Building Your Own PC, Choosing the RAM

PC RAM cards
PC RAM cards / Anadolu/GettyImages

When building or upgrading a custom PC, selecting the right RAM (Random Access Memory) is crucial for optimal performance. Your RAM will affect how fast the computer can access and process data, impacting everything from everyday tasks to intensive gaming and professional applications. Keep reading to choose the right RAM for your build.

What is RAM

RAM is a type of memory that your computer uses to store data temporarily while it’s being used or processed. The computer empties it when you turn the power off. RAM affects how your computer can process large files and perform multiple activities. Insufficient or slow RAM can bottleneck your system, causing lag and sluggish performance. 

How Much RAM Do I Need?

  • 8 GB of RAM is usually sufficient for general tasks like web browsing, word processing, and media playback.
  • Modern games typically require at least 16GB of RAM to run smoothly and provide a better gaming experience, but you may want to shoot for 32GB for better performance.
  • For tasks like video editing, 3D rendering, and large-scale data processing, 32GB or more is recommended to ensure smooth and efficient workflow, with many opting for 64 GB.

How Fast Does the RAM need to be?

RAM speed determines how quickly your computer can read or write data in the memory. Common speeds range from 2133MHz to over 4000MHz. Higher speeds can improve performance, particularly in memory-intensive tasks like gaming and content creation. However, the actual performance gain can vary depending on the CPU and motherboard capabilities.

RAM Type

DDR4 is currently the most common type of RAM, offering a good balance of speed, capacity, and cost. DDR5 is the latest generation, providing higher speeds and efficiency but at a higher price. You will also need to check with your chosen motherboard to see what type of RAM it accepts, especially if you plan to go with DDR5.


Dual-channel memory setups can significantly boost performance by allowing the CPU to access two memory modules simultaneously. For the best performance, use matched pairs of RAM modules, like two 8GB sticks, instead of a single 16GB stick.

Compatibility Considerations

  • Check your motherboard’s specifications to ensure it supports the type, speed, and maximum capacity of RAM you intend to install.
  • Motherboards have a maximum RAM capacity limit and specific slots for dual or quad-channel configurations, so you will need to pay close attention when installing it.
  • The CPU can also limit the maximum RAM speed and capacity. Refer to the CPU specifications to ensure compatibility with your RAM choice.
  • Desktop RAM (DIMM) is larger and differs from laptop RAM (SO-DIMM). Ensure you purchase the correct type for your device.
  • If you’re interested in overclocking, some RAM modules are designed specifically for this purpose and come with enhanced cooling solutions and higher performance thresholds.

Check out our guide to choosing your CPU.

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