Watch out! RAM Speed Not Running as Advertised? Try Turning on XMP But Watch out! Your RAM may not run at the advertised speed. There's a fix, but it causes additional issues. Read More 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 Why RAM Boosters and Task Killers Are Bad for Your Android Why RAM Boosters and Task Killers Are Bad for Your Android At first glance, RAM boosters and task killers sound incredibly useful, but a closer look shows that they could actually be harming your phone instead. Read More .

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 How to Troubleshoot Low RAM or Memory Leaks in Windows How to Troubleshoot Low RAM or Memory Leaks in Windows Do you have 4 or more GB of RAM and does your computer still feel sluggish? You may suffer from a memory leak or shortage. We show you how to troubleshoot all your Windows (10)... Read More . 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 Unlock up to 64GB of RAM on 32-bit Windows With PAE Patch Unlock up to 64GB of RAM on 32-bit Windows With PAE Patch Still using a 32-bit Windows machine and frustrated with the 4GB RAM limit? A relatively simple command line tweak allows you to patch your system and take advantage of up to 64GB of RAM. Read More ). There are so many other such common myths that affect computer speed How To Really Speed Up Your Computer - Common Myths & What To Do Instead How To Really Speed Up Your Computer - Common Myths & What To Do Instead Suffering from a slow computer? You might not know why and maybe you're trying to fix it in all the wrong ways. Let us help you with tips for a real speed boost. Read More .

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!

Explore more about: Debunking Myths, Hardware Tips.

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  1. Tai The Guy
    September 28, 2019 at 9:20 am

    Coulda been a fluke, but a couple weeks ago, i upgraded a laptop from 4gb+4gb, to 4gb+8gb... Passmark performance test b4 & after. The shit actually went DOWN a tiny bit at 1st! Even after that, it just barely went up. Results went from like 1250, to 1235, then randomly to like 1270ish. That's like nothing. I've seen 3-400 point jumps from a single cpu, or ssd upgrade before

  2. k2k
    September 9, 2017 at 3:49 am

    nah, my Notebook have 4gb RAM only. I usually open more than 10 tabs in Chrome, Runnung Spotify in Background and MS Word or PowerPoint. It doesn't bottleneck at all. Gamers and Graphic/Video editor need more RAM for sure. In my conclusion, 4gb is more than enough for regular user.

    • dragonmouth
      September 9, 2017 at 12:13 pm

      "4gb is more than enough for regular user."
      At one time the pronouncement was "640k is more than enough for a regular user." :-)

      • Ryan
        December 27, 2017 at 7:36 pm

        Yes, and in the future we will be saying the same thing about 4GB. However, this isn't the future or the past. This is the present, and at the present 4GB is enough.

        • dragonmouth
          December 27, 2017 at 7:59 pm

          It's not the future, it is the present. Maybe 4gb of RAM is 'good enough' for you and K2k but many regular users run their PCs with 8, 16, 32 or even 64gb of RAM. Where do you and K2k get the chutzpah to decree what is or is not enough?!

        • robin
          June 18, 2019 at 7:56 am

          Haha, excellent, spot-on reply! (And the mouthpiece Dragonmouth couldn't handle it.)

        • B-rad
          July 25, 2019 at 6:08 am

          Greetings from the future. I’m here to let you know 4 GB isn’t enough.

  3. Mike Huang
    September 8, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    Ram speed doesn't make much of a difference for the vast majority of platforms and applications. You should look up the benchmarks before making your recommendations.

  4. PiNG
    September 8, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    Hate to bash on this but much of this is quite off.

    Windows and associated processes can take up to 4gb of RAM. Setting up your pagefile can help, but honestly running any non-32bit system with less than 16gb will work, but limit the OS and applications. Anyone who uses any internet browser will see definitive benefits from having a minimum of 8gb, but a drastic increase in system performance from doubling that to 16gb.

    The point you should be making is to max out a single slot, if that's 4, 8, or 16gb, a single stick will perform similarly with two in dual channel (within ~5%). The only area where this isn't true is serious simulation (CFD, parametric analysis)where it will heavily benefit from dual-channel configurations (~17.7% advantage).

    There have been rigorous lab testing if this for the last decade plus.

    Max out each slot, with the highest speed natively supported, and you'll have the best it can be without overclocking, or using XMP settings.

  5. Raja Sekar
    September 8, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    You've said every bit of RAM has to be used but why does phones get slow when there is no more free RAM is Available and faster when there is more free RAM available?

    • JMJ
      September 9, 2017 at 5:38 am

      Free RAM required must not be more then what the new process of an app requires. If it's lesser than that Android Garbage collector must free RAM "enough" for the app. Mostly 70 MB of really free RAM( excluding cache) is enough (except for games (they will get more if they want , but takes time). You can modify these values on a rooted Android device

      • Doc
        September 10, 2017 at 8:33 pm

        "...more then what..." Then than; "then" refers to time, "than" to comparisons.

      • Doc
        September 10, 2017 at 8:34 pm

        Funny, I've NEVER heard of a DRAM controller that will enable dual-channel on two or more sticks of RAM of dissimilar size. This must be something with the new DDR4 chipsets...

        • mike
          February 25, 2019 at 10:12 pm

          you idiot

  6. dragonmouth
    September 8, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    In #1 seems to be saying that I need as much RAM as I can get for my programs to run faster but in #2 you are saying that it is not necessarily true.