Five Things to Consider Before You Buy New RAM

So you are finally fed up with all those programs running so slow due to the lack of RAM (also called physical memory) in your PC and decided to buy more RAM? But before you get all revved up and order a couple of RAM modules from some online store, you should consider a few things first. Otherwise you might end up buying expensive RAM modules that won’t even work in your PC. Here is a list of a few things that you should check before deciding on buying the new RAM modules:

  1. Type of memory supported by motherboard – Each motherboard supports only a certain type of memory modules. So you should either check the motherboard manual or find  the motherboard manufacturer’s website to find out the following –
    1. Supported RAM type (e.g., SDRAM, DDR, DDR2, DDR3). You cannot install any other type of RAM as it won’t simply work with your motherboard.
    2. Maximum amount of total RAM supported (combined total from all memory slots). If you install more RAM than the maximum allowed limit, the system may not work or use only the maximum limit.
    3. Supported clock frequency (e.g., 800MHz, 1300 MHz etc). If you use a RAM module outside the supported clock frequency range, then the motherboard does not accept it.RAM Modules
  2. Desktop RAM or Laptop RAM – The desktop systems use a different type of RAM modules called DIMM compared to the SO-DIMM modules used by the notebook computers. The DIMM stands for dual-in-line-module while the SO-DIMM stands for small-outline DIMM. As you can see the SO-DIMM of the same specifications is smaller in size and is specially designed for the laptop computers. If you want to replace or upgrade the desktop RAM then look for DIMM modules and if looking for the laptop/notebook computers then look for the SO-DIMM modules.
  3. Operating System & CPU – The 32-bit operating systems can use less than 4GB of RAM due to a design limitation in these operating systems. So if you install more than 4GB RAM but use a 32-bit operating system, then the extra RAM will stay unused. However if you use a 64-bit operating system, then there is no such limitation. Furthermore, a 64-bit operating system also requires a CPU that can support 64-bit  instructions.
  4. One large capacity module or multiple small capacity modules – If you have 2 memory slots in the motherboard and want to have 8 GB memory in total, then you can either use one 8GB memory module or use two 4GB memory modules. Which is better? If you want a little faster RAM arrangement, then use as few modules as possible having large capacity. But since large capacity modules are costlier, you may want to get smaller capacity modules to cut down on the total cost.
  5. Heat spreaders – Like all the other chips, RAM chips also generate heat. For optimal performance, this heat must be dissipated into the air to keep the RAM cooler. High quality RAM modules come with heat spreaders or heat sinks. These spread the heat around in the air easily and help keep the RAM run at a lower temperature. So if you use your PC for gaming or video editing etc., then go for RAM modules with heat spreaders. For casual PC users, these heat spreaders are not really needed.

I hope you would find these five points useful when making a decision on buying new memory modules.