What’s The Difference Between VRAM and RAM?

Computer RAM vs VRAM

Building a PC is already complicated as it is. And then you hear about two-similar sounding terms: VRAM and RAM. If that has got you scratching your head, you’re not alone. 

So what’s the difference between VRAM and RAM?

The main difference between RAM and VRAM is the type of data they store. RAM is used to store general-purpose data processed by the CPU. On the other hand, VRAM is for storing graphics data accessed by the GPU.

Let’s break down the differences between the two even further to help you understand more.

What is VRAM?

VRAM stands for “video random access memory.” It is a specialized type of memory used specifically to store and manage the data displayed on a computer’s screen.

The GPU needs a lot of memory to store the data it is working with when rendering images and videos. That’s where VRAM comes in. VRAM is specifically designed to work with the GPU and provides it with the high-speed memory needed to quickly display images and videos on the screen.

When you play a video game or watch a high-definition movie on your computer, the GPU uses VRAM to store and manage the data that makes up the images and videos you see on the screen. The more VRAM a PC has, the more complex and detailed the images and videos it can display, and the smoother they will be.

Additionally, VRAM is a type of volatile memory that is wiped clean when you turn off your computer. This is in contrast to non-volatile storage devices like hard drives or solid-state drives, which can retain data even when the computer is powered off.

When to Get More VRAM

VRAM making it so things appear on the computer screen

You may want to consider getting more video memory if you’re experiencing any of the following issues:

  • Your computer is running out of VRAM and is using regular RAM as temporary storage, which can slow down the performance of your computer.
  • You’re running high-performance graphics applications, such as video editing or gaming, and are experiencing stuttering or low frame rates.
  • Image texture appears grainy and pixelated even if you’re using a high-resolution monitor.
  • You’re working with 3D models or complex visualization that requires a high amount of memory storage.

How to Increase VRAM Performance

Upgrading your VRAM isn’t as straightforward as upgrading RAM. You can’t just slap it on your computer and hope it works. That’s because VRAM is built into the graphics card or integrated into the motherboard. It isn’t something that can be easily added or removed, like RAM. Upgrading your GPU can help increase your computer’s performance. But if that isn’t an option right now, you can follow these steps to optimize your video memory.

  • Enable the integrated graphics processor: Many modern computers have an integrated graphics processor (IGP) built into the motherboard. You may use it to supplement the VRAM available on your graphics card. You can enable this via your computer’s BIOS settings.
  • Close unnecessary programs: If you have a lot of programs running in the background, they may be using up some of your VRAM. Closing unnecessary programs can free them up for other tasks.
  • Reduce the resolution of your display: Higher resolutions require more video memory to display the image on your screen. Reducing the resolution can free up VRAM.

What is RAM?

Computer RAM

RAM stands for “random access memory.” It is a type of computer memory used for data storage the computer is currently using or processing.

When you open a program on your computer, such as a web browser or a word processor, the computer loads the program and the necessary data into RAM. This allows the program to run quickly and smoothly because the data it needs is easily accessible. Like VRAM, RAM is volatile memory. Its contents are deleted as soon as you shut down the computer.

The amount of RAM in a computer can greatly impact its performance. Having more memory allows the computer to run more programs simultaneously without slowing down. It can also make the programs run more quickly. When your computer is running low on RAM, it may start to “swap” data to the hard drive, slowing down the computer’s performance.

When to Get More RAM

You might consider getting more RAM for your computer if you are experiencing any of the following issues:

  • Your computer runs slowly or takes a long time to load programs or open files.
  • You’re always running multiple programs simultaneously or using resource-intensive applications.
  • You keep getting error messages related to insufficient memory.
  • You plan on using resource-intensive programs or upgrading to a newer operating system in the near future.

How much RAM your PC needs depends on a few factors. But, as a general rule of thumb, you should have at least 8GB RAM. Anything lower than that will affect your computer’s performance.

How to Increase RAM Performance

Because RAM is a limited resource, it’s important to manage it effectively to ensure that the device runs smoothly and efficiently. Here are some ways you can optimize your RAM’s performance.

  • Close unnecessary programs: If you have a lot of programs running in the background, they may be using up some of your RAM. Closing unnecessary programs can free up memory for other tasks.
  • Disable startup programs: Programs that automatically run in the background when you turn on your PC eat your RAM. Disabling unnecessary startup programs can help reduce the amount of memory used.
  • Use a lightweight operating system: Switching to a lightweight operating system that uses fewer resources, such as Linux, can help free up memory.
  • Use a RAM management tool: A RAM management tool can help you locate and clean excess memory usage.
  • Upgrade your RAM. When none of the above techniques work, upgrading your RAM is the last resort. But make sure to check for hardware compatibility. If you’re using DDR3, you can’t just switch to DDR4 or DDR5 without swapping your motherboard and CPU first. 

Key Differences Between VRAM and RAM

Now that we’ve established how VRAM and RAM differ from each other. Let’s do a quick summary of the key similarities and differences between the two

  • Purpose: VRAM is specifically designed to store image data being used by the GPU, while RAM stores data actively processed by the CPU.
  • Speed: Both VRAM and RAM are designed to be fast, but VRAM is generally faster than RAM. This is because the GPU needs to access image data quickly to render images and videos in real-time.
  • Capacity: The amount of VRAM and RAM that a computer has can vary. VRAM is generally available in larger capacities than RAM. This is because the GPU typically needs more memory to store image data than the CPU needs to store data.
  • Volatility: VRAM and RAM are volatile memory, meaning they can only store data while the computer is powered on. When the computer is turned off, all data stored in VRAM and RAM is lost.
  • Cost: VRAM is generally more expensive than RAM, as it is a specialized type of memory used for a specific purpose.

Can You Use RAM and VRAM Interchangeably?

No, you cannot replace RAM with VRAM or vice versa. They are two different types of memory used for very different purposes.

While both RAM and VRAM are types of memory, they are not interchangeable and serve different purposes. Replacing one with the other will not solve the problem and may even worsen it. If you want to improve your computer’s performance, add the appropriate memory you need.

Lucas Coulson

I first got into building my own computer when I was around 12 or 13. The first computer I had ever built didn't work. So I kept researching to figure what I did wrong. I really enjoyed researching, learning, and building computers, so I decided to turn it into an online business, and here I am.

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