RAM is one of the few components that you can easily remove or add to a laptop. It’s simple - you just open the laptop and insert a RAM stick into a dedicated slot. But how much RAM do you need in a laptop? Is what you have enough, or should you buy another stick?

In this guide, we’ll cover in detail what RAM is, how it works, and how much RAM you should have in your laptop.

What is Random Access Memory?

RAM (Random Access Memory) is one of the hardware components of every PC and laptop, in which all the data that is currently in use is kept for quick access. Your Windows operating system, all applications, and any other data that might be needed for open tasks are all stored in RAM.

Why can’t you just keep that data on your hard drive? Because RAM is many times faster to read from and write to than any other type of digital storage, including HDDs and SSDs. What’s more, RAM isn’t made to keep data for longer periods of time - once you turn the computer off and cut the power to the RAM, all the data inside is removed. When you put your laptop into sleep mode, all the data currently stored in the RAM is moved to your internal storage for the time being, and then moved back to RAM once you start up the computer again.

Once your RAM runs out of storage, it will need to make space by moving some of the data to the internal storage memory, which can be an HDD or SSD. This can lead to your computer slowing down, as the process takes time and internal memory is much slower than RAM, which is why you should always make sure there is enough RAM in your laptop to support the software you’re using.

Most applications won’t use much RAM - even with 4 GB and lower, you should be perfectly fine. However, playing modern games and using some types of software (like image rendering applications) might need more than 4 GB of RAM. 

Types of RAM

There are two different types of Random Access Memory:

  • Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM)
  • Static Random Access Memory (SRAM)

Standard RAM sticks consist of DRAM memory, which is slower, but requires significantly less power. SRAM memory is much more expensive and comes in much smaller sizes, often up to 16 MB. SRAM is mostly used for caches and is about 10 times as fast as DRAM.

How much RAM does my laptop need?

This all depends on what you’re going to be using your laptop for. Nowadays, 8 GB of RAM is pretty standard for most laptops, but you still might be using an older model that only has 4 GB or less. If you’re going to use your laptop for video editing, 4 GB will definitely not be enough - at least 16 GB of RAM is often recommended for video editing. Anything less might significantly slow down rendering times and even cause files to become corrupt if your computer runs out of memory while processing.

For regular users, 8 GB of RAM should provide a smooth operating performance during basic tasks, like browsing the internet, watching movies, sending emails, and so on. It should also be enough for gaming - as long as you’re not playing recent games with high hardware requirements. Playing older games should be just fine on 8 GB of RAM and even below. 

4 GB of RAM vs. 8 GB of RAM vs. 16 GB of RAM

Some laptops still come with 4 GB of RAM - this should still be mostly fine for general use, but you might notice some hiccups when multitasking or having many tabs open in your browser. If you know you’re going to be using the laptop more intensely or want to play the latest games, 16 GB is recommended. 

You can also find laptops that have more than 16 GB of RAM. Some gaming laptops offer as much as 32 GB of RAM, which should be more than enough for any games and video rendering. 

How to find out how much RAM my laptop has?

Checking how much RAM your laptop has is actually very easy on most operating systems. On Windows 11 and Windows 10, you can easily see the total amount of RAM and the currently used amount of RAM in the Task Manager. To open the task manager, use the Ctrl + Alt + Del shortcut and click on the “Task Manager” button, or simply press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open up the Task Manager directly. 

In the Task Manager, navigate to the Performance tab and click on the Memory chart on the left (it should be located near the top, right underneath the CPU). 

You can also go to Settings by opening your Start menu and selecting the gear icon on the left. There, go into the System tab, and you should see your device specifications in detail, including installed RAM. 

On Windows 7, you can also check your current RAM in the Task Manager, but unlike in Windows 10 and 11, you won’t see the RAM speed and some other relevant information.

Do I need to buy more RAM?

If your computer is running slowly at times, you might need to buy more RAM to improve its performance. When the slowdowns happen, open up the task manager and see how much RAM is being used. If nearly all of it is being used, try to pinpoint which apps are used the most. You can also try closing some of the other apps to free up memory for more memory-heavy software, but sometimes you just won’t have enough no matter what you do. In such a case, buying and installing an additional RAM stick is often the easiest and most effective option.

Before you buy more RAM, however, you should first consult your laptop’s manual to confirm what type of RAM your laptop uses, and how many slots there are. If there are no free slots available except the ones you are already using, you will have to replace one of the sticks with more expensive alternatives that offer more RAM. Thankfully, most laptops feature at least 2 memory slots, and often only 1 is used by default. This means you still have a single unused slot that you can use to expand your laptop’s RAM. 

Take a good look at whether your laptop uses DDR3 or DDR4 - unless your laptop is ancient, it shouldn’t use DDR2 or older. When buying a new memory stick, it’s extremely important to buy the same variety as your laptop uses. Otherwise, they won’t fit. Also, make sure you are actually buying a SODIMM RAM - this is a smaller variety used in laptops. If you buy regular-sized RAM, it won’t fit inside your laptop. 

Can I replace/add memory sticks on my own?

Yes! The process of replacing and adding new RAM sticks is extremely simple, and even users inexperienced in tinkering with computer hardware should have no problems replacing the memory. Consult with your laptop’s instruction manual for step-by-step instructions on adding/removing RAM sticks.

Most often, it will involve removing a couple of the screws on the back of your laptop, lifting off the plastic back, and finding the memory slots. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find, and you most likely won’t have to remove any other parts in order to access it. If there are free slots available on your laptop, simply take your new RAM stick and put it into the designated slot. It should latch on by itself. 

It’s recommended to give the slots a little clean with canned air before putting in new sticks - if there’s a speckle of dust somewhere on the circuitry, it might prevent the stick from working correctly or even damage it in some cases. According to most laptop manufacturers, upgrading the drive and memory are customer-authorized procedures that do not void the warranty, unless you damage any parts when doing the upgrade. If you’re afraid of losing the warranty, take the laptop to an authorized care centre and let the professionals perform the upgrade for you.