How to Find Out the Maximum RAM Capacity for Your Computer

by C. Taylor

If you've noticed your computer slow to a crawl when multiple programs or files are simultaneously opened, you might consider adding more random access memory, or RAM. Increasing RAM allows more programs to run and more files to open without having to exchange data to the slower hard drive. This can significantly speed up your computer. However, your hardware and operating system limit the amount of RAM you can actually use. Therefore, you should always check these limits before buying RAM so you don't potentially waste your money.

Reference your motherboard or computer manual for RAM specifications. These specifications will state the maximum amount of RAM your motherboard can support and the number of slots it has. The number of slots tells you how many modules of RAM you can install. As an example, if your motherboard supports 16GB of RAM with four slots, you can have a total of four 4GB modules. Laptops typically support less RAM than desktops simply because they have less space.

Click the "Start" button, right-click "Computer" and select "Properties." Look for "Installed Memory (RAM)" in the System section. This tells you how much RAM you currently have installed. This RAM is most likely installed in pairs, so you probably have two or four modules of RAM. Therefore, 8GB of installed RAM is probably two 4GB or four 2GB RAM modules.

Look for "System Type" to find out your operating system's architecture, which will be either 32-bit or 64-bit. There is no realistic limit to the amount of RAM you can have on a 64-bit system, but a 32-bit system limits you to just 4GB of RAM, which also includes any RAM on your graphics card. Therefore, if your 32-bit system also has a 1GB graphics card, you can only use 3GB for your system.

Look at the "Windows Edition" section for the version of Windows you have. You cannot use more than 2GB of RAM in Windows 7 Starter edition. However, the 64-bit version of Windows Home Basic can use 8GB of RAM, and the Home Premium edition can have up to 16GB of RAM. Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate editions can recognize up to 192GB of RAM.

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