What does RAM do for gaming?

By The IFTTT Team

July 08, 2024

What does RAM do for gaming?
  • In the realm of gaming, it's well known that performance is paramount. It's the difference between a smooth, immersive experience and a frustrating one filled with lags and stutters. There are many aspects inside a computer or console that all work seamlessly to deliver you the best gaming experience, typically denoted by a jumble of acronyms—GPU, CPU, RAM. These funny letters are also the difference between a gaming setup that costs $1,000 and one that costs $10,000.

    The key player in this performance equation is RAM or Random Access Memory. But what exactly does RAM do for gaming?

    This article aims to demystify the role of RAM in gaming. We'll talk about what RAM stands for, how it functions, and why it's crucial for gaming performance. We'll answer how much RAM you need for an optimal gaming experience, as well as explore how RAM can provide a speed boost in your games. To finish, we'll present IFTTT, our free automation service that helps millions worldwide optimize their setups for the best gaming sessions.

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    Understanding RAM in gaming computers


    To fully grasp the impact of RAM on gaming, we first need to understand what RAM is. First, what does RAM stand for? RAM, or Random Access Memory, is a type of computer memory that temporarily stores data. All computers use it, but it is especially important when discussing the parameters of a good gaming computer that can handle any game you throw at it.

    This data is actively used by your computer, allowing for quick access and smooth multitasking. Unlike hard drive storage, RAM is volatile, meaning it loses its data once the power is turned off. The "Random Access" part of the name refers to how any byte of memory can be retrieved without touching the preceding bytes. This differs from sequential access memory (like a tape or a hard drive), where the entire sequence must be traversed to access the desired data.

    In the context of gaming, RAM holds the game's active data. This includes elements like textures, maps, and character models. The more RAM you have, the more game data can be stored for quick access. This leads to smoother gameplay and faster loading times. RAM is stored in the motherboard of a computer, in the form of little sticks slotted next to the CPU. A glance at how many little sticks you have can give an idea of how much RAM your computer uses.

    The role of RAM in gaming performance


    We all want our games to run just a bit smoother, and without all those lousy spikes of lag. Well, RAM is the crucial ingredient in gaming performance and helps the transfer of data between the CPU/GPU and the game. Adequate RAM ensures that games load faster by providing enough space for necessary files and assets, resulting in smooth gameplay as textures, maps, and other game data are readily accessible.

    During gameplay, sufficient RAM helps maintain stable frame rates and prevents stuttering and frame drops that occur when the system relies on slower storage to swap data.

    Additionally, more RAM allows for efficient multitasking, enabling players to run other applications, such as streaming software or browsers, alongside their games without experiencing performance drops.

    Game developers specify minimum and recommended RAM requirements, with the minimum ensuring the game runs and the recommended ensuring optimal performance. In open-world and resource-intensive games, having more RAM allows for seamless loading of new areas, reducing pop-in textures and lag.

    As games become more complex and resource-intensive, having more RAM ensures compatibility with future titles and smoother performance. Modern operating systems and background processes also consume RAM, necessitating more RAM for a better gaming experience.

    How much RAM do I need for gaming?


    Determining how much RAM you need for gaming can be a bit tricky. It largely depends on the specific games you play, the performance level you desire, and what other tasks you're doing on your computer.

    For instance, if you're playing a simple browser game, you won't need nearly as much RAM as you would for a high-end, resource-intensive game. Similarly, if you're multitasking while gaming, you'll need more RAM to handle all the active processes.

    Here's a general guideline for RAM requirements based on different gaming scenarios:

    • Browser/casual gaming: 8GB
    • Modern gaming: 16GB
    • High-performance gaming and multitasking: 32GB or more

    For most gamers, 16GB of RAM strikes the perfect balance between performance and cost, offering excellent performance for most modern titles and allowing for multitasking. Enthusiasts, streamers, and those running highly demanding games or multiple applications simultaneously may benefit from 32GB of RAM, providing additional headroom for future-proofing and intensive multitasking.

    Minimum RAM requirements for modern gaming

    Most modern games list 8GB to 12GB of RAM as the minimum requirement, while some titles and VR games will request more. This is generally enough to run the game without any major issues.

    However, keep in mind that this is the bare minimum. You may experience occasional stuttering or longer loading times with only 8GB of RAM, especially if you have other applications running in the background. For a more seamless gaming experience, 16GB of RAM is often recommended.

    For high-performance gaming and multitasking, 32GB of RAM or more is often recommended. This is especially true if you're playing resource-intensive games, streaming your gameplay, or running other memory-hungry applications simultaneously. With 32GB or more, you'll have plenty of memory to handle all these tasks without any performance issues.

    Speed boost: How RAM speed and timing affect gaming


    When it comes to gaming performance, the amount of RAM isn't the only factor to consider—a common mistake made by some when assembling a gaming computer. The speed of your RAM, measured in MHz, and its timing, also play a significant role in how well a game runs.

    Higher RAM speeds can potentially offer a speed boost in games. This is because faster RAM can read and write data more quickly, leading to smoother gameplay and shorter loading times. However, it's important to note that the impact of RAM speed on gaming performance can vary depending on the game and the rest of your system's hardware.

    RAM timing, often referred to as latency, is another crucial aspect. Lower latency RAM can access data more quickly, which can further enhance gaming performance. This is particularly relevant in scenarios where games need to rapidly access and process large amounts of data. The combination of high-speed, low-latency RAM can provide the best results, ensuring that data is available to the CPU and GPU as quickly as possible.

    Additionally, the configuration of RAM—such as using dual-channel or quad-channel setups—can significantly influence performance. Dual-channel memory effectively doubles the data transfer rate by allowing two sticks of RAM to communicate simultaneously, while quad-channel setups can further enhance this effect with four. This increased bandwidth can be particularly beneficial in memory-intensive games and applications, such as large sandbox world games.

    Monitoring your RAM usage

    Understanding and managing your RAM usage can significantly improve your gaming performance. It can help you identify potential issues and make necessary adjustments. For instance, if you notice your system is frequently running out of RAM, you may need to close some background applications. These applications can consume a significant amount of memory, affecting your gaming performance.

    On the other hand, if you have plenty of unused RAM, you might be able to increase your game's settings for a better gaming experience. Remember, the goal is to strike a balance between using enough RAM for smooth gameplay and not overloading your system.

    There are several tools available that can help you monitor your RAM usage. These tools can provide real-time data on how much RAM your system is using, helping you make informed decisions.

    One popular tool is the Task Manager on Windows. This tool provides a detailed breakdown of your system's RAM usage, including which applications are using the most memory. Another useful tool is CPU-Z. This tool provides detailed information about your system's hardware, including your RAM. It can help you identify the type, speed, and amount of RAM you have installed.

    Better gaming with IFTTT

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