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Why You Should Upgrade Your RAM

For many computer owners, the easiest way to boost performance is with a memory upgrade. RAM is what keeps the processor fed, and one sure way to improve computer responsiveness is to minimize the time you spend waiting for data to load from the hard drive.

What is DDR3 RAM?

DDR3 is the third generation of Double Data Rate Memory. The basic idea behind all forms of DDR is that rather than simply increasing the base frequency of the memory bus, you can get better results by using each tick of the clock to transfer more data. DDR increased the speed by transferring data on both the rising and falling edges of the clock. Later revisions further increased bandwidth by lowering the internal clock rate and increasing the prefetch buffer. As a general rule each generation doubled the effective transfer rate of the previous one. DDR3 has the following characteristics:

  • Package: Samsung Desktop DDR3 comes in a 240-pin DIMM, requiring 1.5 Volts for operation. Laptops use smaller packages known as SODIMMs that are half the length of a DIMM and have 204 pins.
  • Performance: DDR3 provides anywhere from 6.4 GB per second of bandwidth from DDR3-800, with an effective bus speed of 800 MHz to 12.8 GB per second from DDR3-1600 memory running at an effective speed of 1600 MHz. You get higher speeds with unbuffered AM and a higher CAS latency.

How Do You Select RAM?

There are a few things you should consider before installing RAM in your computer, not least of which is making sure that the DIMMs you have are the ones your computer needs. In most cases you should be fine with unbuffered memory as it offers better performance and you don't need the buffer in most desktop systems. Do be aware of features like latency; if you have both CL12 and CL11 RAM installed, your memory controller will default to the lower CAS latency. Advanced data protection features like ECC memory are only necessary for servers.

  • Desktop: Most desktops want a dual channel kit with two matched DIMMs of the same capacity and specifications, such as Samsung PC3 8500 DDR3 1066 memory.
  • Laptop: Laptops require the smaller SODIMM format, and do not use anything beyond unbuffered memory.

Making Sure You Have Enough Memory

You always want to make sure you have enough memory to keep your computer operating at peak performance. They say any system is only as fast as the slowest component, but in reality, it's only as fast as the slowest component it's using. RAM speeds up your computer by reducing the number of times you need to go back to slower components. What really kills you in a traffic jam isn't the time you're moving slowly, it's the time you spend just sitting there.

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