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How much RAM does your Windows 11 PC need?

There's quite a difference between the minimum system requirement and a practical minimum.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Reviewed by Alyson Windsor

How much RAM you need in your PC is a balancing act of what you need your PC to do versus how much you want to spend.


Random access memory -- commonly referred to as "RAM" -- is vital for your computer system to open, run, and manage programs, applications, and services.

RAM can make or break a PC. The more RAM you have, the more applications you can have running side-by-side.

Also: The best external hard drives

But if you don't have enough, your PC can be reduced to a crawl and be pretty much unbearable.

But putting more RAM than you need into a PC can be a waste of money.

Can Windows 11 run on 2GB RAM?

You can't install Windows 11 on a system with 2GB of RAM because it runs a system compatibility check before attempting an installation, and if it doesn't see 4GB of RAM, it will abandon the installation.

And this is a good thing. 

Also: What graphics card do I have? How to check your GPU and drivers

This doesn't mean you can't run Windows 11 on a system with 2GB of RAM. The easiest way around the restriction is to have 4GB of RAM fitted while Windows 11 is installing, then fit 2GB after it's done. But that will lead to a laggy, sluggish, painful experience.

Back in the Windows 10 days, you could install 32-bit Windows on a PC with only 1GB of RAM. The 64-bit version doubled this minimum to 2GB. And that really was the bare minimum. You could work with it, but it could get painful at times.

For Windows 11, things have changed, and Microsoft has increased the minimum to 4GB. It's a big increase, but oddly enough, it quickly feels like a minimum. I've seen systems where after everything has booted up, the system has about one gigabyte free.

How much RAM does Windows 11 need to run smoothly?

Well, you can get away with the 4GB minimum. Things start to get a bit sluggish once you have Google Chrome running with a few tabs open, or you try to do something like serious photo editing.

Forget about things like video editing or serious gaming.

It's just going to end in frustration.

The more you expect from your PC, the more RAM you'll need.

Also: How to pick a computer for your kid

If you're a light user, browsing the web, emailing, and editing documents, then 4GB may suffice. But it will definitely feel laggy. Increasing this to 6 or 8GB of RAM will not only give you a much better experience, but also allow you to do more with your system. Also, since updates to the operating system and applications add a greater burden to the system, it will help future-proof your PC, giving you a longer lifespan.

The current sweet spot in terms of performance and cost is 8GB of RAM.

Is there a case for having more than 8GB of RAM?

Sure there is, but the bang for the buck starts to trail off.

The time when more than 8GB of RAM becomes useful and starts paying for itself is when you're running several resource-heavy applications simultaneously -- especially high-end image or 4K+ video processing, CAD, or 3D modeling. 

Also: How much RAM does your Windows 10 PC need?

If you're running applications like Premiere Pro, Photoshop, and After Effects side-by-side on a system with 8GB of RAM, things are going to start feeling sluggish. On a system with 16GB or more, this is no problem.

Having more than 8GB also comes in handy if you make extensive use of virtualization tools such as Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware Workstation, especially if you run multiple virtual machines simultaneously.

But remember, you're going to be paying for that RAM, and going from 8GB to 16GB and beyond is going to start pumping up the price.

Do gaming PCs need 24/32GB of RAM?

Mostly, no. 

I've seen a lot of gaming systems with 24GB or even 32GB of RAM and beyond, and while that's nice because it offers a great deal of overhead, I find that most of the time this RAM is sitting in the PC doing nothing. 

Also: SSD vs HDD: What's the difference, and which should you buy?

If you've got the money, sure, spend it on RAM, but you'd be better off spending that money on faster SSD storage or a better graphics card.

It's important to remember that a fast PC is built from a selection of fast parts. Putting tons of RAM in a system with other bottlenecks -- a slow CPU, slow storage, poor graphics card -- is just a waste of money.

How much RAM can my PC take?

This is where things get a little bit complicated.

Laptops have increasingly moved to fixed RAM where the RAM chips are soldered directly to the motherboard and can't be removed or upgraded.

Also: How to identify your motherboard quickly and easily

What you buy is what you're stuck with for the life of the system.

Thankfully, most desktop PCs still have RAM that can be upgraded.

But you need to know a few things. Specifically, what type of RAM your PC takes, and how much RAM is the maximum.

How do you find out this information?

You can consult your PC/motherboard manual, or, if your PC was manufactured by an OEM, use a system checker such as the one found on Crucial.com to find out what RAM is compatible with your system. Once you're armed with this information, you can then go shopping.

This should give you all the information you need.

What's the maximum amount of RAM that Windows 11 supports?

Each version of Windows 11 has a maximum amount of RAM that it can support.

  • Windows 11 Enterprise: 6 TB
  • Windows 11 Education: 2 TB
  • Windows 11 Pro for Workstations: 6 TB
  • Windows 11 Pro: 2 TB
  • Windows 11 Home: 128 GB

In reality, you're going to hit a hardware limit long before you hit these operating system limits.

Also: What graphics card do I have? How to check your GPU and drivers

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