Random access memory sounds like a non-essential component of a computer system since it’s just responsible for storing data.
You may think you can replace it with other data-saving devices and run your computer without it.
This article will explore if you can turn on and run your computer without RAM.
Will A Computer Turn On Without RAM? (Everything To Know)
No, you may be able to turn on your PC without RAM, but you’ll immediately hear several beeps that show the RAM is missing.
Every computer system needs RAM to send information and instructions to the CPU.
If you don’t have RAM, your system can’t get past the power-on self-test (POST) stage.
It’s the process that the BIOS or UEFI performs right after you turn on your system.
This self-test process detects any possible hardware issues within the system, including with RAM, and notifies you with a series of beeps.
These beeps occur in certain sequences, with each sequence indicating a specific problem.
That’s why you can’t go past this process because the POST diagnosis realizes that there’s a problem with RAM.
Plus, there’s no device to house basic operations for the computer to boot.
You may hear the fan running when you turn on the PC, but you can’t see anything displayed on the screen.
You’ll see the lights completely lit up or flickering, some of them indicating the stage of checking in POST.
You may also hear the power supply humming or the disks spinning, but your computer is brain-dead because the BIOS code can’t find a place in RAM to boot.
That’s why, depending on the make and model of your PC, you may see an error on the screen or hear beeps that show there’s something wrong with the RAM.
Are There Exceptions?
There are some cases in which you can technically run your system without RAM.
Some CPUs and microcontrollers have a lot of on-chip memory, which can help you run small operating systems that don’t need much memory space.
In this case, you don’t need dedicated RAM chips attached to your motherboard.
This practice is fairly common in embedded systems.
Therefore, it is possible if we forget about technicalities and consider running the system strictly without the RAM.
However, when you wonder if a computer can run without RAM, one naturally thinks about a personal computer.
Besides, even if we use other memory chips instead of RAM, they’re still technically considered a kind of RAM.
That’s why it’s safe to assume that no computer can run without RAM, be it a personal computer or otherwise.
Even if it’s theoretically possible to build a computer without RAM, it’s much faster and cheaper than, say, an on-chip memory.
That’s because it’s electronic and doesn’t rely on the physical movements of the storing component.
What Does RAM Do?
Although it may sound complicated or mysterious, random access memory is one of the most basic elements in computing.
Directly attached to the motherboard, RAM holds all the information and data that you actively use and gives you instant access to that data.
Whatever task you perform on your computer, whether it’s opening a tab, saving a file, or playing a game, your RAM is at work.
It means you pull out a copy of the files stored on your hard disk and put it in the RAM, where you can read and write data instantaneously.
Plus, RAM allows you to switch between different tasks and remembers what part of the task you are in.
That’s why the more RAM your computer has, the faster and better it performs.
It also helps to think of it as a physical workspace.
Suppose you’re working on your projects, and you need everything to be close at hand.
That’s why you put everything you need on your desk to fetch whenever you need them.
Then, when you’re done, you’ll put away everything inside the desk drawers, which are the hard drives in our analogy.
One of the most important components of a PC stored on RAM is the operating system.
That means when you boot up your system, your operating system goes to RAM to run the essential computer operations.
RAM is also temporary, which means it can’t store your information and data permanently.
That’s why when you accidentally power off your system or get a power loss, you’ll lose everything you’d been working on unless you’d saved it on your hard disk before the power cut.
It’s much faster than the hard disk, which you can see when you open a file in two different situations.
When you first start your PC and open a file, your CPU has to retrieve it from the hard drive and place a copy of the file on RAM.
However, when you close the file and open it again, it’ll open much faster.
That’s because the file is already on RAM, where files get retrieved much faster.
However, as fast as RAM is, its speed also depends on the size of the program or application.
For example, you may see a bar indicating the process of “loading” the game when you run a game.
This bar shows the program is getting copied onto the RAM, showing you that something is going on in the background.
What Happens If I Don’t Have Enough RAM?
Your RAM is the component that stores every action you perform on your computer.
The first thing that goes on the RAM after the computer boots up is the operating system.
The OS is always occupying a portion of your RAM.
The rest of your RAM space can be dedicated to other tasks.
If your OS is heavy and you use memory-intensive tasks, you need higher RAM capacities.
Now what happens if you don’t have enough RAM on your system:
1. Your Computer Freezes Or Reboots Randomly
When you run so many apps and programs simultaneously, they take up lots of RAM space.
If it’s maxed out, it creates performance issues, leading to random freezing instances.
Low RAM can also lead your system to reboot unexpectedly and without any warnings while it’s under high pressure.
You may notice that your computer performs faster after rebooting, but it gets slower whenever its workload increases.
2. You Experience Lags
If your RAM capacity is low, it will affect your system’s speed.
That’s why you’ll experience lags while doing activities such as typing.
When you press a key on the keyboard, a system with enough RAM space should respond immediately.
Delays that last a second or longer can be a sign of insufficient RAM capacity.
These lags will appear in the form of a lack of responsiveness in programs and apps.
A low RAM capacity will lead to unresponsive programs after you open them.
Even if the program is open, you can’t click on links or buttons in the app, not getting any responses to your commands.
You may also have difficulty opening several tabs in your browser, leading to a frozen screen or unresponsive tabs.
3. You’ll See The Blue Screen Of Death
The blue screen of death (BSoD), also known as a stop error, occurs when a fatal problem causes a system error.
It shows that the operating system can’t operate safely due to a critical condition, such as hardware failure, including an overloaded RAM.
You’ll see a blue screen filled with white text and codes, which isn’t understandable for the layman.
Although a blue screen of death can occur for a wide variety of reasons, you should consider a low RAM capacity as a potential cause and try to fix it.
To make sure the culprit is your RAM, check memory usage via the Task Manager.
You can access the Task Manager on Windows by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Del and seeing how much RAM your computer uses.
If the RAM use percentage is above 60%, it can be too much, and you may want to consider upgrading it.
How Much RAM Does A Computer Need?
The size of RAM you need on your computer depends on what you do with it.
If you perform basic tasks such as web browsing or word processing, 8GB of RAM will do.
However, for gaming purposes and multitasking with memory-intensive software, you may need up to 32GB of RAM.
Video editing, music production, and even photo editing are among the tasks that need high RAM capacities.
Your operating system also determines the minimum amount of RAM you need.
For example, Windows 10 needs a minimum of 4GB if you don’t use heavy programs such as video games or Adobe Photoshop.
However, if you have a 32-bit Windows, the maximum RAM space you can have for Windows 10 is 4GB.
If you have a 64-bit Windows 10, you can upgrade your RAM up to 132 GB.
For an average PC user who plays games and wants a fast computer without any speed issues, 8GB RAM is usually enough.
That’s the standard capacity for modern PCs recommended by experts and PC users.
However, if you use virtual reality, constantly play games on 4k, or work with CAD programs, you may want to upgrade to 16GB of RAM.
That said, you can never have too much RAM.
That’s because Windows and applications keep increasing their RAM requirements over time.
Therefore, you may realize that you’re using more RAM than you used to, especially if you’ve had your PC for quite a while.
Plus, we keep doing more and more tasks with our computers.
The tasks you used to do with your laptop five years ago are nowhere near the ones you’re doing now.
That’s why we constantly run out of memory over time.
You may want to install the maximum RAM capacity your system can support.
This way, you’ll never need to worry about running out of memory.
You could also try to do less with your system, opening fewer applications at a time.
However, that’s not a viable solution as your operating system needs RAM, and you want to get the most out of your computer.
If you already have the maximum RAM and still want more, you could get an SSD or a new PC.
That’s why it’s important to know how much you can upgrade your RAM before buying a new system.
How To Check The Size Of RAM
It’s easy to find out how much RAM you have on your computer.
For Windows, click on the search box on the left-hand corner of the screen and type “This PC” in it.
Click on “Properties” to open a page with the information about your PC, including the amount of RAM it has.
Nowadays, PCs commonly use DDR-RAM with different iterations, such as DDR2, DDR3, DDR4, and DDR5.
DDR RAMs are Double-Data Rate, which enables the user to transfer multiple files at the same time.
The latest DDR4 RAMs have a transfer speed of 25 GB per second, while DDR5 RAMs have 50 gigabytes per second.
VRAM (Video Random Access Memory) is another kind of RAM that sits on your GPU and helps you load graphical data.
It’s basically like RAM, only much faster and specializes in image and video data.
If you’re a video editor or play games, you can use VRAM to crank up your system’s performance.
If you want to know what type of RAM you have, you can use the Task Manager.
Open the Task Manager by pressing Alt + Ctrl + Delete and navigate to the Performance tab.
Locate “Memory” on the left-hand side column and check the information in the top right corner.
You can see what type of memory you have and how much it is.
How To Upgrade Your RAM?
If you decide to upgrade your RAM because you need more speed and higher performance, you should consider some things.
First of all, changing the RAM sticks needs specific technological know-how.
If you don’t have it, leave things to professionals.
You should know your system specifications, including the number of memory sticks, chipsets, and where they’re sitting.
You should also know your RAM type because they’re not interchangeable.
That means you can’t use DDR4 RAM instead of a DDR3, for example.
The system specifications determine the kind of RAM you can use.
Therefore, DDR3 RAM can’t be compatible with every system because they aren’t equal in design.
After determining the maximum amount of RAM your motherboard can accommodate, here are some other things to consider:
RAM Frequency. If you see a DDR4-3200 RAM, the number shows its frequency. Memories of 2133 to 2666 MHz are good for basic tasks and cost less. The 3200 and 3600 MHz or more are better for gaming and video editing.
CLXX/Timing. This number is the memory’s latency, which shows how long it takes the RAM to send data to its pins. As the name suggests, the latency should be low to ensure high performance.
Dual vs. Quad Channels. Your motherboard determines this type of configuration. Dual-channel supports two RAM sticks while Quad-channel accommodates four sticks.