How to Optimise Your RAM & Get the Fastest Speeds

Random Access Memory, or RAM, is vital to the efficient operation of your PC. It acts as a store of short-access data, allowing you to perform a wide range of functions almost instantaneously.

Browsing the web, streaming videos, and playing games wouldn’t be possible without RAM. However, this continues to work better over time, so it’s worth the upgrade.

However, you don’t always rely on BIOS (or UEFI) to enable top speed. Here’s how to optimize your RAM for maximum performance.

How to upgrade RAM

The upgrade process itself is not difficult and may even work on some laptops. Assuming you have good access to the memory slots, it should be just as simple to push the memory cards into place. Just make sure to power off and remove the battery if you’re working on a laptop. Ideally, use an anti-static wrist strap.

Modern computers will automatically detect the new memory the next time you start them, but they don’t necessarily choose the correct speed and other settings. Nowadays, a standard called SPD (Serial Presence Detect) is used to make the process automated. And while it works fine most of the time for standard memory, if you bought super fast RAM you should check if it is running at full speed. And here’s how to do exactly that.

How to test your RAM speed

A quick way to find out the current speed is to run CPU-Z

Click on the Memory tab and it will tell you the current speed – next to DRAM Frequency – of the RAM. This might be half the speed you’d expect, but that’s because it’s DDR memory.

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How to optimize RAM speed

DDR stands for double data rate, so the effective speed is twice the frequency. In our case, that’s 1400MHz, which becomes 2800MHz effective.

Click on the SPD tab and you will be able to see the details of each installed memory card by selecting them from the drop-down menu.

How to optimize RAM speed

Our PC has two 4GB sticks of “Patriot 2800 C16” according to CPU-Z. This information can be useful if you don’t know what is installed and to check which location is occupied.

However, to know if these are the optimal slots, you need to consult your motherboard manual. This will tell you which memory slots to install depending on how many sticks you have. The typical setup is two bars and they must be installed so that they are on separate channels. That’s why manuals will often ask you to install one rod at “A2” and the other at “B2”, such as in the middle example below, instead of side by side.

How to optimize RAM speed

This is because having one bar in each channel leads to better performance than having two bars operating on the same channel. So check the inside of your PC and move the bars around if they’re not in the optimal position. The advice does not apply to laptops that may only have one or two slots.

Using the manufacturer and part number provided by CPU-Z is usually enough to be able to look up your RAM specs online and see how fast it will run. In our case we have to check the physical stick because the real name is Patriot Viper Xtreme.

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Luckily it is running at exactly 2800MHz. But if you find that your RAM is running slower than usual, here’s what to do.

How to set RAM speed in BIOS

As we said, all recent computers – the recent ones from 4-5 years ago – must have a BIOS or UEFI that will set the memory time according to the JEDEC approved SPD table.

It’s a bunch of acronyms, but in essence it means that the RAM can be automatically set by the motherboard to a ‘safe’ frequency that has been tested and known to work.

You can see these settings in CPU-Z because they have ‘JEDEC #5’ at the top. JEDEC, if you’re curious, is the General Electronics Engineering Council, which defines these standard speeds.

But if you have stylish gaming RAM, it should be able to work faster than that standard speed. But unless you have XMP enabled in your BIOS, it won’t.

XMP (short for Extreme Memory Profile) is an Intel technology that allows you to quickly set multiple memory timings simply by selecting a profile.

You need to do this in the BIOS, though, so restart your PC and press whatever key gets you there. Notice the on-screen instructions when your computer first starts to know which one it is.

How to optimize RAM speed

This MSI BIOS makes it super easy, as there is a big XMP on/off button on the main menu and in EX mode it even shows the frequency in a large font. But you may have to search around in your memory or advanced settings in your BIOS to find it.

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If your RAM has more than one XMP setting, then you can choose the fastest speed and see if your PC runs fine. If not, step down to a slower speed and try again.

Again, this MSI BIOS shows the changes you made to highlight the before and after settings – you can see the RAM speed increase from 2100MHz to 2800MHz when you enable XMP.

How to optimize RAM speed

Unless you know what you’re doing, don’t change individual RAM times in the advanced memory settings.

Once XMP is enabled and the profile is selected, save the changes in the BIOS and restart your PC. Check CPU-Z again while Windows is running and you should see that your RAM is now running at optimal settings.

You may want to read our guide that explains the best CPU temperatures.

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