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Desktop Memory Introductory Guide

This guide provides basic information on the often confusing world of desktop memory

What benefits are there for upgrading your Computer’s memory?

The more memory your computer has the higher overall performance the computer will have. As a general rule by adding more memory it will enable the computer to perform tasks quicker and handle more open programs. Upgrading the memory in your computer is one of the most cost effective ways to improve performance.

What do I need to consider before upgrading my computer memory?

When buying memory for the computer you need to establish what type of memory your PC has. Older machines will have SDR RAM or DDR RAM, more modern computers will be equipped with high performance DDR2 or DDR3 RAM.

Once you have established what type of memory your PC uses you need to consider if there is enough room to add more sticks to your motherboard. Many full ATX motherboards feature at least 4 memory DIMM slots (memory ‘banks’) close to the processor. If all of these slots are full with your current memory you will have to look at replacing those sticks.

The next thing to check is the speed of the memory, it is always recommended to match the speed of your current memory with any new sticks you are looking to install.

How much memory do I need?

The easiest way to work out how much memory you need is to look at the operating system and programs you want to run. Each will list a minimum and recommended amount of memory they need to run. As a general rule the following applies to most systems:

- To get the program to run you need the minimum amount of memory
- To get the program to run without frustration and good speed you need the recommended amount of memory
- To get the program to run without frustration and at a good speed while multi-tasking with other programs and windows you need double the amount of recommended memory.

Many computers also use integrated graphics chips which use a portion of the general system ram for the graphics. This can reduce the amount of available system ram from 64mb to as much as 1024mb (1GB) depending on the graphics controller. If you are using an integrated graphics chip it is worth getting a little more memory to compensate for this.

As it stands today CCL would recommend a minimum of 2GB of RAM for a new system, with 4GB being preferable. Gamers, business users and enthusiasts may benefit from 8GB of memory or above depending on the applications they wish to run.

What do the different speed numbers of memory mean?

There are two ways that memory speeds can be listed. The first is by the memory type and its clock speed, EG DDR3 1333MHz. The other way is by listing the type along with its bandwidth. In the case of the same DDR3 kit this would be listed as PC3-10600.

Here is a brief list of some types of memory you will find commonly in a modern desktop:

• DDR3 1600Mhz / PC3-12800
• DDR3 1333Mhz / PC3-10600
• DDR3 1066Mhz / PC3-8500
• DDR3 800Mhz / PC3-6400
• DDR2 800Mhz / PC2-6400
• DDR2 667Mhz / PC2-5300 or PC2-5400
• DDR2 533Mhz / PC2-4200
• DDR2 400Mhz / PC2-3200

Other memory speeds are available, however they are rare compared with the options above.