Memory standards keep changing and the folks that make it want you to keep upgrading or buying PCs with more memory. For most people running a current operating systems like Windows 10 or macOS sticking with 8GB is adequate.
The computer I'm working from at the moment has just 4GB and it works just fine running Windows 10 with a basic image editor, my preferred text editing app and a few browser windows open. But if you need more - like 16GB or beyond, what are the rules for DIY upgrades?
Assuming your computer can take a RAM upgrade - if you're the owner of a recent Mac you're probably stuck with what you bought as Apple solders everything in - then there are a few things to watch out for.
The simplest rule
If you want to minimise the risk of any later hassles, stick to memory of the same brand and spec as what you already have.
If your computer has DDR3 1333 then sticking to the same will minimise the risk of any later system instability. If you get a good deal on slightly faster DDR3 1600 you'll probably be OK as your motherboard will underclock the faster chips to match the slower one.
Mixing brands is also possible but there are cases where different manufacturers interpret specifications differently. As a result, there can be situations where certain conditions can lead to system instability. And those sorts of crashes can be notoriously difficult to diagnose.
So, to keep things simple and reduce the risk of an unstable system, stick to one brand of memory and one specification.
What if your PC has 8GB, comprised of a pair of 4GB chips? If you have a pair of spare memory slots, can you add two more 8GB chips to get to 24GB?
Generally, this should be OK, subject to sticking to one brand and spec. If sticking to one brand isn't possible - I'd suggest pulling the memory that's already there and adding new memory from scratch.
For example, rather than keep the pair of 4GB sticks, I'd replace them with a pair of 8GB and get my system up to 16GB or 32GB that way.
It's worth noting, before you upgrade that different Windows 10 versions can use different amounts of memory.
The 32-bit version of Windows 10 can only use 4GB of memory.
With the various 64-bit versions
- Windows 10 Home – 128 GB
- Windows 10 Pro – 2TB
- Windows 10 Pro for Workstations – 6TB
- Windows 10 Enterprise – 6TB
- Windows 10 Education – 2TB
Can you mix different types of RAM?
The short answer is yes. But the path to greatest stability and performance comes from using memory of the same specification from a single manufacturer.