Building the optimal gaming computer setup means finding the right specs. With the proper components in place, you can create a lightning-fast gaming machine that can help you keep up with the competition in any digital arena.
Part of the equation is RAM. RAM plays an important part in gaming for a few different reasons, though there are times where it is not running at full speed. This usually happens with upgraded RAM and the settings need to be changed in the BIOS. Otherwise, your computer only recognizes up to a certain level of RAM and the rest goes unused.
Is RAM Important to Gaming?
RAM plays an important role because, with higher RAM, it can access that system data far faster. That means retrieving the necessary information faster and moving on to other commands at a more rapid rate.
Considering your game’s data is stored entirely on your hard or solid state drive, information needs to move to the RAM in order to quickly load. When you have lower RAM, the computer can’t store enough information in to run the game properly. That leads to things like lower, choppy frame rates and a generally slower performance.
If you are not a competitive gamer, your requirements may not be quite so stringent. While no one wants laggy gaming, it may not be as crucial if you are not competing at a competitive level. Those playing for stakes, meanwhile, will definitely appreciate having more RAM available.
Video Cards and RAM
So, while it might seem like RAM is hugely important for your gaming experience, there is one notable caveat. Dedicated video cards often times have their own RAM. This is known as vRAM. This is entirely different from your system RAM as it is specifically focused on sending graphics to your computer’s display.
If you want to play games at a high level and at resolutions such as 4K, then you need to make sure that you have ample vRAM. Even if you have something like 32GB of system RAM, performance can suffer if you don’t have a video card that can accommodate.
How to Check Your Current RAM Speed
If you aren’t sure what your RAM usage is, you can always check. Run CPU-Z to check your RAM usage. It is free to use and can be downloaded and installed quickly and easily. Best of all, it gives you accurate RAM usage specs that you would not have known about otherwise.
When you fire up the software, click on the memory tab. That will show you what your current speed is (it’s right next to DRAM frequency). It is probably going to be less than what you expected (about half) because it’s double data rate (DDR) memory.
DDR basically means that whatever the speed is would be basically double the frequency. So, if you see 1400MHz, then really it is 2800MHz because of the DDR. Knowing what you RAM speed is can give you an idea of how your RAM is performing and whether or not an upgrade is necessary.
If you aren’t happy with the performance of your current RAM, there is always the possibility of an upgrade. Upgrades depend on the specifications of your system – you can’t just add unlimited memory to a computer.
Most of the time, you can upgrade to around 32GB DDR for the average computer. That should be more than enough RAM even high-memory operations like gaming. Just make sure that you are aware of the upgrade limitations on your computer or laptop before you make that purchase.
How to Upgrade RAM
Upgrading the RAM is really not all that difficult, though it can get a bit more complicated on a laptop. You have to be able to access the memory slots which can be as simple as sticking memory sticks into place.
Make sure that the power is off and the battery removed if you are working on a laptop. If you have access to an anti-static wrist strap, that makes it all the safer. When you boot up next, most modern computers will detect the additional memory automatically.
The process has become automatic thanks to serial presence detect or SPD. The key, especially with high-speed RAM, is to make sure that it is running at the advertised speed. After all, you don’t want to pay for the upgrade and not use it.
Why is RAM Not Running at Full Speed?
For the most part, your RAM is likely not running at full speed because of your BIOS settings. Your computer’s motherboard has settings built in that designate a “safe” RAM setting. That may be less than whatever your max is supposed to be.
It’s not that you cannot use all of your RAM, it’s just that this is what the motherboard is comfortable with. Thankfully, there are ways to ensure that you are getting the most out of your RAM speed. It all happens in the BIOS.
How to Set RAM Speed in the BIOS
If you have a recent computer – something from the last 4 or 5 years – then it should have either a UEFI or BIOS where you can set the memory timings. There are a ton of acronyms to learn here so it can be confusing if you don’t know what to look for.
Basically, you can control the speed of the RAM in the BIOS settings. RAM speed is automatically set by the motherboard to a “safe” frequency that has been known to work. If you have gaming RAM, then you can adjust those standard speeds so long as you have enabled XMP (extreme memory profile) in the BIOS.
Step 1: Restart Your Computer
In order to make the necessary changes, you need to access your computer’s BIOS. Restart your PC and hit whichever key is designated to take you there. This can vary depending on the manufacturer of your computer.
Be on the lookout for on-screen instructions during the startup process. It should tell you which key to press to access your BIOS
Step 2: Accessing the BIOS
When you get taken to the BIOS screen, it can vary depending on the manufacturer. You should be able to find the XMP somewhere on the main menu. There is a chance that you will have to access either the memory or advanced settings in the BIOS to find it.
If there is more than a single XMP setting for your RAM, choose the fastest one and see if that makes an impact. If it doesn’t, step down until your PC runs properly. RAM speeds can jump from an estimated 2100MHz to 2800MHz when XMP is enabled.
Don’t change the individual timings of the Ram unless you absolutely know what you are doing. Just make sure that you save the changes made to the BIOS and restart your computer. Check the RAM speed again and you should find that you are running at optimal speed.
What are the RAM Specs for Gaming?
For those who aren’t completely familiar with the specs for gaming, it can be confusing making the right choice. The amount of RAM that you have for gaming is just part of the story and not all RAM is created the same. Keep in mind these specifications as well.
Just about any stick of RAM out there will come with the aforementioned DDR specifications as well as a version number. The DDR term means that it operates twice for each clock cycle. Because of improvements in technology, there is DDR2 and even more comprehensive versions.
Right now, DDR3 AM is the most common but DDR4 has surpassed it. Saying that, DDR5 is on the way but isn’t yet available commercially. Certain generations are not compatible with one another, so check the DDR specifications to ensure your motherboard supports whatever you intend on using.
You should also find the clock cycles listed when you look into product information about RAM. These come in megahertz which represent just how many cycles the Ram will perform each second. So, if you see a 2666MHz RAM, that means it runs 2.666 billion cycles every second.
It should come as no surprise that the higher the number, the faster the RAM. The faster the RAM, the smoother the experience. That said, faster RAM is marginally noticeable, especially to those who aren’t hardcore gamers. And because DDR generation isn’t correlated with clock cycles, you aren’t likely to see ultra-fast numbers on something like a DDR2 RAM.
One important thing to note: if you buy sticks of RAM that have different clock cycles it will run at whatever the lowest frequency is. Make sure to check your motherboard specs, too. It may limit whatever the available clock speed is.