Do you think your computer could benefit from a RAM upgrade?
Adding more RAM to your computer can give it a new lease on life, making it a super performer again.
However, getting the right amount of RAM can be tricky, given the vast selection and the wide range of capacities.
Should you get the maximum RAM size allowed by your system, or is it overkill?
How Much RAM Is Too Much?
As an average user, you don’t need more than 8 GB of RAM since it allows you to perform everyday tasks like browsing and watching videos.
In that case, buying a 16GB RAM won’t affect your performance because your programs run smoothly already.
Sixteen GB of RAM is enough for most modern Windows devices and applications like AAA gaming and video editing.
You can future-proof your device and get 32 GB RAM, which is perfect for multitasking between demanding games and heavy software and ensures you never experience slowdowns.
Anything more than that will be too much.
For example, you can upgrade your RAM to 64 GB, but your computer doesn’t need that.
Even if you play AAA games, you don’t need this amount of RAM.
Still, it may be necessary for specific purposes like running virtual machines or 3D video editing.
You should consider the memory requirements of your applications and decide how much RAM will be enough for you.
What Limits The Maximum RAM Size?
Theoretically, the maximum amount of RAM possible is 16.2 million terabytes.
Can you imagine a computer having this much RAM?
Probably not, because different software and hardware factors limit the amount of RAM and the number of RAM modules you can have on your PC.
In addition, why would you need that much RAM when you can make do with 8–16 GB?
Here are the most important factors that limit your RAM capacity.
Processors come in 32-bit and 46-bit versions, determining the kind of hardware and software you can have on your system.
Even the operating system you install on your PC depends on its CPU version.
Thirty-two-bit versions only accept up to 4 GB of RAM, severely limiting the number and type of programs you can have on your system.
On the other hand, 64-bit CPUs allow for more than 2 TB of RAM, which may be further limited by other factors.
Thirty-two-bit CPUs are almost obsolete, and you may have difficulty finding one.
If your PC is less than 10–15 years old, it almost certainly has a 64-bit CPU.
However, if you want to make sure what CPU version you have, follow these steps:
Type System info in the taskbar’s search box and click on the first result.
You can see all the information you need about your computer OS and hardware in this window.
Look for “System type” and check the information in front of it.
If you can’t find it here, go to Settings > System.
The CPU version is under System type.
In addition, the X86 CPU type corresponds to 32-bit, and X64 means your CPU is 64-bit.
2. Operating System
The operating system you can install on your computer depends on the CPU version, with Windows 64-bit only installable on a 64-bit CPU.
If you have a 64-bit Windows, the amount of RAM you can have depends on its type.
Windows has different versions for different individual users and businesses.
Windows Home, Pro, Enterprise, and Education are different versions of Windows 10 and 11 with different RAM capacity limitations.
Here’s a list of RAM limitations for different 64-bit Windows 10 and Windows 11 versions:
- Windows 10 Home: 128 GB
- Windows 11 Home: 128 GB
- Windows 10 Pro: 2 TB
- Windows 11 Pro: 2 TB
- Window 10 Education: 2 TB
- Windows 11 Education: 2 TB
- Windows 10 Enterprise: 6 TB
- Windows 11 Enterprise: 6 TB
Those who run servers can have higher RAM capacities.
For example, Windows Server 2016 Standard and Datacenter versions both support up to 24 TB of RAM.
If you have older versions of Windows, like Windows 8, the maximum amount of RAM for 32-bit and 46-bit versions is 4GB and 512GB, respectively.
Although your 64-bit Windows 11 Home can support up to 128 GB of RAM, you may not be able to add it to your device because of your motherboard limitations.
Each motherboard has a limited number of RAM slots that let you insert RAM modules into it.
You need 8 RAM slots to put one 16GB RAM module in each to hit the 128 GB limitation.
If you want to use 8GB RAM sticks, you’ll need 16 RAM slots, which are hardly found on modern computers.
Most desktop computers have four to six RAM slots, with the latest models accommodating more.
Laptops have more limitations, especially since most have RAM sticks soldered onto the motherboard.
How To Find The Maximum Allowed RAM For Your Computer?
You can learn about the maximum RAM space your motherboard allows in different ways.
The first one is physical, which is more accessible for desktop computers.
All you need to do is simply open the case and count the number of RAM slots.
Then, match them with the maximum amount of RAM supported by your Windows version and CPU type to get a better idea.
For example, if you have four RAM slots, you can probably have four 16 GB sticks, making up 64 GB.
However, if you don’t want to use the physical method or have a laptop, you can use your system specs.
Check your device’s specs sheet or look it up online to see how much RAM it supports.
Alternatively, you could use the Command Prompt to get this information.
To do so, type Command Prompt in Cortana’s search box and press Enter.
Copy and paste the following command in the Command Prompt window:
wmic memphysical get MaxCapacity, MemoryDevices
After pressing enter, you’ll see a big number, which is the RAM capacity expressed in kilobytes.
To convert it to gigabytes, divide the number by 1048576.
You can also see the number of RAM slots in front of “RAM capacity.”
Through the Task Manager, you can also see the current state of your RAM usage, including your RAM type and the number of slots.
Right-click a blank space on the taskbar and select Task Manager.
Click Performance > Memory.
Here, you can see a lot of information about your RAM slots, the number of sticks, and how much of your memory is in use.
Can Too Much RAM Damage Your PC?
As mentioned, you have several limitations that cap the amount of RAM you can have on your computer.
You may wonder if you can surpass these limitations to boost your performance.
Suppose you only need 16 GB of RAM.
In that case, adding 32 GB won’t hurt your performance or damage your PC in any way.
Nor will it boost your performance.
The only thing is that you may waste the money spent on buying higher-capacity RAM.
It’s like two people living in an eight-bedroom house.
There’s nothing wrong with it, but you could use the money to upgrade more important items like the CPU or SSD.
In addition, If you don’t have hardware limitations, it never hurts to future-proof your system because applications, games, and programs constantly increase the minimum requirements for their smooth operation.
You may need this amount of RAM in the future if you plan to keep your current system for a long time.
However, if your computer can’t support the RAM that you add, it’s another story.
Suppose your laptop can support 8 GB of RAM and has two RAM slots.
The maximum RAM size you can insert is two 4GB RAM sticks.
What happens if you insert two 8GB sticks?
Here, you might face some technical issues depending on your motherboard.
The CPU has a certain number of paths that take data to and from the RAM.
The RAM should also have fixed rows that correspond to these paths.
The higher the capacity of RAM, the higher the number of these rows.
If you use a RAM stick that the motherboard can’t support, you may encounter compatibility issues.
Depending on the motherboard, you may receive a POST message indicating you have the wrong RAM size.
In severe cases, the computer may not get past the POST, while you may never face any issues on some devices.
In such cases, the CPU uses the required amount of RAM and leaves the rest unused.
How Much RAM Do I Need?
Having enough RAM on your computer helps you run your programs smoothly without experiencing crashes and lags.
With enough RAM, you can multitask, play games, edit videos, browse, and watch movies with buttery smooth performances.
Depending on your tasks, you may even get by with 4 GB of RAM.
However, most modern computers come with the ability to upgrade your RAM because applications and programs require different amounts of RAM that can be more than your default memory.
While more than 32 GB of RAM could be too much for most purposes, there’s a minimum amount of RAM for each application.
You can easily find out how much RAM is too much for you by keeping track of the RAM usage while performing all your everyday tasks.
You can see your RAM usage in Task Manager and consider a few gigs as a wiggle room.
Anything more than that can be too much for you.
When Do You Need To Upgrade Your RAM?
Random-access Memory is crucial in giving you a buttery-smooth performance.
You can’t run your applications without RAM because it works like a bridge between the permanent storage and the CPU.
If you use your computer for basic browsing and playing games like solitaire, you may never need to upgrade your RAM.
However, most applications need more RAM as their developers upgrade them, so you’ll need to upgrade your RAM to keep up.
Here are some symptoms that show you need to upgrade your RAM:
- The computer takes a long time to boot up after a restart or full shutdown.
- You can’t multitask; the system will slow down when you try to move between different tasks or toggle between browser tabs.
- You see a noticeable drop in speed and performance in everyday tasks.
- The system shows messages like “Low memory” or even “Out of memory.”
- Programs freeze and crash frequently, showing messages like “Program not responding.”
- Display issues occur frequently. For example, you see artifacts when trying to open a webpage.
- You have outdated RAM with low speed. Measured in Hz, the RAM speed shows how fast it transfers data between the permanent storage and can affect your performance. Check your RAM speed in the System app and see if you can upgrade your current RAM with a higher speed.
When Do You NOT Need To Upgrade Your RAM?
Although upgrading RAM can help you improve your performance and speed, not every performance drop is due to low RAM.
Several components can lower your PC speed, so you should check them individually to see where the problem lies.
First, you should ensure you have enough RAM through the steps mentioned earlier in the article.
Run all your everyday programs and check your RAM usage in Task Manager.
If your free RAM space is more than enough (like 40% or 50%), you don’t need a RAM upgrade because it’s not your problem.
Then, you should make sure your CPU isn’t bottlenecking your RAM.
In such cases, the RAM is powerful enough, but the CPU is too weak to keep up with its power.
No matter how fast your RAM is, your data transfer becomes as slow as your CPU speed.
To ensure your CPU isn’t bottlenecking the RAM, go to the Task Manager and check its performance.
Keep track of your CPU usage while performing different activities and see if it’s abnormally high.
If so, you may need to upgrade your CPU with higher cores.
Finally, you may want to upgrade your permanent storage.
If you have a mechanical hard drive, you may experience lags and lowered performance because it’s inherently slow.
Consider upgrading to an SSD, which is faster and more reliable.