Deciding on the specifications for your computer can be a challenge at the best of times, but RAM in particular is perhaps the trickiest. When it comes to RAM requirements in Windows 10 (or even Windows 7) there are a few things to keep in mind.
In this article, we’ll cover the minimum requirements, the max capacities for bother operating systems and give you our recommendations on how much RAM you should install based on your use-case.
Why Is RAM Important?
RAM is the working memory area of your computer. It’s much faster than a hard drive or even the latest SSDs. Before the CPU can access the data it needs to do its job, that data is loaded into RAM.
If you don’t have enough RAM, the computer is forced to write the overflow to your hard drive as a page file. This dramatically slows the entire system down.
The Minimum RAM Requirements for Windows 10 and Windows 7
Both Windows 10 and Windows 7 have minimum RAM requirements, namely, 1GB for the 32-bit versions and 2GB for the 64-bit versions.
However, running even “basic” applications such as Office or a web browser with more than a handful of tabs open will slow the system down with these minimum amounts of RAM.
Picking the Right RAM Amount for the Job
Consider the following when choosing how much RAM to put in a computer system:
- Look at the minimum and recommended requirements for the software you want to run on it
- Consider how often resource intensive applications will be used
- Anticipate your system’s peak needs and not the average daily usage
- Do not worry about unused RAM going to waste because Windows 10 uses extra RAM to preload data that the CPU is likely to need next, speeding up the whole system.
Maximum RAM Capacity
How much RAM can you actually use in your computer? The two factors that determine the maximum amount of RAM that your computer can support are the number of RAM slots on your motherboard and the operating system that’s installed.
For example, all 32-bit operating systems can use a maximum of at most 4GB of RAM, so installing more than 4GB of RAM in a system with a 32-bit operating system is pointless.
For 64-bit versions of Windows, the limits vary. Microsoft limits how much RAM various versions of Windows can use. For Windows 7, the maximum amount of RAM is as follows:
- Windows 7 Home Basic – 8GB
- Windows 7 Home Premium – 16GB
- Windows 7 Professional – 192GB
Windows 10 is much more generous, letting Home 64-bit users address 128GB of RAM and Pro 64-bit users use an enormous 2TB of RAM!
RAM Speed and Channel Configuration
For a Windows 10 or Windows 7 machine, the speed of the RAM and its bandwidth are just as important as the amount of RAM installed.
Modern motherboards use a trick where RAM modules are given their own dedicated memory channels. For example, if there are two RAM modules installed (in the right paired slots) they’ll run in “dual channel mode”, which significantly increases bandwidth. It is better to have two 8GB modules in dual channel mode rather than a single 16GB module running in single channel mode.
Our Recommended RAM Amounts for Windows 10 and Windows 7
While plenty of factors are going to affect your individual needs, here are our general recommendations for Windows 10 and Windows 7 RAM requirements:
- 4GB – We consider this the absolute minimum any modern computer running Windows 10 or Windows 7 should have. This is adequate for basic productivity in applications like Word and simple web browsing as long as you don’t open too many browser tabs simultaneously.
- 8GB – This is the sweet spot for any general-purpose computer that isn’t being used for heavy duty applications such as video editing or video games. Office Suites and typical web browsing loads should work just fine and older video games that have 8GB as a recommended number are viable, assuming the rest of the system is up to it.
- 16GB – This is a great option for users who perform advanced computing tasks such as mainstream video editing, playing the latest video games, or moderate multitasking with lots of browser windows and Office apps being used simultaneously.
- 32GB – This is the new gold standard for gamers and resource-intensive tasks. If you’re editing very complex video projects, music productions, CAD 3D models, any complex 3D modelling or performing large dataset processing, this is where the fun starts.
- 64GB and up – Now we’re solidly in the upper echelons of computer use cases. Workstations with many CPU cores and even multi-socket motherboards need this class of RAM allocation. Gamers won’t find much benefit here though. This RAM size is largely driven by the size of the assets that the CPU needs to process. So if you need this much RAM, you probably already know it.
These are our general recommendations, but don’t be afraid to make your own informed decisions. After all, money you save on RAM can be spent elsewhere in the system. Depending on what the computer is meant to do, that could be a better way to spend the available budget.