How much RAM, or memory, do I need in my PC?

How much RAM do I need?
Typical RAM sticks.

A big concern for computer buyers is how much memory they want to have in their next investment. This is understandable — the amount of RAM you have determines some aspects of video game performance and rendering distance, but also how many programs, tabs and processes you can have running simultaneously.

Quantity of RAM isn’t the only thing to consider, either: quality is definitely something you also want to keep in mind. The speed RAM runs at is important to consider as well.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to divide users into four groups: Casual User, Office Worker, Gamer, and Enthusiast. Each of these groups needs a different amount of RAM. There are also a list of terms at the bottom of the page, in addition to further advice.

Casual User

Casual users are going to want 3 to 4 GB of DDR3-1066 or DDR3-1333 RAM. Consider yourself a casual user if you use your computer for social networking, web browsing and word processing. Light gaming is also possible on this lower configuration of RAM, and it should still serve you well as long as you aren’t running other applications in parallel. Note that having 4 GB or higher amounts of RAM is useless if you aren’t using a 64-bit version of Windows. To verify if you’re using a 64-bit edition, open System Properties in your Control Panel.

Office Worker

Office workers are going to want 4 to 6 GB of DDR3-1600 or DDR3-1800 RAM. If you’re an office worker, you run many applications simultaneously and may be running a lot of productivity applications, such as Photoshop and Dreamweaver. If your professional life centers around what you do on the computer, you’re going to want to have a good amount of fast, efficient RAM.

How much RAM do I need?
RAM in a gaming rig.

Gamer

Gamers are going to want 6 to 8 GB of DDR3-1866 or DDR3-2000 RAM. Gamers will be running newer games at high settings, as well as some heavier applications in and out of gaming. Lower configurations of RAM are just fine for gaming — all you really need is 4 GB of RAM to enjoy most games — but you’re still going to want that extra hardware power for when you’re doing what you love.

Enthusiast

Enthusiasts will want anywhere from 8 to 16 GB of DDR3-2133 RAM or higher. This is for the person who runs heavy applications, in addition to using rendering software, doing software development work, programming…this is for doing the heavy lifting without breaking a sweat. Enthusiasts will spend a lot of money on every aspect of their system, not just their memory.

Helpful Terms and Advice

  • DDR stands for double data rate. That means it’s accessed twice for each one of your processor’s clock cycles. DDR3 and DDR2 are two different kinds of RAM, with 3 being newer, but the speed discrepancy depends on the digits at the end — DDR3′s higher tiers can’t be matched by DDR2′s.
  • Memory can refer to either static memory and dynamic memory. Static memory is storage space, like on your hard drive — but dynamic memory is your RAM, which is in constant usage.
  • To check what kind of RAM your system supports, use Crucial’s System Scanner. It’s fast, safe and easy, especially if you don’t want to dig around Newegg or Amazon.
  • DDR3 RAM does not need to be installed in pairs on modern motherboards. However, installing memory in pairs grants double the memory bandwidth.
  • You can install memory with mixed speeds. However, this will result in your system defaulting to the slower memory speed required, and you’ll get less performance than what you should out of it.

About

Steve Horton has been working with computers for over 20 years. He's dedicated to helping people get the most out of their PCs, and likes playing cards and writing comics.

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  • Davide De Vellis

    Hi Akos,

    Thanks for posting. I recently went through a similar dilema of having to choose a new PC. You check out my article here:

    http://www.reviversoft.com/blog/2013/05/the-5-ps-of-purchasing-a-new-puter/

    If i hear you correctly you’ll largely be using your computer for digital storage, and maybe some word processing. With this in mind, HDD capacity will be pretty important to you and you’ll definitely get by with the standard processor and RAM combinations being offered. If you plan to be running photo editing solutions or running other intensive applications, then you may want to consider boosting your processing and memory power, but it doesn’t sound like this is what you plan to do. With respect to convertibility, this is really personal preference. If you plan to listen to your music while browsing the web or flicking through photos, then you may want a convertible laptop for ease of portability. That being said, you have your ipad for that too. The only real reason I would say you need a convertible is if you plan to spend a lot of time flicking and browsing (ie using your fingers for a lot of the actions). If you plan to spend a bit of time editing docs, organizing your photos and music files, you’re going to be better off with a normal laptop.

    Hope this helps and feel free to ask any additional questions.

  • Brett Duncan

    This is pretty much, wrong, at least for traditional PC’s. For a everyday/casual/business user, you would want 4-8 GB of DDR3 1600 MHz RAM. (Lean towards the higher side of that if you watch a lot of youtube and have many tabs open, also windows uses more RAM then other operating systems so take that into account.) Then at least 8 GB of RAM for a gamer or anyone who wants to edit a lot of videos (I prefer 16 GB RAM). Then for a hard core gamer or professional video/photo editors I recommend 16-64 GB of 1866 MHz RAM.

  • Rohit

    nice product guideline information

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