RAM, which stands for Random Access Memory, is sort of like your computer's short term memory.
It's a physical hardware on your computer where it stores the information for what it's working on at that moment.
Whereas your hard drive is more like your system's long term memory.
Nowadays most computers come with about 4GB to 16GB of RAM but commonly have one or more free slots on your motherboard for more to be installed.
RAM comes in sticks like this, typically DIMM for desktops and SO-DIMM for laptops.
DIMM stands for Dual In-line Memory Module and SO for Small Outline.
Why is RAM?
RAM is, because your computer can read from it about 100 times faster than from a hard drive.
When you run a program it is loaded into your RAM so that your processor can quickly access its instructions.
RAM is also used to store the data that the program is working with such as numbers, text, and images.
Do I need more?
RAM is considered to be your system's "working memory" and its capacity is measured in Gigabytes (GBs).
The more programs you're running at once and the more information these programs will be working with the more you will need.
For most people 8GB of RAM should be more than enough and is what we recommend for a good mid-range computer.
A lightweight system today can usually even get by with only 4GB.
And 16GB or more is good for video editing or heavy gaming but is usually overkill unless you specifically know you need it.
But what about all these 'DDR's?
Double Data Rate RAM or DDR1 was introduced in 2000 and was named such because it can transfer data on both the rising and falling edges of your system's clock cycle effectively doubling the transfer rate.
DDR4 is just the latest generation of RAM with each new generation being faster and consuming less power.
Part of what makes the newer types better is they work in different ways, so your motherboard will only be compatible with one type of RAM.
The different types of RAM will have a different number of pins and have the notch in different places as to not be inserted into the wrong kind of slot.
The Megahertz (MHz) of your RAM represents how fast it is. It's the maximum number of clock cycles per second that it can operate on. Since DDR can make two transfers per clock cycle, DDR4 RAM running at 1200MHz is called DDR4-2400 because it can make 2400 megatransfers per clock cycle which is 2.4 billion transfers.
How can I get more?
If you've read through the 'Do I need more?' paragraph and decided that the answer is yes then you'll want to find out what type of RAM your motherboard supports, such as DDR3 or DDR4, and if it has one or more free slots available.
You'll also want to try and match the MHz that your current RAM module runs at as in most cases your motherboard will underclock the rest to run at the speed of the slowest module.
In Windows 10 you can find out what type of RAM your computer uses by opening the Task Manager, going to the Performance tab, and clicking on Memory.
There's also an excellent tool called Speccy made by Piriform which is useful for seeing information about the hardware on your computer. https://www.ccleaner.com/speccy
If you have more questions about RAM, or would like professional support with upgrading yours you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or message us on our Facebook Page.