Everything you want (and don’t want) to know about RAM!
Building a computer for the first time is a daunting task. With so many components and specifications to consider, it can be difficult to know what to look for when purchasing. Graphics cards and processors often get the spotlight, but it’s just as important to know what RAM to buy if you want your games to load and run smoothly.

RAM helps your game load levels and effects faster so you can wait less and get straight into the game. If you like to multitask and run apps in the background while gaming, you’ll need more RAM. Programs like Google Chrome are notorious for consuming memory. So if you want to watch videos/live streams or check social media while gaming, you will need more RAM. Kingston makes high-quality, affordable RAM to keep your computer running its best. In this guide, we’ll break down what you need to know and understand as a first-time RAM buyer.

What is memory?

RAM is the abbreviation for Random Access Memory. In computers, it temporarily stores data for quick access between the processor and HDD/SSD (Hard Disk Drive/Solid State Drive), also known as long-term storage. When your PC boots up, the operating system (Windows, macOS) is pulled from the hard drive/SSD and loaded into RAM, as are any background applications or apps you have open. More RAM means your computer has more space to store this quickly accessed information, allowing it to run more applications or open more files simultaneously.

Today’s computers use SDRAM (Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory), which is connected to the computer’s system board through memory modules. Most memory modules come in standard form factors, with PCs and laptops most commonly using DIMMs (dual in-line memory modules) or SODIMMs (small outline DIMMs). Since its introduction in the late 1990s, SDRAM has undergone significant evolution to deliver faster performance and higher capacity while consuming less power, thereby saving energy costs, extending battery life and reducing heat generation. The latest version of SDRAM is DDR5, which stands for Double Data Rate 5th Generation. When shopping for memory, you’ll notice that most vendors omit the term “SDRAM” and only specify DDR5 and speed grade. Like previous generations, DDR5 is available in a range of industry-standard speeds, starting at 4800 MT/s or DDR5-4800. “MT/s” stands for megatransfers per second and indicates how quickly data can be transferred to and from the memory module. The Memory Industry Standards Committee introduces a new generation of memory approximately every seven years, and in each generation plans all the speed improvements, densities, and configurations it believes computers will need in the meantime. For example, the previous generation was DDR4, covering the speed range of 2133, 2400, 2666, 2933 and 3200 MT/s. Intel and AMD typically release new chipsets and processors every year to achieve the next standard memory speed.

One important difference between storage generations is that they are not backwards compatible. DDR5 memory modules cannot actually be plugged into DDR4 or DDR3 memory slots. Although they look similar, a notch on the bottom of the module acts as a key and can only be plugged into compatible outlets. However, within a memory generation, faster memory speeds are always backwards compatible. For example, if you purchase a standard DDR5-5600 module and use it with a 12th generation Intel processor, the memory will automatically downclock to run at 4800 MT/s.

The processor and motherboard are the most important factors when deciding which storage technology to use with your PC or laptop. Knowing the make and model will make it easier for you to understand which storage options are available for your system.

Frequency and Speed of RAM

Most PC motherboards have four RAM slots, but some high-end/workstation systems increase this number to eight or more. For laptops, this is a bit difficult. In addition to a larger screen, gaming laptops typically have two accessible memory slots. But thin or ultra-thin laptops may only have one slot, or their memory may be installed directly on the motherboard and not upgradeable.
Depending on the DDR generation, a single PC/Laptop RAM module typically ranges in size from 2GB to 48GB, and may be sold in kits of two, four, or eight because the way the computer works suits the computer’s memory architecture to correspond to a specific system. This is often called two-channel (2CH), four-channel (4CH), or eight-channel (8CH). When installed in the same pair or group according to the memory channel architecture, their bandwidth combines to provide a huge increase in performance. For example, a DDR5-4800 memory module has a peak bandwidth of 38.4 GB/s. For a dual-channel setup, that number is 76.8 GB/s. Therefore, proper installation of the motherboard and processor can have a significant impact on the performance of the system. How much memory you need is quite subjective. For gaming PCs, the recommended optimal RAM size for the latest games is 32GB. If you plan on running a lot of apps in the background, you may want to increase this number to 48GB or even 64GB. The latest quad PCs from Intel and AMD support up to 192GB!

Speed ​​is the next consideration. If you use industry standard speeds, you’re largely limited by your processor and motherboard support. Some systems also have rules for installing modules in a second bank. On a four-socket dual-channel motherboard, they are arranged in two memory banks, with two slots for each memory channel (usually A and B). When installing modules in a second group (such as A2 and B2), the memory may need to be reduced to a slower speed. This is due to processor limitations.

Close-up of memory slots on motherboard with labels indicating different channels and groups

If standard speeds aren’t enough for your gaming needs, consider overclocking your memory. Overclocking memory using the Intel XMP and AMD EXPO profiles is relatively safe and easy, and can significantly improve the performance of games and applications, such as: Selecting an overclockable kit is relatively easy.You can check the QVL (Qualified Vendor List) for a specific motherboard on the manufacturer’s website, or use Kingston’s configurator to see which parts have been tested as compatible.

Once you’ve chosen the memory kit that suits your gaming needs, you can check out Kingston’s latest video to learn how to properly install memory and enable overclocking profiles. If you choose RGB memory, you can download Kingston’s FURY CTRL software to customize the lighting patterns, or use your motherboard manufacturer’s RGB software to sync all the lights to suit your style. All Kingston FURY RGB modules also feature patented infrared sync technology to keep patterns perfectly synchronized.

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