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The importance of RAM when buying a computer

Whenever you go to look at desktops, laptops, or even phones you almost always see something that says something along the lines of "4GB RAM" listed in the specs, without any explanation.
RAM stands for "random access memory" and it's where your computer stores currently-running programs, along with parts of Windows itself. GB stands for gigabyte and is a measure of space. It just tells you how much there is. Essentially, any program that is open is taking up RAM. When you use up all your RAM the computer has to use your hard drive or solid state drive to store open programs. This keeps the computer from crashing when you run out, but unfortunately it also makes it very slow! If you ever notice you have to close a few things to get the computer running normal again, it's most likely the problem.
So the big question is, how much RAM do you really need? Nowadays, Windows 10 by itself takes nearly 2GB of RAM. So whenever you see cheaper devices with only 2GB of RAM, know that they aren't going to work very well with Windows 10 and you'll likely be frustrated. For basic web surfing, email and document use 4GB is generally plenty.
The only time it's really necessary to go higher is if you have lots of programs open at the same time. When that happens, 8GB of RAM is more than a generous upgrade. Since you normally only get 2 of the 4 GB of RAM, 8GB actually triples your usable space to 6GB.
If you're like me and have Quickbooks, Word, Outlook, notepads, 10 tabs in Chrome and anything else that's open at the same time, you might consider a higher option. Currently my desktop at work is using 12GB of RAM, but that's a pretty niche case. However, we can upgrade our current in stock computers to 16GB of RAM, and they can go even higher.
For a general guideline for phones, 1GB is going to be pretty slow; 2GB is going to work fine for calls, texts and the like, but won't be too snappy. 4GB of RAM is becoming the gold standard, as the phone has plenty to use. Anything above 4GB is going to be better for gaming and multitasking - so if you're switching back and forth between apps (especially if one is a game) it can speed up your experience.


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