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FAQs about Computer Memory

by Paul Sanders

Computer memory

One common computer specification you'll hear often is computer memory. A good rule of thumb to know when selecting a computer is that more memory is better. Aside from that, knowing what PC memory actually is and how it relates to your computer can help you avoid misleading statistics and select a laptop or computer with enough computer memory to fit your needs perfectly. Here are a few frequently asked questions about computer memory and memory upgrades to help you get started.

Computer Memory Questions:

  1. What do people mean when they say "computer memory"?
    Typically, computer memory can refer to random access memory (RAM), which is used by your computer as a kind of short-term memory for calculations to run programs. Memory can also mean the amount of storage space on a computer's hard drive. Both hard-drive capacity and RAM are measured in gigabytes (GB), but the smaller number is always the amount of RAM.

  2. Are there different types of computer memory?
    There are different types of RAM, called DDR or DDR2. Typically you won't be able to use different types of computer memory in the same computer. The important thing to know about selecting computer memory for memory upgrades is to make sure that the memory is compatible with your computer's motherboard, and that you're not mixing types of RAM. If you know what type of motherboard you have, you can find a list of compatible computer RAM sticks, also called memory sticks, to install on the motherboard.

  3. How much computer memory do I need?
    The great thing about computer memory is that manufacturers are continually improving it, making it smaller and cheaper. At the same time, computer programs that you'll want to use continue to increase in complexity, requiring faster computers with more computer memory to operate them. Take a look at the system requirements for the programs or video games you want to use. Typically, a program will list "recommended" memory, which is what you'll want to use as a minimum when selecting a computer or planning a memory upgrade.

  4. How do I upgrade the memory on my computer?
    Once you know what type of memory is compatible with your computer, you can easily do a memory upgrade. Computer memory on desktop computers is simpler to replace than laptop memory: You simply remove the old memory card and insert the new one into the expansion slot. Your computer will typically recognize the new computer memory right away.

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