Get a Boost: Upgrading Your Computer's Memory

Increasing the performance of your computer can be as simple as upgrading the random access memory (RAM). This hardware is responsible for storing data temporarily when the system is still running. The more memory your computer has the faster the programs will run. Here is what you should know when purchasing a RAM:

What are 32-bit and 64-bit registers in computers?

Before upgrading the memory, you should first determine how much the computer system has and which register the processor uses. Your computer is equipped with either a 32-bit (X86) or 64-bit operating system. The terms refer to how the CPU handles information. The 64-bit processors handle more RAM than the 32-bit processors, which is the older version. If you intend to buy anything over 4 GB, ensure your computer's OS is a 64-bit version.

How does DDR3 SDRAM differ from DDR2 and DDR4?

The double data rate (DDR) memory is an upgrade to the single data rate synchronous dynamic random access memory (SDR SDRAM). This RAM has a greater bandwidth than the single data rate. It doubles the transfer rate without changing the frequency of the internal clock (measured in MHz or GHz). There are four generations in this category which include the following:

  • DDR SDRAM - This is the first generation of the DDR memory. The prefetch buffer here is 2 bit, twice that of SDR SDRAM. The transfer rate ranges from 266 to 400MT/s up from 100 -166 MT/s for the single data rate memory.
  • DDR2 SDRAM - The second generation DDR has the ability to operate the data bus twice as fast as the DDR SDRAM. The prefetch data is 4 bit and the transfer rate is between 533 to 800 MT/s.
  • DDR3 SDRAM - This is the third type in the category. Similar to the rest, the internal clock speed is retained but the prefetch buffer width is doubled to 8 bit from DDR2's 4 bit. The transfer rate range also moves up to 800-1600 MT/s. Here, two more functions are added as well. These are the self-refresh temperature (SRT) and the automatic self-refresh (ASR).
  • DDR4 SDRAM - This RAM provides higher transfer rates and lower operating voltage (at 1.2V). The transfer rate ranges from 2133 to 3200 MT/s. It is more efficient than all the rest. The DDR4 also has added functions such as the data bus inversion (DBI), cyclic redundancy check (CRC), and the CA parity.

What should you look into when getting a DDR3 SDRAM?

  • Speed - This is an expression of the data transfer rate which is measured in Megahertz (MHz) or Gigahertz (GHz). The higher the speed, the faster the system can keep an retrieve data stored in the local memory.
  • Capacity - The memory capacity you will find will range from around 1 GB to 32 GB. Low RAM is ideal if you only intend to use the basic functions of the computer. However, if you intend to use the computer for intensive tasks such as video gaming or editing, high capacities such as 16 GB and 32 GB will do.
  • Latency - Each RAM module also has a rating for the timing. This is the amount of time the system takes to access single bits of data across columns and rows of the memory. It is referred to as CAS latency for SDRAMs. Lower latency means faster access to data and faster operation of the computer in overall.
  • Modules - This is a circuit board that contains the DRAM integrated circuits installed into the memory slot on the motherboard. The two common memory modules found in DDR are the dual in-line memory module (DIMM) and the small outline DIMM (SODIMM). The two are almost identical in their performance but they differ in form factor. DIMM is relatively long (133 mm) and features 240-pin connectors. It is more common in desktops. SODIMM, on the other hand, is smaller (67 mm wide) and has lesser pins. It is used in more compact devices such as laptops and notebooks. DDR3 DIMMs specify four chipset lines per memory while SODIMMs specify two.