How to decide on one of the best RAM on your PC in 2024

RAM inside the Starforge Navigator.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

If you wish to select the best RAM on your PC, you’ll be confronted with loads of phrases that will not sound acquainted at a look. DDR? DIMM? CAS? XMP? When you simply need one thing that goes nicely with the remainder of your PC, having to tug out a dictionary earlier than you store might be fairly daunting.

Fortunately, selecting RAM is pretty simple when you perceive what you’re on the lookout for and what it means. In our RAM shopping for information, we’ll stroll you thru the method in an effort to be blissful together with your alternative.

Understanding RAM

The factor about RAM is that you simply don’t want to totally get what every spec is accountable for — not except you wish to. If you’re constructing a barebones workplace PC, even sub-optimal RAM will make it run; the issue is that it received’t run practically in addition to it may.

Whether you’re planning to squeeze each final little bit of efficiency out of your new RAM equipment otherwise you simply need one thing straightforward and cheap, it’s necessary to grasp the next three phrases if you store.

What is RAM?

Four Corsair RAM sticks inside a motherboard.

RAM stands for Random Access Memory, and extra exactly, a kind of risky reminiscence that solely holds information whereas your PC is powered on. Its most important job is to offer fast learn and write entry to your processor (CPU).

RAM shops the information that numerous applications are at the moment utilizing, be it software program or your working system, making it quicker to fetch when the CPU requests it. It differs from common storage, corresponding to SSDs and HDDs, which is able to retailer information even if you flip your PC off.

It performs a important function in every part you do, corresponding to by working as short-term cupboard space for recreation information, permitting seamless switching between net browsers, workplace software program, and media gamers, and supporting skilled workloads, be it video enhancing or 3D modeling.


DDR stands for Double Data Rate and is at all times adopted by a quantity that refers back to the era that it belongs to, be it DDR3, DDR4, or DDR5. This is crucial RAM spec to take a look at, as a result of for those who purchase RAM with the fallacious sort of DDR, it received’t run in your PC.

Every processor and motherboard is restricted to supporting one or two generations of DDR RAM. Although your CPU would possibly assist each DDR4 and DDR5 — that’s the case with lots of Intel’s best processors proper now — your motherboard will virtually at all times be restricted to only one. As such, if you construct your PC, you’ll should determine which era of reminiscence you’ll be utilizing, after which persist with it till you make main upgrades.

The distinction between DDR4 and DDR5 RAM is fairly main. The former continues to be cheaper and is suitable with older {hardware}. It additionally presents tighter timings, that means decrease latency, however extra on that later. DDR5 RAM is usually a lot quicker, prices barely extra, and is barely suitable with the newest processors.


Expandable RAM as seen on the Framework Laptop.
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

DIMM (twin in-line reminiscence module) is a time period used to explain RAM type issue. Most of the time, for those who’re shopping for RAM, that’s what you wish to see, as DIMM refers back to the full-fledged RAM sticks seen in desktop PCs.

There’s additionally SO-DIMM (small define twin in-line reminiscence module). If you ever wish to improve your laptop computer RAM, that’s what you’ll be shopping for: Smaller modules made particularly for compact type components. It’s necessary to notice that not all laptop computer RAM may even get replaced, because the reminiscence typically comes soldered to the motherboard.

SO-DIMM can also be utilized in some mini PCs, in addition to common PCs with some mini-ITX motherboards. This isn’t a rule, although, so for those who personal such a PC, you need to nonetheless examine whether or not you should be shopping for DIMM or SO-DIMM reminiscence. MicroDIMMs was a factor, too. Smaller than SO-DIMMs, they’ve just about fallen out of use, so that they barely warrant a point out at this level.


RAM channels are sometimes described as lanes on a highway, and whereas that metaphor may be a bit of overused by now, it’s nonetheless the best technique to clarify what they do. They’re basically pathways by means of which information travels between the reminiscence modules in your PC and your processor.

RAM might be both single-channel or dual-channel, and as is the case with a busy highway, it’s higher to have two separate roads than only one. Using dual-channel reminiscence lets your reminiscence controller use two channels (duh) to alternate information, rising bandwidth and efficiency by a major margin.

Most trendy motherboards assist dual-channel, however that doesn’t imply which you could solely set up two RAM sticks in them. Motherboards will include both two or 4 DIMM slots, and that is the place it will get difficult — it’s necessary to put in your RAM sticks the right method.

For starters, you need to by no means purchase a single RAM module for a motherboard that helps dual-channel reminiscence. The efficiency loss between utilizing single-channel and dual-channel is very large, so even if you wish to purchase 16GB of reminiscence, don’t purchase a single 16GB module — as a substitute, get two of 8GB every.

In a motherboard with solely two DIMM slots, this may robotically activate dual-channel reminiscence. However, in case your motherboard has 4 slots, you should set up each modules within the right slots with a purpose to enable them to make use of the identical channel. Identifying the suitable slots to make use of is determined by the motherboard, so examine your handbook earlier than getting began. We additionally speak about this extra in our information on how to build a PC from scratch.

RAM specs

A pair of G.Skill Trident Z5 DDR5 RAM modules.

Now that we acquired the fundamentals out of the way in which, it’s time to speak concerning the enjoyable stuff, that means RAM specs. These are the three issues that may have the best impression in your PC efficiency.

Getting the above proper is important or your RAM received’t work in any respect, however with the beneath, you could have much more leeway — it’ll work it doesn’t matter what, however there may be an enormous distinction in how briskly your PC runs relying on what you find yourself shopping for.


Having sufficient RAM capability is much more necessary than specializing in excessive speeds. If your PC doesn’t have sufficient RAM, the shortage of it can grow to be a significant bottleneck, and even having the best graphics card or the fastest gaming CPU received’t prevent.

More RAM means higher multitasking. In different phrases, this implies gaming with Discord and the browser operating within the background, having loads of tabs open concurrently, and even duties that munch on PC sources like they’re sweet, corresponding to video enhancing and rendering. With extra RAM, your PC can do all of that and extra.

If your RAM doesn’t have sufficient capability to assist all of the workloads you attempt to put your PC by means of, the pc must resort to disk caching. This entails utilizing a portion of your exhausting drive (or SSD) as digital reminiscence. This is far, a lot slower than letting the RAM deal with these duties, which is why you at all times wish to have ample reminiscence on your PC to attract from.

This doesn’t imply that you need to stack RAM into infinity, although. Having additional is sweet, each for future-proofing and for general responsiveness. However, sooner or later, it suffers from diminishing returns, that means that the extra you get, the much less it’ll do for you. It received’t harm your PC to have an excessive amount of, but it surely received’t assist, both — that’s a common PC myth.


A PC test bench with DDR5 RAM installed.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

RAM frequency is one thing you undoubtedly wish to take a look at, and it’s often simply discovered proper within the identify of the RAM stick. You’ll see RAM branded as, let’s say, DDR5-6000 or DDR4-3200, referring to the frequency of that individual mannequin, typically adopted by both MT/s or MHz. It’s price noting that in lots of fashions, this refers back to the most frequency the RAM can run at, but it surely’s not essentially the velocity you’ll get out of the field. However, it’s simply obtained by means of enabling the suitable profile within the BIOS, which we’ll speak about within the overclocking part beneath.

This four-digit quantity refers to what number of learn and write cycles your RAM can full in a second. With every era of DDR reminiscence, these speeds go up significantly. As such, DDR4 begins at 2133MHz and goes all the way in which as much as 4800MHz (or extra if manually overclocked). Meanwhile, DDR5 reminiscence begins at that higher restrict of 4800MHz, and on the time of writing, goes all the way in which as much as 8400MHz in high-end kits. Again, overclocking will push that restrict greater, and as DDR5 tech matures, producers will launch even quicker kits. We’re not on the finish of what it might provide — not even shut.

Memory velocity issues, but it surely’s all about how large a distinction you’re contemplating. Upgrading from DDR4-3200 to DDR4-3600 is a sufficiently subtle change that you simply’ll barely really feel it. However, going from DDR4-3200 to DDR5-7200 is fairly enormous and can have an effect in your PC efficiency — but it surely’s troublesome to check, as you’ll even be upgrading your motherboard and your CPU in that state of affairs.

When constructing a brand new PC, except you’re an fanatic with deep pockets, it’s often not cost-effective to go for the RAM with the very best frequencies obtainable, corresponding to shopping for DDR5-7200 as a substitute of DDR5-8400.


In phrases of frequency, extra is healthier, however after we’re speaking about CAS (Column Address Strobe) latency, the alternative is true. This refers back to the delay, measured in clock cycles, between when the CPU requests the information out of your RAM and when it’s despatched to the processor. Just like your so-called ping in video games, you need this to be as little as attainable — however very like frequency, CAS is restricted by the DDR era you’re utilizing.

In phrases of spec sheets, you’ll typically see the phrase CL adopted by a sequence of numbers, corresponding to “CL16-18-18-36.” Each of the numbers refers to totally different timings. The first quantity is the precise CAS latency, that means the time it takes on your RAM to fetch the information the CPU is asking for. This is adopted by row handle to column handle delay (RAS to CAS), row precharge time (TRP), and lastly, row energetic time (tRAS).

Unless you’re into excessive overclocking, you don’t want to fret about timings past “the lower, the better.” Unfortunately, DDR5 RAM has just about doubled the timings, that means that the frequency is quicker, however the latency is greater. You’ll see numbers like CL14 or CL18 for DDR4, however hardly ever lower than CL32 for DDR5.

Other specs

Corsair Dominator Platinum memory installed in a PC.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Even for those who’re an fanatic making an attempt to construct a strong PC, you solely actually need to concern your self with the three specs listed above. They’re those that decide how nicely your RAM performs, and thus, how speedy your PC is.

However, if you wish to study as a lot as attainable earlier than shopping for RAM, there are a couple of different specs and options to think about.

  • Heat spreaders. If you’re constructing a extremely high-end PC, you would possibly wish to intention for equally high-end RAM and purchase a mannequin that comes with its personal heatsink. However, it often doesn’t make a lot of a distinction in cooling — the followers you could have in your case will suffice.
  • Aesthetics. These days, RAM comes with or with out RGB lighting, and a few kits are available white (once more, with or with out RGB). You’ll often pay a premium for these enhancements, however hey, it does look fairly good.
  • Height. If your case is tremendous cramped, you need to in all probability examine to make it possible for your new RAM will match. Realistically, that is solely a priority in small instances and type components.

You’ll additionally discover that RAM model issues by way of value, however not at all times by way of efficiency. RAM producers all use the identical reminiscence modules, both from Samsung, SK Hynix, or Micron, after which assemble them into kits. Some are higher, and a few are worse, but it surely’s not a common fact that RAM made by a good model, corresponding to Corsair, will likely be much better than one thing manufactured by a extra reasonably priced firm, corresponding to TeamGroup. Read person critiques and scores, and don’t fear if you find yourself shopping for a less expensive various.


The Kingston Fury Renegade DDR5 memory modules in white.

For RAM to run on the marketed most velocity, you’ll typically have to overclock it, however that simply comes right down to enabling the suitable XMP or DOCP/EXPO profile within the BIOS.

This signifies that, when procuring, you need to attempt to intention for kits which are suitable together with your processor and motherboard and can mean you can take advantage of their marketed speeds. XMP is Intel’s proprietary expertise, and DOCP and EXPO are the AMD equivalents. Buying RAM that doesn’t assist the proper of pre-overclocked profiles doesn’t imply that the reminiscence received’t work in any respect — it can, but it surely’ll solely run on the default speeds.

When you first set up new RAM, it’ll run at field speeds, which may typically be nicely beneath the utmost velocity it’s able to. Fortunately, overclocking is straightforward thanks to those premade profiles which are enabled within the BIOS. Not certain how to do that? No worries — take a look at our information to RAM overclocking and our step-by-step guide to enabling XMP.

What RAM do you want?

The G.Skill Trident Z5 Neo DDR5 memory seated on a motherboard.

By this level, you’re a real RAM professional and also you’re absolutely able to make an knowledgeable alternative. However, realizing what DDR or CAS stands for doesn’t essentially imply that it’s straightforward to determine how a lot, and how much, RAM you really want.

Below, we’ll stroll you thru the three details of consideration.

DDR4 vs. DDR5

Deciding between DDR4 and DDR5 reminiscence is hard, and that’s since you’re unlikely to be basing your determination fully on the kind of RAM you wish to use.

You’ll be locked to a sure sort of RAM if you choose a processor and a motherboard. Some Intel CPUs, together with the Alder Lake and Raptor Lake generations, assist each DDR4 and DDR5 RAM. Meanwhile, AMD helps both DDR4 or DDR5 with no overlap. Regardless of your CPU, the motherboard will power you to decide on a selected RAM sort.

DDR4 nonetheless has some advantage in budget-oriented builds, however for those who’re shopping for an Intel CPU that allows you to select one or the opposite, you need to intention for DDR5. It’s merely higher for future-proofing functions. Pairing an Intel chip with DDR4 RAM at this level means no upgrades for you sooner or later, as a result of, whereas DDR5 will preserve evolving and dropping in value, DDR4 has reached its most capabilities and received’t be getting any higher.

In brief, select what your price range can stretch to, however DDR5 is a greater possibility nowadays for those who don’t thoughts the extra expense.


Depending on what you’re going to do together with your PC, you’ll want roughly RAM. There’s a degree the place it’s an excessive amount of and also you’re losing cash, however there are a number of thresholds to succeed in earlier than you even come near attending to that time.

At the time of writing, our suggestions are as follows:

  • 8GB RAM: This type of capability is barely actually acceptable in thin-and-light laptops. If all you ever do is casually browse the web, you’re superb with selecting 8GB, however multitasking is slowly changing into more durable to do with this sort of capability. Needless to say, the identical applies to 4GB.
  • 16GB RAM: As of 2024, that is the capability to intention for for non-gamers. If you utilize your PC for work, watching Netflix, searching the web, and maybe enjoying the occasional indie recreation, you’ll be able to accept 16GB.
  • 32GB RAM: These days, 32GB RAM is changing into the usual capability for avid gamers. More and extra AAA titles request 32GB of memory with a purpose to run at excessive settings. Moreover, for those who are likely to run a number of applications directly on prime of video games, you’ll undoubtedly need 32GB with a purpose to just remember to by no means run out of RAM.
  • 64GB RAM and extra: Right now, 64GB is useful for those who want your PC for heavy workloads, corresponding to 3D modeling. Gamers don’t fairly have any use for 64GB simply but, however if you wish to stack up, there’s no hurt in it. It will turn out to be useful ultimately. Going above 64GB is not sensible except your work requires it, although.

We even have a way more in-depth guide to choosing the right RAM capacity on your wants.

Before you decide on any explicit capability, be certain that to examine how a lot going as much as the subsequent threshold goes to value you. You may be stunned how small the value distinction might be generally, however the impression on efficiency might be large. Always intention to purchase extra RAM than you at the moment want.


Curcial Ballistix Max DDR4 5100MHz kit being installed.

Once you’ve chosen the suitable sort of DDR and capability, you’ll should issue within the frequency and the timings of your RAM. In this, your price range will typically dictate what’s obtainable to you.

Choosing greater speeds typically comes with an enormous value hike; as an example, switching from 32GB of DDR5-6000 reminiscence to DDR5-7200 will value you about $40 to $60 or extra. The hole is smaller for kits with much less capability, and as a rule of thumb, high-end RAM with prime speeds will at all times value way over it’s price.

Going up by 1000MHz will make a distinction, however you’re often higher off spending extra money on an improved cooling answer or a greater energy provide. If price range issues, intention for the mainstream velocity — not too low and never too excessive.

If you want recommendation on which RAM kits are well worth the cash, take a look at our information to one of the best RAM to see reminiscence modules that we’ve examined ourselves.

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