Seeing errors related to video RAM on your Windows PC? Struggling to run graphic-intensive programs like video editors and new video games? You may need more video RAM.
But what even is that, and how can you increase it? We’ll share everything you need to know about video RAM, so read on!
What Is Video RAM
Stands for “Video Random Access Memory” and is pronounced “V-RAM.” System RAM is great for loading and running programs, but when you need graphics power, VRAM is where it’s at. This is the memory used to store image data that the computer displays; it acts as a buffer between the CPU and the video card. When a picture is to be displayed on the screen, the image is first read by the processor and then written to the VRAM. The data is then converted by a RAM digital-to-analog converter (RAMDAC) into analog signals that are sent to the display. Of course, the whole process happens so quickly, you don’t notice it. Unlike most system RAM, VRAM chips are dual-ported, which means that while the display is reading from VRAM to refresh the currently displayed image, the processor is writing a new image to the VRAM. This prevents the display from flickering between the redrawing of images.
Though technically incorrect, the terms GPU and graphics card are often used interchangeably.
Your video RAM holds information that the GPU needs, like game textures and lighting effects. This allows the GPU to quickly access the info and output video to your monitor. Using video RAM for this task is much faster than using your system RAM because the video RAM is right next to the GPU in the graphics card, and is built for this high-intensity purpose.
How Much Video RAM Do I Have?
You can easily view the amount of video RAM you have in Windows 10 by following these steps:
- Open the Settings menu by pressing Windows Key + I.
- Select the System entry, then click Display on the left sidebar.
- Scroll down and click the Display adapter properties text.
- A panel will pop up. Select the Adapter tab and look under the Adapter Information section.
- You’ll see your current video RAM listed next to Dedicated Video Memory.
Under Adapter Type, you’ll probably see the name of your NVIDIA or AMD graphics card, depending on what device you have. If you see AMD Accelerated Processing Unit or Intel HD Graphics (more likely), you’re using integrated graphics.
What’s Different With Integrated Graphics?
An integrated graphics processing unit (GPU) doesn’t use its own RAM; it utilizes the system’s memory instead. So, if you have a computer with 4GB of RAM, the video card can use anywhere between one and five percent of the available memory for graphics processing. Of course, this percentage varies depending on the size of task, especially if you’re multitasking or playing a game.
The benefit to an integrated unit is that it is cheaper, which in turn means a less expensive computer. An integrated graphics card also generates much less heat than a dedicated video card and uses drastically less power, which improves the overall battery life. Integrated graphics cards are perfect for people doing everyday graphics processing. This includes watching or editing videos, 2D gaming and general word processing. Such activities aren’t graphic intensive, so a low-end video card is ideal. That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to play 3D games, but you will have to turn down the graphics settings or you’ll experience in-game slowdowns.
An integrated graphics solution means that the GPU is on the same die as the CPU, and shares your normal system RAM instead of using its own dedicated VRAM. This is a budget-friendly solution and allows laptops to output basic graphics without the need for a space- and energy-hogging video card. But integrated graphics are poor for gaming- and graphic-intensive tasks.
How powerful your integrated graphics are depends on your CPU. Newer Intel CPUs with Intel Iris Plus Graphics are more powerful than their cheaper and older counterparts but still pale in comparison to dedicated graphics.
As long as your computer is within a few years old, you should have no problems watching videos, playing low-intensity games, and working in basic photo and video editing applications with integrated graphics. However, playing the latest graphically impressive games with integrated graphics is basically impossible.
What Tasks Need Video RAM?
Before we talk specific numbers, we should mention what aspects of games and other graphics-intensive apps use the most VRAM.
A big factor in VRAM consumption is your monitor’s resolution. Video RAM stores the frame buffer, which holds an image before and during the time that your GPU displays it on the screen. Better displays (such as gaming on a 4K screen) take up more VRAM because higher-resolution images take more pixels to display.
Even if you’re not interested in gaming, some popular software requires a fair amount of VRAM too. 3D design software like AutoCAD, particularly intense edits in Photoshop, and editing high-quality video will all suffer if you don’t have enough video RAM.
The Right Amount of Video RAM: Basic Guidelines
Hopefully, it’s clear that there’s no perfect amount of VRAM for everyone. However, we can provide some basic guidelines about how much VRAM you should aim for in a graphics card.
- 1-2GB of VRAM: These cards are usually under $100. They offer better performance than integrated graphics but can’t handle most modern games at above-average settings. Only purchase a card with this amount of VRAM if you want to play older games that won’t work with integrated graphics. Not recommended for video editing or 3D work.
- 3-6GB of VRAM: These mid-range cards are good for moderate gaming or somewhat intensive video editing. You won’t be able to use that ultra-insane texture pack for Fallout 4, but you can expect to play modern games at 1080p with few issues. Get a 4GB card if you’re short on cash, but 6GB is a more future-proof option if you can spare it.
- 8GB of VRAM and above:High-end cards with this much RAM are for serious gamers. If you want to play the latest games at 4K resolution, you need a card with plenty of VRAM.
However, you should take the above generalizations with a grain of salt. Graphics cardmanufacturers add the appropriate amount of VRAM to a card depending on how powerful the GPU is. Thus, a cheap $75 graphics card will have a small amount of VRAM, while a $500 graphics card will pack a lot more. If a weak GPU isn’t powerful enough to render video that takes 8GB of VRAM to store, it’s a waste to have that much VRAM in the card.
Video RAM Concerns
Conversely, not having enough VRAM is a huge problem. If VRAM fills up, the system has to rely on standard RAM and performance will suffer. You’ll notice a lower frame rate, texture pop-ins, and other adverse effects. In extreme cases, the game could slow to a crawl and become unplayable (anything under 30 FPS).
The best way to find out which graphics card and amount of video RAM is right for you is to talk to someone knowledgeable. Ask a friend who knows about the latest graphics cards, or post on a forum like Reddit or Tom’s Hardware asking if a specific card would work for your needs.
How to Increase Your Video RAM
The first is adjusting the VRAM allocation in your computer’s BIOS. Enter your BIOS and look for an option in the menu named Advanced Features, Advanced Chipset Features, or similar. Inside that, look for a secondary category called something close to Graphics Settings, Video Settings, or VGA Share Memory Size.
These should contain an option to adjust how much memory you allocate to the GPU. The default is usually 128MB, try upping this to 256MB or 512MB if you have enough to spare. Not every CPU or BIOS has this option, though. If you can’t change it, there’s a workaround that might help you.
Now You Understand Video RAM
Now you know what video RAM is, how much you need, and how to increase it. In the end, though, remember that video RAM is a small aspect of your computer’s overall performance. A weak GPU won’t perform well even with a lot of VRAM. So if you’re looking to increase gaming and graphical performance, you’ll likely need to upgrade your graphics card, processor, and/or RAM first — the VRAM will sort itself out.
Do you have a dedicated graphics card, or are you on integrated graphics? Have you ever run into a VRAM-related error? How much RAM is in your computer? Tell us in the comments!