Random Access Memory, more commonly known as RAM, is one of the most important components in any computing device.
Because RAM is speedy, computers use it to store applications, drivers, and other files they may need at a moment’s notice.
While accessing these files directly from the hard drive might take a long time, when loaded and temporarily stored into RAM, the CPU can take advantage of a much faster mechanism for accomplishing tasks.
In addition to knowing what RAM does, it is also important to know what kind you’ve got in case you want to add memory, need to replace a faulty stick, or just want to brag to your friends.
Whatever your reasons, here are eight of the best ways to find out what type of RAM you have.
Note: These methods apply to Windows PCs, but check out the bottom of the article for a couple of macOS and Linux tips.
What Kind Of RAM Do I Have? (8 Ways To Tell)
1. Open Task Manager
Perhaps the easiest and quickest way to retrieve information about your RAM is via Task Manager.
You’ve probably used the application to quit programs that have locked up or otherwise won’t close properly.
Did you know you can use Task Manager to check out what type of RAM is installed in your computer?
If you’ve never used Task Manager before, you can open the software in several different ways.
One option is to press the Ctrl, Shift, and Esc keys simultaneously.
Another is with the old standard Ctrl, Alt, Delete key combination.
After pressing these keys, you’ll be presented with a menu of options.
Click on “Task Manager.”
Another option is to right-click on the Start icon in the taskbar and choose “Task Manager.”
However you get there, once loaded, you’ll need to click on the “More Details” option in the lower-left corner of the window (assuming you’ve never done this before—Windows will remember your last setting).
Once you expand Task Manager, you should see a tab called “Performance.”
Click on that tab and then select “Memory” from your options on the left side of the window.
This page will show you almost everything you need to know about your RAM (also referred to as memory).
You’ll see the amount you have installed, the type, the speed, and even how many of your available slots the RAM is occupying.
Microsoft designed the performance tab to provide a picture of how many resources your computer is using, but Task Manager is one of the best options for checking out the type of RAM you have installed.
2. Use The Command Line
An operating system is only as good as the CLI behind it, so Command Prompt is a good place to start.
Using the command line yields a wealth of information thanks to Microsoft’s Windows Management Instrumentation command-line (WMIC).
Click on the start button and start typing “command prompt.”
Click on the app when it appears in the search results.
Another way to launch the Command Prompt (also called CMD) is by using the run line.
Press and hold down the Windows key on your keyboard (usually to the left of the space bar) and then press r.
At the “Open:” prompt, type “cmd” (without the quotation marks) and then press enter.
At the command line, we’ll start with the basic command:
wmic MemoryChip get
Undoubtedly, this command will yield more information than you need to know, and as a result, the columns can’t all fit on the same line.
This can make the results a jumbled mess that is difficult to read.
The solution is to limit the information the command outputs.
wmic MemoryChip get MemoryType, Capacity, Speed, DeviceLocator, FormFactor, Manufacturer, Partnumber
Narrowing down your parameters like this will produce more digestible results.
What’s great about this command is you can see just about everything you’d want to know about the RAM installed without even opening the case.
You can even see which of your RAM slots are populated.
Also, if you add the Serialnumber parameter, you can see exactly which stick is installed in which slot.
The “MemoryType” column lists a number that corresponds to the type of physical memory installed in your computer.
The most common types, DDR3 and DDR4, are 24 and 26, respectively.
It is worth noting that as of Windows 10 (and Windows 11) version 21H2, Microsoft considers WMIC deprecated.
Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) itself is alive and well, but it seems that Microsoft appears to be sunsetting the command-line functionality.
Nevertheless, the WMIC commands still work as of this writing, and they are easy to use and very informative.
Just know that they could cease to function in future versions of Windows.
What can you use instead?
3. PowerShell, FTW
If you haven’t jumped into PowerShell yet, you really should.
Like CMD on steroids, PowerShell is great for scripting and automating tasks on your PC.
Even if you’re not doing any of these more complex tasks, PowerShell works well for single commands.
PowerShell works much the same as the old CMD command prompt, and most CMD commands work in PowerShell for backward compatibility.
Microsoft’s new and improved WMIC-equivalent is Get-CimInstance.
In fact, WMI is an implementation of the open standard Common Information Model (CIM), so when running Get-CimInstance, you’re leveraging WMI as before.
Like we said above, WMI isn’t going anywhere, just the command line functionality.
CIM provides an industry-standard framework for hardware and software across manufacturers, vendors, and programmers.
To leverage CIM in PowerShell to view information about the RAM installed in your computer, you’ll first need to open the program.
Click on the Start button and begin typing “powershell”.
Click on the application when it appears in the search results.
You can also use the run line.
Press Windows key + R and then type “powershell” and press the “Enter” key.
PowerShell works much the same way as CMD.
Copy the following command and paste it at the prompt:
Get-CimInstance -ClassName Win32_PhysicalMemory | Format-Table Capacity, Manufacturer, MemoryType, FormFactor, Name, Speed, Devicelocator, Serialnumber –AutoSize
Press “Enter” to run the command.
You’ll notice that the results look almost identical to what you got in CMD.
This is because both methods access information held by WMI.
4. Download CPU-Z
If you don’t want to fool with the command line, you can install a couple of third-party applications that will do the trick.
The first is called CPU-Z by the software developers at CPUID.
There are so many things to love about CPU-Z.
For one thing, it’s free (as in beer).
It’s also lightweight, reliable, and accurate.
CPU-Z’s one job is to report what type of hardware you’re running, specifically your CPU.
Hence the name.
However, CPU-Z also provides information about your motherboard, BIOS, and graphics card, among other things.
Oh, and yes, the software also reports on your type and amount of memory installed.
To get started, head over to cpuid.com/softwares/cpu-z.html to download the software.
Look for the purple “SETUP ENGLISH” button on the left side of the page, and then click on “DOWNLOAD NOW!” to get the installation file.
Once downloaded, run the .exe file.
Accept the license agreement (after reading the entire thing, of course) and then follow the prompts to install.
Once installed, run the software using the desktop shortcut or find CPU-Z in your Start menu.
When the software loads, click on the “Memory” tab to see what kind of RAM you have in your system.
One advantage CPU-Z has over CMD or PowerShell is that it clearly displays the type without having to translate some two-digit code.
Instead of “26”, for example, you’ll see “DDR4”.
Nevertheless, as you’ll see, CPU-Z gives a lot less detailed information about your RAM than does either of the CLI commands.
Missing is the manufacturer, the form factor, and even which slots are populated.
Still, for what the software does and considering its price, it’s hard not to appreciate CPU-Z.
5. Try Out Speccy
Another third-party utility is Speccy, brought to you by the folks at Piriform Software Ltd.
The company, acquired by Avast in 2017, is better known for its flagship software, CCleaner, which helps users free up hard drive space by removing unnecessary files.
Speccy launched in 2009 as another reporting tool similar to CPU-Z, but with a wider array of data about your PC’s guts.
If you’ve ever used CCleaner, you’ll recognize Speccy’s similar interface.
The software is free, but Piriform offers a “Professional” option promising automatic updates and premium support.
To get the software, go to ccleaner.com/speccy/download and click on the “Download” button.
Run the downloaded .exe file and then click on “Install”.
Click “Run Speccy” to launch the software.
The Summary page will actually show you your type, speed, and amount of RAM installed in your computer, but clicking on the “RAM” page on the left column will open up a page with more information.
Here, you’ll see just about everything you could want to know about your system memory including how many and which slots are populated, memory type (DD3 vs DD4, for example), frequency, and even timings.
For even more information like the manufacturer and serial numbers of the RAM sticks, click on the SPD twirl down for each slot.
SPD stands for Serial Presence Detect, a chip containing data about the RAM.
One piece of information you won’t find is the form factor, which indicates the physical size of the RAM stick (SoDIMM, for example).
All told, Speccy is a nice little utility that provides a wealth of information about your PC.
6. Check The BIOS
Accessing the setup program built into your computer’s firmware is another way to gather intel on your system memory.
Also referred to as the BIOS (Basic Input and Output System) or its replacement, UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface), the firmware acts as a middleman for your computer’s hardware and operating system.
The BIOS aids in the bootstrapping process, relaying what type of hardware exists and how to address it.
As a result, the firmware contains a great deal of information regarding the PC’s hardware.
Methods for accessing the BIOS vary by manufacturer and system model, but the disparate procedures all follow a general pattern.
First, you must reboot your PC.
If fast startup is enabled, you might need to execute a full shutdown and then power the computer back on.
When the computer powers up again, you’ll typically see a manufacturer splash screen just before the operating system loads.
When you see this screen, you’ll need to press a certain key on the keyboard to enter the BIOS setup program.
Most of the time, the necessary key will be printed somewhere on that splash screen, but you have to be quick to catch it.
If Windows starts loading, just reboot and try again.
For Dell computers (among others), the key is F2.
HP’s hotkey is usually F10.
If yours is neither of these try F12 or Del.
Once inside the BIOS/UEFI setup program, you should be able to navigate the menus to find information about the type of RAM you have.
Look for something like “System Information” and then “Memory”.
Note that some older setup programs do not have mouse support, so you’ll need to navigate the menus using tabs and the arrow keys.
If you get stuck, refer to your computer’s documentation for more information.
7. Open Your Case
If your device affords quick access to the RAM slots, opening the case is sometimes the fastest way to see what type of memory you have.
Generally speaking, desktop PCs lend themselves to relatively quick and tool-less entry, although things can get dicey as you wade into the mini tower or all-in-one territory.
Still, Dell, HP, and Lenovo usually design their machines to allow easy access to the RAM slots, but you never know when you might need to reseat your memory.
Portable devices might be more trouble than they’re worth.
Just like with desktop PCs, manufacturers offer varying levels of access to the RAM, but even on the easier models, you’ll almost always need at least a Phillips-head screwdriver.
We should also note that some of the newer portables don’t even have removable RAM sticks.
In efforts to keep the computers as thin and light as possible, engineers designed some models to have the RAM chips soldered directly onto the motherboard.
In these latter scenarios, a software or firmware solution will serve you better.
If you do have access to your RAM, you should see a sticker label with all the information about what type of memory you have.
There are too many methods and variables for opening your case to list here, but consult your computer’s documentation if you are unsure of the process.
Also, be sure to use a wrist strap or ensure you’re electrically grounded at all times by some other method.
One zap from an electrostatic discharge could permanently damage your computer.
At the very least, in laying eyeballs on the interior of your computer you’ll be able to identify your memory’s form factor by inspecting the size and type of your RAM.
8. Look At Your Receipt
If all else fails, or if you just happen to have this information close at hand, examine the order confirmation or receipt for your computer.
Whether in an email if you ordered the computer online or on a printout, if you purchased the computer from a brick-and-mortar retail location, you’ll likely find at least the basic specs somewhere on your order.
Look for “Memory” or “RAM” on the paperwork.
If you upgraded or replaced the memory, check your receipt or your order confirmation if you can’t recall which type of memory or how much you purchased.
Another possible location for information about your RAM is on the box or packaging for the computer/RAM sticks.
Make sure to examine all sides of the packaging for detailed information.
Not seeing anything relevant? Check inside the box for some type of documentation or spec sheet that goes with your computer.
How Do I Check Whether I Have DDR3 Or DDR4 SDRAM?
Using any of the methods above, you should be able to differentiate between DDR3 and DDR4.
For the command line options, you’ll have to translate the “MemoryType” number into the common name.
Remember, DDR3 is 24 and DDR4 is 26.
What About macOS And Linux?
If you’re running a Mac, the solution is pretty straightforward.
Click on the Apple menu in the top left of your screen and then click on “About This Mac”.
In the overview window, look for “Memory” where you’ll see some basic information about your RAM.
For more detailed specs, click on “System Report…” and look for “Memory” on the left side of the screen.
On a Linux box, open a terminal and use the following command:
sudo dmidecode –type 17
Be prepared to enter your admin credentials when running a pseudo command.
In the results, you should see the type, size, and speed of your RAM, among other things.
Because RAM is a critical component of any computer, manufacturers and software developers make it pretty easy to find out exactly what kind of memory you have in your PC.
Some methods work better and faster than others, so find one that works best for you, and you’ll never be left wondering what type of RAM you’ve got again.