Choosing memory is one of the simplest parts of building your own PC. Here are the things to look for when you choose RAM:
- Don’t fill all your free slots. You’ll probably want more memory in the future.
- Dual channel sticks are a little better, but if you have only 2 free slots, get 1 single channel stick and leave 1 free slot.
- Get higher speed sticks as their price is just a few bucks higher. Check out if your motherboard supports the selected speed.
- Generally, 8GB will be a good choice for everything non-professional.
- Brands don’t really matter much, but still, it’s better to get a known brand.
- Get sticks with heat spreaders. Usually, memory does not overheat but it’s always better to keep it cool and they don’t really cost more.
First of all, check out what type of RAM does your motherboard support. Today most of the motherboards support DDR4 memory.
Next thing to check out is if your CPU cooler interferes with memory stick’s height. Some coolers are so big that you’ll need low profile memory.
Memory’s capacity is one of the most important things to decide when building a PC along with the CPU and GPU. Here are a few general tips to help you decide how much RAM you really need.
- Workstation – for a workstation you’ll need a lot of RAM as most of the professional software works a lot better with more memory.
- Design/Photography /Modeling – Get at least 16GB for professional work with graphics or models. Software used for graphics manipulation and modeling usually requires a lot of RAM. Those kinds of software try to keep all of the loaded graphics/model parts/applied effects and everything else which is on your monitor in the memory. The created/edited graphics usually are quite big and all applied effects are stored in the memory, so it gets full pretty quickly.
- Programming – 8GB will be enough for the usual programmer. If you don’t use any virtual machines or you don’t run any additional servers/products on your machine, 8GB should be enough for you IDE and your own application server. However some IDE’s work far better when they’re given more memory, so you may want to do some research about the software you’re going to use and maybe get 16GB. If you’re going to run virtual machines and more application servers you’ll need at least 16GB.
- Gaming – most of the modern games won’t utilize a lot of RAM, so 4GB is enough for casual gaming and 8GB for high-end gaming. 4GB of RAM looks like too little but it actually is enough even for most demanding games today. I would not recommend going with 4GB memory, but if you’re on a tight budget, you’ll be ok for now. With 8GB RAM you won’t utilize it on 100% even when playing the most demanding games. If you’re going to run other background tasks like streaming, you’ll need at least 16GB.
- General office work – get 4GB and you’ll be ok. Most of the daily used software in every office (without programming/design and other professional content work) will never utilize even those 4GB of RAM.
Channels and Modules
If you’re wondering about getting 2 lower capacity modules or 1 higher capacity module, the answer is simple – if you have only 2 memory slots, get single channel memory. If you have 4 free slots, get dual channel 2 sticks of memory, always leave free slots for future upgrades.
When dual channel and single channel sticks are compared the dual channel performs a little bit better, but the difference is very low and should not bother you. If you’re using a CPU like AMD’s A8/A10 series the difference may be a little bit higher but still, it’s not worth to fill all your memory slots. If you have 4 slots, get dual channel memory and fill 2 of them.
Speed and CAS
Memory speed is important, but the performance difference is not very big. When comparing lower speeds RAM’s price to higher ones, the difference is minor, so a little higher speed RAM is a good idea as it will cost only a few more dollars. Generally, when talking about DDR4, a RAM with speed over 2400 like 2666/2800/3000 is the best choice. When talking about speed, check if your chosen motherboard supports your RAM’s speed! It will work even if not supported, but its speed will be limited by the motherboard.
CAS is the latency of the RAM. Generally, you should not worry about it as it has almost no effect on the performance of the memory. Just for information – lower is better, most of the sticks are around 14-16.