I’m a big fan of browsing tech forums and sub-Reddits. But sometimes the discussions are a bit… over the top. Someone will ask for help with a new build, and a bunch of comments say that they’ll need 32GB or even 64GB of RAM.
Is this really the case? Well thankfully not. MOST of the time, you can get by just fine with less RAM – even 16GB of RAM can often still work fine in 2024 and beyond.
So this video looks at exactly how much RAM you’ll need, depending on what you’re planning on using your PC for – and crucially, what resolution you’ll be running things at.
I also discuss whether it’s still okay to buy DDR4 memory, and whether you should run 1 or 4 RAM slots (instead of the dual channel mode that is often recommended).
If you prefer text over video, please read on for the guide/transcript version of this video.
Video Guide & Transcript
Hey everyone, you don’t need 64 Gigs of RAM. Even 32 gigs can be overkill. There, I said it. I feel unburdened. Lately it seems like tech forums and Reddit are full of spec flexing…
Some (made up) Reddit discussion..!
- OP: “Hi I need a PC build for my Nan to play Minesweeper”
- Reply 1: “Yeesh, you’ll need AT LEAST 12GB VRAM and 32 gigs of RAM if your Nan plans to have Chrome open too.”
- Reply 2: “OMG you’re SOOO out of date. OP will need 16 gigs of VRAM and 64 Gigs of RAM AT A MINIMUM unless their Nan still enjoys PAGING”
Uhh, yeah. So maybe the discussions aren’t 100% like that, but they’re often close – which is worrying. Here’s the thing: 16 gigs of RAM is still fine for the MAJORITY of users. Yes if you want to game in 4K or do video editing then you’ll need more, but 16 gigs is USUALLY fine – so ignore some of the grandiose discussions out there.
In this video, I wanted to answer a few key questions:
- When DO you need 32 or 64 gigs of RAM?
- Should you only buy DDR5 nowadays, or is DDR4 still okay to buy?
- If you DON’T need loads of RAM, how come some random tech YouTuber’s task manager shows them using 35 gigs of RAM just from gaming with Chrome open?
- Finally I wanted to discuss when it’s okay to use the other RAM slots on your motherboard, y’know the other 2, to get more RAM on a budget.
Steam Survey Results
Before answering how much RAM you need, I wanted to give some “reassurance”. Steam publishes a monthly survey that summarises the hardware that Steam users have, and this is a REALLY useful reference:
In the most recent survey you can see that nearly half of all PC gamers have 16 gigs of RAM – with 21% having less than this.
And this isn’t because the average gamer has ancient hardware – over half of Steam users have 6 or more CPU threads (I’m assuming this means threads not cores, at least) and many users have fairly recent graphics cards, with the RTX 3060 being most popular – and that’s a pretty good, mid-range GPU. So it’s NOT the case that the 48.5% of 16 gig gamers have really old, 2-core systems. It’s much more likely that 16 gigs is STILL perfectly fine for the average gamer.
Of course, almost 60% of gamers are still using 1080p monitors. Only 16% game in 1440p and less than 4% game in 4K.
This is surprising because many tech discussions are flooded with people saying…
“Bros, I just spent 1 day’s wages on a 500 Hz, 12K monitor and it’s THE BEST THING EVER to game on”
And you then see a dozen people agreeing with this.
Okay, I’m exaggerating again – but if you only have a ‘full HD’ (1080p) monitor, then 16 gigs of RAM should be absolutely fine for you – assuming that you’re mainly looking to play games. If you want to run professional workloads or edit videos, then you might need more.
Equally if you have a 1440p monitor then 16 gigs is still USUALLY fine, although some recent titles including Hogwarts Legacy are starting to recommend 32 gigs when gaming at 1440p and above.
What I’d personally recommend for RAM usage is below:
|RAM (Gaming Only)
|RAM (Professional Workloads)
|Full HD (1080p)
And you can see that I would only really recommend 64 gigs of RAM for 4K (although it’s worth noting that this DOES include doing 4K video editing at a lower resolution – for example if you edit 4K video with a 1440p display). But assuming you’re NOT video editing, then 32 gigs or even 16 gigs should be fine for 1440p, and you’ll PROBABLY struggle to use more than 16 gigs at 1080p.
Even though modern game releases ARE requiring a LOT more memory and VRAM, I think this will all still hold true for at least the next 2-3 years. But if you disagree or have anything more to add, please do let me know in the comments.
Should You Still Buy DDR4?
Let’s turn to the second question: is it still acceptable to buy DDR4, or should you only buy DDR5 from now on? So this is a little tricky to answer because it depends on what hardware you currently have, and how often you tend to upgrade your system.
If you have a 3 year old Intel system or an AM4 Ryzen motherboard, then you are effectively stuck with DDR4 because you can’t get DDR5 UNLESS you change the motherboard. This then requires a CPU change and POSSIBLY a new CPU cooler too, so it’s often a fairly big upgrade. In other words, switching to DDR5 is best achieved when you’re effectively buying or building a brand new system. And while a year ago DDR5 systems were still quite expensive, everything has come down in price a lot and so there’s a much smaller premium nowadays to be paid to get a DDR5 system:
Having said that, it DOES still cost more to go with DDR5 over DDR4. My PC is pretty powerful and I can easily do 4K video editing and gaming in 4K, even though I have DDR4 memory:
If you’re somebody who changes their motherboard and CPU every 2 to 3 years, then there probably isn’t any harm in going with DDR4 memory in 2024 – you’ll save some money for your next set of upgrades, after all!
But if the thought of RIPPING out your motherboard fills you with dread, then just go with DDR5 now and RELAX: you have a nice, future proofed system.
Is 16GB Really Still Okay?
Let’s move onto the third question: how can I say that 16 gigs of RAM is often fine, when some random TikTok video showed Chrome using loads of RAM? WELL, it’s because applications will look at how much RAM is available, and “pre-reserve” some of this for performance reasons. Basically on an 8 gig system, Chrome might think “oh, I’ll just ‘reserve’ 2 gigs for my use”.
But on a 64 gig system, Chrome will think “wahey, there’s loads of free memory here – I’ll reserve 12 gigs”. And then someone does a video saying “I only have 2 tabs open and Chrome is using 22 gigs, they suck!!”. But actually, unused RAM is wasted RAM, and so applications will take chunks of RAM in-case they need it in the future – but quickly release these reserved bits if another application genuinely does need them. Equally, Windows will use free RAM for caching, to speed up various parts of the operating system.
This is why Windows Task manager doesn’t just say “Free” and “Used” memory, because there’s really no such thing:
The moment you launch an operating system and some programs, some RAM is ACTUALLY used, while a big chunk of RAM will be ‘reserved’ and cached for performance reasons. So when you see a random TikTok video claiming that you MUST have 32 gigs of RAM because their own system has barely any “free” RAM, you can PROBABLY just ignore it.
This is also why Linux shows you total, free, used and “buffer or cached” memory, by the way – you can’t just say “this much memory is in use”, it just doesn’t work like that.
Using 1 Or 4 RAM Slots
The final thing I wanted to discuss is that many motherboards have four RAM slots, but various people online say that you should ALWAYS buy two RAM sticks and put them in particular slots, because this then activates “dual rank mode” and makes them run faster.
And they ARE right – this is entirely true. However sometimes this performance benefit is overstated a bit: some online tests have shown very little difference between running 1, 2 and 4 sticks of RAM. Certainly, let’s say that you have two 8 gig RAM sticks – for 16 gigs total – and you are hitting against RAM bottlenecks because you game in 1440p and just installed Hogwarts Legacy.
In this case, buying two more 8 gig RAM sticks and using all four of your motherboard’s RAM slots (to get 32 gigs of memory in total) will be your best bet.
Yes you MIGHT lose a little on dual rank benefits, but freeing yourself of a RAM bottleneck will be a MUCH bigger performance boost. Just make sure that the two new sticks of RAM you buy are the same make and model as your old one: you should never mix and match different RAM brands and speeds – ideally.
That wraps up this video, I hope you found it useful. If you did, please click the thumbs up button. Please also subscribe to my channel if you haven’t already and thanks for watching!