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RAM: 7 things you should know about memory

Some advertising slogans stay in the memory. “It has never been as valuable as it is today,” it once said in an often-broadcast TV spot that was about a natural medicine with plenty of alcohol. However, the slogan not only fits the said drug perfectly, but also the working memory of a Windows computer.

This has always been of essential importance for the speed of the system, but today it is even more valuable than before in view of the constantly growing amounts of data and file sizes. Because no matter how fast a processor is or how quickly a hard drive works, too little or inadequate memory is a bottleneck in the system that cannot be eliminated by other components and simply acts like a brake. It is therefore of crucial importance that you not only allow your computer the right amount of RAM, but also choose the right modules and the optimal configuration. This article will tell you the best way to do this.

Tip 1: Take an inventory of your RAM

First of all, you should determine how much memory was actually built into your computer. As a rule, mainboards of PCs have four RAM slots, of which one, two or all four are occupied by memory bars, depending on the computer. To find out which of these scenarios applies to your computer, there are two options: you open the housing of your computer and take a look, or you install the CPU-Z tool and let it do the work.

The latter is the better idea in the vast majority of cases, if only because the tool can read out and provide the exact specifications of the main memory. The most important is the menu item SPD, which stands for Serial Presence Detect. It is about reading out all the technical details of the memory. First select slot # 1 in the window on the left - this is the first memory slot on your board.

Our test computer contains a DDR3 RAM bar from Hyundai (Hynix) with an eight GByte capacity and a bandwidth of 800 MHz. Write down the details or take a screenshot of the page and print the information. Then select the other slots, depending on the computer your PC has two, four or even eight. In order to buy exactly the same memory, it is best to search the web for the part number, which is also listed by CPU-Z. If the memory is still available, you can buy it safely.

Tip 2: How much RAM really makes sense for Windows

Computers with Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 and 8 could only handle four GB of main memory in the usual 32-bit versions. In the 64-bit version, on the other hand, it was possible to manage up to 512 GB in Windows 8. In Windows 10, the limit of four GB also applies to the 32-bit version, the 64-bit home version can manage 128 GB of RAM, the Pro version even 512 GB of main memory. But that doesn't mean that you now have to stuff your office computer with 64-bit Windows 10 with expensive RAM. In fact, Microsoft recommends a minimum of one GB of RAM for 32-bit computers and two GB for computers with 64-bit Windows 10.

However, our recommendation for speedy work is different. Use at least eight GB of main memory for pure office computers, but at least 16 GB or more for more demanding tasks such as gaming or video editing. Too much RAM can never be built in, but RAM is currently expensive and 128 GB of RAM are simply unnecessary in a PC that is used to surf the web and edit holiday pictures.

The good thing about RAM is that it can always be retrofitted as long as slots remain free. If there are four slots available, it is better to buy two 16 GB modules instead of four with eight GB each. In this way, you can retrofit additional memory later without having to replace existing modules. For notebooks that usually only have two RAM slots, it is better to buy a large one instead of two smaller ones.

Tip 3: Which memory modules fit in which computer

As described in tip 1, you have already determined which memory modules are in your computer. It is now important that the new memory is either identical to the existing one or at least not slower. It makes no sense to combine a faster and more expensive memory module with a slower one, as the CPU always orientates itself to the slower one and the system works stably.

Even today, mainboards with dual-channel operation are common. Specifically, this means that the processor is connected to the main memory via two memory channels. To be able to use dual-channel operation, you should ideally use two or four identical memory modules. If two modules are used, insert them into the two slots with the same color. If there are no color differences between the slots, use slots one and three, as seen from the processor. In the best case scenario, you should use completely identical memory for slots two and four, or at least two identical modules.

If you want to order new memory, the easiest way to find it using the part number described above. But there are other ways to the new memory. For example, a look at the manual for your mainboard will help, as the compatible memory modules are listed there.

If you no longer have a manual, you will almost certainly find compatible memory on the memory manufacturer's websites. To do this, go to options and look for your mainboard under System / Select memory. Models that are not up-to-date are also listed there. The manufacturer will then tell you which RAM bars are available for your mainboard. You can order at the push of a button. Kingston is of course not the only manufacturer with memory search. Crucial and Compuram, among others, offer a similar range.

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