If you’re looking to increase your PC performance, then upgrading your computer’s RAM can sometimes be a very cost effective way to improve the speed of your computer.
In this article, we’ll look how how much RAM usually costs for a PC, what to look for when buying RAM, and what you can expect to see performance-wise if you are going to be buying and installing extra RAM.
How Much Does RAM Cost?
RAM these days is fairly cheap. Most current computers in the 2012 – 2015 range will use DDR3 type RAM, however computers released after about 2015 onwards started using DDR4, and nearly all new releases as of 2017 should use DDR4 (if they don’t that’s because they may be using older-model motherboards).
As a guide you will generally find the following price ranges for the RAM sizes shown:
- 1GB stick – around $10 or less (DDR or DDR2, the more recent DDR3 RAM typically comes in larger sizes)
- 2GB stick – around $10 -20 (DDR3)
- 4GB stick – around $20-30 (DDR3), or around $30-45 (DDR4)
- 8GB stick/kit – around $40-60 (DDR3), or around $60-90 (DDR4)
- 16GB stick/kit – from $70 – $100+ (DDR3), or around $80 – 150+ (DDR4)
If you’re looking for laptop RAM, be aware that this is not interchangeable for a desktop or tower computer. Laptop RAM is a lot smaller in length than the RAM which would fit into a desktop computer. Laptop RAM is also called SODIMM (referring to the size) RAM and looks like this:
Laptop RAM is physically smaller than desktop computer RAM
Prices for laptop RAM varies as well, but you should be able to find these sizes for around the prices below:
- 2GB stick – around $10 – 15
- 4GB stick/kit – around $20-40
- 8GB stick/kit – around $40-90
- 16GB stick/kit – around $80-100+
What to Look For When Buying RAM
When buying RAM, you will need to consider the following factors:
RAM Type: DDR4 RAM is the current standard on newer builds (computers released from around 2015 onwards). If your computer was built between aroud 2008 – 2015, then it likely uses DDR3 RAM. Check which type is compatible with your motherboard, as they are not interchangeable.
Compatibility: Ensure the RAM you select is going to be speed and voltage compatible with your motherboard.
Brand: Pick a reputable brand based on their warranty, design, reliability, past performance and price. If possible, buy matching RAM sticks for optimal performance of your system.
Some popular and reputable brands include –
Size: How much RAM do you need? This will depend on your current computer hardware, and what you intend to use your computer for (general use, gaming, video editing etc).
For general use, around 4GB of RAM is plenty, while gamers or video editors will want to have anywhere between 8 – 32GB of RAM.
What Performance Improvements To Expect
If RAM is the ‘bottleneck’ in your computer hardware, then you can expect to see a vast improvement in processing speed by upgrading or installing additional RAM to your build.
The purpose of RAM is to assist your computer’s processor in storing temporary information for fast access during operations.
If you have insufficient RAM this can cause laggy operation and a slow-running computer. Upgrading or installing extra RAM can improve this for just the price of an extra RAM stick, but only if the RAM itself is the limiting hardware in your computer.
Only Expect Improvements If Your Current RAM Is Not Enough
It is important to note that installing more RAM may not noticeably improve the performance of your system unless you have an actual need for the extra memory capacity.
You can check this by looking at your memory usage in the task manager on your computer (accessed by hitting Ctrl-Alt-Del).
Some particular programs may have a minimum recommendation for memory, which may be a reason to upgrade your RAM. Such programs may run slowly due to their extra RAM requirements, even though your ‘everyday’ computer functions may operate just fine.
Computer program RAM recommendations can be found under ‘System Requirements’ often published by the software vendor.
For example, here are the recommended system requirements for running Photoshop CC (according to their website), with the RAM requirements highlighted:
How To Install RAM
Now that you’ve bought your extra RAM, you’ll need to install it in your computer (or laptop).
RAM installation tips:
- Line up the notch on the RAM with the notch in the slot to ensure it is oriented the correct way.
- Push firmly until the RAM slots in fully, and make sure the tabs have clicked shut to hold it in place.
- Install pairs of RAM sticks in alternating (corresponding) slots.
This video shows how to install RAM into your desktop computer’s motherboard slots:
If you’re working with laptop RAM the installation procedure is similar, but the slots operate a little differently. Laptop RAM slots in at a slight angle, and then is held down flat by two metal clips either side of the stick.
The video below shows how to install RAM into a laptop:
RAM is a fairly inexpensive component in your computer, but an upgrade in this area can lead to noticeable improvements in performance if your current system has insufficient memory capacity.
To purchase RAM for a current computer build, you would be looking at spending around $10 – $50 per stick, depending on size and brand. Factors to consider include memory type, brand, compatibility and size. For more information on RAM, check out our page on Memory.