What happens if the RAM size is mixed? Or completely incompatible RAM modules? Are they good or bad? Here are four myths that surround RAM.
One of the basic components of a computer or a smartphone is RAM (random access memory). However, many myths, such as whether you can mix RAM size or labels, are floating around. Let us bust some of the RAM myths.
For a limited amount of time, the role of RAM is to remember computations, so that your processor does not need to redo those computations each time.
However, there are myths about the blend of multiple RAM sizes—does RAM have to match? We will try to respond to them all in this article.
What is a RAM?
RAM, in full random-access memory, Computer main memory in which specific contents can be accessed (read or written) directly by the CPU in a very short time regardless of the sequence (and hence location) in which they were recorded.
Two types of memory are possible with random-access circuits, static RAM (SRAM) and dynamic RAM (DRAM). A single memory chip is made up of several million memory cells. In a SRAM chip, each memory cell stores a binary digit (1 or 0) for as long as power is supplied.
In a DRAM chip, the charge on individual memory cells must be refreshed periodically in order to retain data. Because it has fewer components, DRAM requires less chip area than SRAM; hence a DRAM chip can hold more memory, though its access time is slower.
Random-access memory (or simply RAM) is the memory or information storage in a computer that is used to store running programs and data for the programs. Data (information) in the RAM can be read and written quickly in any order.
Normally, the random access memory is in the form of computer chips. Usually, the contents of RAM are accessible faster than other types of information storage but are lost every time the computer is turned off. Non-volatile random-access memory (NVRAM) keeps its data without using power, which is more expensive but works slower, so it is used in smaller amounts.
Types of RAM
RAM comes in two primary forms:
- Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM)makes up the typical computing device’s RAM, and as was previously noted, it needs that power to be on to retain stored data.
Each DRAM cell has a charge or lack of charge held in an electrical capacitor. This data must be constantly refreshed with an electronic charge every few milliseconds to compensate for leaks from the capacitator. A transistor serves as a gate, determining whether a capacitor’s value can be read or written.
- Static Random Access Memory (SRAM)also needs constant power to hold on to data, but it doesn’t need to be continually refreshed the way DRAM does.
In SRAM, instead of a capacitor holding the charge, the transistor acts as a switch, with one position serving as 1 and the other position as 0. Static RAM requires several transistors to retain one bit of data compared to dynamic RAM which needs only one transistor per bit. As a result, SRAM chips are much larger and more expensive than an equivalent amount of DRAM.
However, SRAM is significantly faster and uses less power than DRAM. The price and speed differences mean static RAM is mainly used in small amounts as cache memory inside a computer’s processor.
Myths about RAM
Let’s see what misconceptions about RAM people have.
1. More RAM means a faster computer
This is the biggest misconception that many people have. They think that more RAM means a faster PC. Due to this, they give more importance to the RAM size.
Apart from the RAM size, the speed of data transfer between RAM and processor also impacts the performance of your system. This is the reason why SSD RAM is better than HDD RAM.
Hence, what your system needs – a bigger RAM or a faster one, depends on the usage. For example, despite having more free RAM, your system freezes or runs slow, you need a higher frequency RAM instead of the larger one.
2. You do not need RAM because it is never full
“My system’s RAM is never full, so I do not need more RAM.” Many people have this misconception. It is not true. When you download a particular software, you read its system requirements.
In the system requirements, it is also mentioned how much RAM does the software needs to run. Okay, it is the minimum RAM requirement. But what about the maximum?
Did you ever think about it? One more thing that you should know about RAM is that every software or app requires a certain part of the total available RAM, which is expressed in percentage.
Let’s understand it with an example. Suppose your system has 4 GB RAM and an app or software consumes 10% of it. This means it will use 410 MB of the total system RAM when you run it.
On the other hand, your friend’s computer has 8GB RAM and he is using the same software. Here, 820 MB of RAM is available for the software. Hence, the software shows better performance on your friend’s PC than yours.
If you use your computer for simple tasks, like browsing the internet and working on MS office, the minimum requirement of RAM on the Windows 10 PC is 4GB. But it will be better if you have 8GB RAM.
3. You cannot use different RAM Sticks
For the ultimate performance of your PC, the RAM should use the same voltage and pair with the matching hardware. That’s why it is always suggested to use the same RAM models for all the RAM slots.
However, it does not mean that you cannot use RAM of different capacities in different slots. For example, if you have a RAM stick of 4GB, you can insert a RAM stick of 8GB in another slot. When you switch on dual-channel mode, they will perform as two 4 GB RAM sticks running side by side for optimum performance.
What about the remaining 4GB memory of the 8 GB RAM stick? It will run in single-channel mode. Also, if the two RAM sticks have different frequencies, they both will run at the lower frequency.
Hence, the overall efficiency will not be as good as you will get on using the two RAM sticks of the same size and frequency but still, you will get better efficiency than what you had before.
4. Clearing the RAM can make the PC faster
The idea of clearing RAM makes a PC faster came from software like “RAM Boosters” and “Memory Optimizers.” Today many people use such apps on their Android smartphones.
That’s why they think that clearing the RAM makes their device faster. But it is a misconception about RAM. The job of RAM is not to sit empty.
Clearing the RAM means you are erasing all the data it has stored to make the system process faster. Let’s understand it with an example.
If you launch software, say, Excel, it takes some time to load. But if you launch it again, it takes less time than before. This is because Windows stores some of its data in RAM to make the process faster.
Hence, by erasing the data on RAM, you are decreasing the system’s performance. In technical language, emptying the RAM means erasing all the calculations that the processor has stored in it.
RAM is different from hard drives. It is designed to store the data temporarily. Your system continuously writes, erases, and rewrites the data on RAM according to the requirement.
Hence, you need not do anything to empty it. Also, your system can manage the data on RAM better. So, it is better not to install RAM clearing software on your system.
These are the most common myths about RAM that many people have. We hope this article has cleared your misconceptions regarding the RAM (if any).
TIP: RAMExpert offers you detailed information about your RAM. You might want to take a look at it.
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5. You can’t add RAM of different sizes (frequencies/models/etc.)
Of course, it’s highly advisable that you use RAM sticks of the same manufacturer, lineup, size, and frequency — but it’s only to reduce the chance that problems may arise. In practice, you can very well use different models, sizes and frequencies on RAM sticks, but there are few things to look out for:
- They should ideally have the same voltage and their respective controllers should be compatible with each other and with the motherboard. Yes, there may be compatibility problems — they always can happen, so better just try to use sticks from the same manufacturer, it will reduce the chance of it happening.
- If you install two RAM sticks of different frequencies, both of them will be working on the lowest frequency. So, if you Installed one stick with 1600Mhz and the other with 2400Mhz, the latter will work on 1600Mhz, thus lowering its efficiency.
6. You can’t install an odd number of sticks
Very few (mostly dirt-cheap models) motherboards have only one RAM slot available. Most of them have 2, 4, or 8 — an even number. But what if you tried installing 3 sticks into a 4-slot motherboard?
Will your PC explode? No, it won’t. And, potentially, it will perform better than before, when it had 2 sticks (adding another 4 GB stick to my 2 x 4 GB setup actually helped).
Motherboards have memory slots separated in two channels, usually in pairs of two. When sticks are installed in corresponding slots, they work as dual-channel DDR. This could theoretically double the bandwidth, but only gives about 20 to 50 percent on Intel and little less on AMD rigs. So what happens when you add third stick?
The third stick, which is working as a single channel DDR, will work slightly less efficient than each of other two sticks that work in dual channel. And that’s it. So you lose a bit in stick performance, but you gain overall PC performance, so it’s kind of a fair trade-off.
A similar thing happens when you install differently sized sticks. Adding an 8 GB stick to 4 GB stick will make both sticks work in dual channel mode, but only as two 4 GB sticks. The remaining 4 GB of the second stick will work in a single channel.
7. Empty RAM — good RAM!
If you used Android, you might’ve seen “Ram booster” or “Memory cleaner” or something like that. You probably saw these apps for Windows as well. Why would anyone want to clean their ram, unloading apps, and process from it?
Well, it comes from misunderstanding the concept of RAM and how this works. People think that RAM is a data storage (yes, this is correct) and that it works the same way other data storage, like HDD. So if it’s full, then it must be bad and they need to clean it.
In fact, it should be vice versa — RAM need not be empty. If it’s empty, then it’s not doing its main task — storing data for quick access. And, by removing something from memory (“cleaning” it), you might actually slow down the device’s performance.
Busting Myths about RAM
For the most part, you’ll just end up with a slower computer. Still, it is always best to match your RAM sticks. That way, you’ll receive the best performance available, and there is less chance of corruption or other issues arising from mismatched memory modules.
1. “You Can’t Mix RAM Size.”
Generally, most laptops or computers come with two slots for RAM sticks, and sometimes more. And there’s a prevailing misconception that you can’t use different RAM size together, or mix RAM brands.
That’s not true. Can you mix RAM size? Yes. But it might not be best for performance.
It is advisable to use RAM sticks by the same manufacturer, of the same size, and of the same frequency. But there’s a simple reason behind why mixing RAM sizes is usually not the best way.
RAM has several components that all come together to make it perform well.
For two different size RAM sticks to perform optimally together, they need to use the same voltage and their respective controllers should play well with each other and the motherboard. That’s why it’s best to use the same model in all slots.
However, this doesn’t mean you can’t use different size RAM sticks together. For example, if your first stick is 4GB, you can still add a new 8GB stick.
Once you switch on dual channel mode (also called flex mode), it will perform as two 4GB sticks running side by side in optimal performance.
The remaining 4GB of the new stick will run in single channel mode. Overall, it’s not as fast as using two sticks of the same size, but it’s still faster than what you had before.
It’s the same with frequency or speed. Your RAM sticks will work together at the frequency of the lower stick, by default. So do RAM sticks have to match? No, but it’s better if they do.
2. “I Don’t Need More RAM”
“This amount of RAM is enough to run the software, you don’t need any more,” is common advice you’ll find. Yes, it might be enough to run apps, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be faster.
More RAM does help, even if you use different size RAM together. And that’s because of how programs are made.
Most developers write their programs in a way where the app requests for a certain percentage of the RAM available. So if you have more RAM installed, the same requested percentage will mean more size for the program.
Just because you’re using only 60 percent (or any small percentage) of your total RAM capacity, it doesn’t mean you don’t need more RAM.
Your regular tasks might only request 60 percent of RAM, saving the rest for other tasks that you might start in the future.
As a general thumb rule for computers, for regular users, 4GB is the minimum and 8GB is the recommended size for best performance. Gamers, PC enthusiasts, and professionals who work with graphics, video or sound should look for 16GB.
In Android phones, Android Authority ran an experiment to estimate ideal RAM requirements. They advise about 2.5GB for regular users, 3GB for social users, and 5GB for gamers.
3. “RAM Size Is All That Matters”
You probably know how much RAM your phone or PC has. And when someone says they have more RAM in their PC, you automatically assume their system runs faster.
But that’s not necessarily true. The capacity or size of the RAM isn’t all that matters.
Among the determining factors of RAM performance are speed and frequency. Like with a CPU, RAM has clock speeds. The higher the clock speed, the more functions it can perform in a second.
You’ll often find RAM sticks with 2400 MHz or 3000 MHz frequency.
However, be careful of mismatched RAM here. If the RAM runs at 2000 MHz frequency but your motherboard supports only 1333 MHz, you aren’t going to get that speed boost. So buy RAM based on your motherboard’s capacity.
Generally speaking, the regular computer user won’t see much of a difference between 8GB and 16GB of RAM. However, changing it to a faster RAM of the same 8GB can lead to a significant boost.
Depending on how you use your machine, you should figure out which is more important for you, faster RAM or more RAM?
4. “You Should Clear RAM To Improve Speed”
This is the most frustrating and persistent myth about how memory works. It’s one of the misconceptions that came out out of an influx of “RAM booster” or “memory optimizer” software.
If your RAM is full, that’s a good thing! Don’t clear RAM, it doesn’t improve speed.
The job of RAM isn’t to sit empty. In fact, your operating system and your software should be using up every little bit of RAM available. Freeing up RAM with one of those booster programs does nothing.
If anything, it might actually slow down your system, since “freeing up” means you are removing certain computations from the RAM’s memory.
RAM or memory isn’t the same as a hard drive or storage! RAM auto-adjusts itself. If you have 4GB of RAM, then it is constantly writing, erasing, and rewriting data in those 4GB.
And all of that is data which you don’t want to store for posterity. “Storage” is what your hard drive does, and it doesn’t auto-adjust.
In a nutshell, having free space on your hard drive is a good thing, but having free space on your RAM is a bad thing.
RAM Works Differently On Macs And IPhones
Apple has a different approach to RAM than PCs and Android phones, so a lot of the above rules go out the window. But don’t worry, we have excellent guides to explain the differences.
The iPhone’s base architecture is much different from Android. That’s why you won’t find Apple talking about how much RAM its iPhones have, while they’re still as fast as the best Android phones.
We have a quick explanation of why iPhones use less RAM than Android phones.
On Macs, you can’t easily replace or upgrade RAM like with a PC. You need to know if your Mac can accept an upgrade and pick the right components.