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, well cover the minimum requirements, the max capacities for both operating systems and give you our recommendations on how much RAM you should install based on your use-case.
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Why Is RAM Important?
RAM is the working memory area of your computer. Its 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 dont 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:
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 thats 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 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) theyll 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.
This is a somewhat complicated topic, so you should read Does Faster RAM Matter? as well as Understanding Types Of RAM Memory if youre interested.
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:
These are our general recommendations, but dont 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.