How much RAM is enough when buying a laptop?

How much RAM is enough when buying a laptop?

How much RAM is enough when buying a laptop?

RAM which is also known as random access memory is responsible for holding data temporarily.

When you’re opening applications, working on large files in Photoshop, or even juggling dozens and dozens of browser tabs, that data is stored in the system memory, not on your SSD or HDD.

Determining the specifications for a new laptop or when considering an upgrade can be a delicate balancing act.

However, the rule for how much RAM you need is simple: the more memory-intensive tasks you do, the more RAM you should have to keep your computer feeling fast and responsive.

Many laptop shoppers know this, but not exactly how much to get. So we’ve broken down what to expect from common RAM configurations, plus some tips at the end for purchase strategies.

What is the difference between memory and RAM?

Often times, memory capacity is often confused with the long-term storage offered by a solid-state or mechanical hard drive.

RAM is the same thing, technically, but it serves a very different purpose.

Instead of a large amount of slow storage, it is a small amount of extremely fast storage.

As you open programs, it stores data that they need access to quickly in system memory.

Different programs require different amounts of RAM, but regardless of the application, it’s likely to use at least a little bit of RAM.

This will add up over time, and if you don’t have enough RAM to go around, the applications and browser tabs you’re using will severely slow down.

Although there’s not enough RAM, you will still be able to launch multiple browser tabs and conduct thorough web browsing, however, the application won’t have access to the ultra-fast storage RAM provides to quickly access the data it needs.

What happens if I have too much RAM?

You need the appropriate amount of RAM to ensure the most efficient performance for your device.

For example, if you are only using 12GB of RAM under the most demanding circumstances and you have a 16GB kit, upgrading to a 32GB kit won’t impact your performance whatsoever.

Because of that, it’s important to choose a capacity that slightly exceeds your needs without going overboard.

You can buy more RAM, and it won’t negatively impact performance.

What is the difference between System RAM and Graphics card?

System RAM shouldn’t be confused with the dedicated memory used by discrete graphic cards.

Demanding games such as high-end 3D games rely on video RAM, or VRAM, to temporarily store image data, like textures.

Most current-generation graphics cards use GDDR5, GDDR6, and GDDR6X.

Meanwhile, system RAM is identified with DDR3 or DDR4, with the number identifying the generation.

The newer term DDR5 indicates the latest RAM generation, although compatible devices may not appear in the wild for a while.

If all of this sounds confusing, rest assured that most manufacturers are very good at identifying RAM clearly so consumers understand the difference.

How much RAM affects your operating system?

1) 2GB RAM

For modern Windows computers, 2GB of RAM is considered the minimum RAM requirement for a functioning laptop or device.

2GB RAM won’t allow you to run many programs simultaneously, much less have more than a few browser tabs open at one time.

These days, most Windows laptops come with 4GB as the baseline configuration, and for good reason.

If for some reason you encounter a laptop with only 2GB RAM—perhaps an older budget model being sold secondhand—it’s only worthwhile if you can immediately upgrade it to 4GB RAM or more.

We recommend you buy a model with expandable memory so you can upgrade down the road.

2) 4GB RAM

Students and other budget shoppers can start with 4GB of RAM for a Windows laptop.

This amount of RAM will get you a responsive PC that handles the basics smoothly, such as having a few low-intensity programs plus a handful of browser tabs open all at the same.

When possible, look for laptop models that have user-accessible RAM that can be upgraded.

3) 8GB RAM

Most people with a moderate budget should aim for at least 8GB RAM.

This is suitable for most people doing office work and other basic tasks.

4) 16GB RAM

For people doing office work or gaming, 16GB of RAM can help you work on more complex documents overflowing with data.

If you are a gamer that loves playing demanding games, this amount of RAM is great to have to enjoy more integrated graphics at a decent performance.

However, for video editing and people who keep multiple tabs open in multiple browsers, 16GB is a starting place.

Renders can gobble up memory, for example. I

f you anticipate that you could need more RAM down the road, look for laptop models that support user-serviced upgrades.

5) 32GB and up

People considering more than 16GB of RAM should be actively using programs for video editors that are working on time-sensitive projects.

Many professionals would often rather pay more money if it cuts down on the time it takes to finish tasks.

For high-end gamers, there are some top-of-the-line gaming laptops that come with 32GB of memory.

This amount has little to do with gaming needs and is just a way to justify expensive configurations, or you could see it as the laptop maker maximizing the specs across the board to create a bleeding-edge vibe.


For older laptops capable of RAM upgrades, you can first determine how much RAM is already in your system.

If the amount matches your use case, consider a different upgrade instead.

For example, if your system has a hard disk drive instead of an SSD, change that out first before adding more RAM.

If you think you can benefit from more RAM, verify first what SODIMMs are already installed.

You can buy a second one with matching specs and pop it in for both a capacity bump and a faster dual-channel configuration.

If both slots are already populated, you should then buy a larger capacity set to replace both sticks.