RAM Bottleneck – Can It Bottleneck Hardware?

Experiencing a bottleneck can be extremely frustrating as it prevents your components from working at its full capacity. At this point, you’ll realize building a PC isn’t as simple as just putting together components and expecting them to work at best. The goal when building a computer, especially a gaming one is to have all the hardware balanced, this is the best way to minimize bottlenecks.

By balanced, we mean you should not pair top performing components with low performing components, this is because the low performing components will hold the high performing components behind. If you’re going to build a top-tier PC, then you need mostly top-tier components to go with it with some exceptions. For example, a top-tier gaming PC needs a fast single-core CPU to go with its fast GPU.

Answer: RAM can bottleneck components just like the CPU can bottleneck the GPU, a RAM bottleneck means your RAM does not have enough memory bandwidth or capacity, so you will notice this as lower FPS in games. To fix low memory bandwidth, you will need faster memory, this can be done by XMP overclocking or purchasing better RAM.

What Exactly Is A Bottleneck?

When we talk about PC bottlenecking, we’re talking about some sort of limitation preventing other hardware from performing at its best. The relationship between two hardware devices, usually the CPU and GPU needs to be equally balanced to prevent bottlenecking. Bottlenecking isn’t exclusive to high-end systems as bottlenecking is defined by a system imbalance.

When PC builders talk about bottlenecks, they’re almost always talking about the CPU/GPU bottleneck, this is because it’s the most common one. But almost anything can cause a bottleneck when building a PC, just like RAM can bottleneck the CPU, sometimes bottlenecks can be software related. Games particularly old ones with old game engines won’t utilize 100% of the CPU, GPU or RAM.

Even the power supply can bottleneck your components, this is more of a dangerous type of bottleneck as it can cause hardware failure. When the hardware is bottlenecking components, it’s usually due to the PSU being old and not supplying enough power. If the power supply is not supplying enough power, then your components will not run at 100% causing a bottleneck.

Can The RAM Bottleneck The CPU?

A RAM/Memory bottleneck means your CPU will have to wait longer on instructions sent by the memory, this can be caused by a few reasons. Having your RAM bottleneck your CPU can be frustrating as it’s effects are quite noticeable. When gaming, you will experience intense stuttering and FPS drops and the maximum frame rate will be far lower. If you’re experiencing a RAM bottleneck, then it will need to be resolved to have an optimal gaming PC.

The first reason you’ll experience a RAM bottleneck is due to RAM speed. RAM speed can be defined by the clock speed and it’s latency. Having poor RAM speed means the CPU will have to wait longer on instructions slowing down overall operations. To improve RAM speed, this can be easily done with XMP RAM via overclocking it and optimizing the timings. This should cause the RAM to offload it’s data faster.

The second way RAM can bottleneck the CPU is by its capacity. Low capacity RAM can cause the RAM to run out of space failing to send instructions to the CPU. Once the capacity of the RAM has been met, the CPU will have to go to slower storage devices such as the SSD and HDD which is far slower than RAM. This can cause crashes, and intense lagging, the only way to solve this is to purchase more RAM, unfortunately you cannot download more RAM.

Can The RAM Bottleneck The GPU?

ram bottleneck gpu

Removing all bottlenecks is impossible, you can only minimize their effects, the reason you don’t hear about RAM bottlenecking the GPU is because their effects are usually minimal. The RAM can indeed bottleneck the GPU as the GPU has to wait on the CPU and the CPU will have to wait on the RAM. If the RAM is slow enough, eventually it will stop your GPU from running at 100%.

To fix this sort of bottleneck, you will have to find out in what way your RAM is bottlenecking your system, if it’s due to speed then you will need faster RAM. This can be solved by overclocking or purchasing a faster memory kit, we do not recommend manually overclocking as it involves increasing the voltages. Voltage increases for the RAM can drastically reduce its lifespan.

If your CPU is working just fine, and your CPU has enough single-core performance, then you do not need to worry about your RAM bottlenecking your GPU. Nowadays, you can pick up fast DDR4 RAM, up to 4000MHz, this should be fast enough to support any Ryzen and Intel CPU. If you’re on an older system, then it’s more understandable why you’re experiencing RAM-GPU bottlenecks, fortunately, they’re quite rare today.

Conclusion

Bottlenecks are caused by system imbalances caused by pairing weaker components with stronger components, the goal when building a PC is to have a balance with the components. This means pairing top-tier components together, using a weaker CPU with a strong GPU is a prime example of a bottleneck.

The verdict is, anything can really be a bottleneck, and the worst thing about bottlenecks is that you can’t really get rid of them. A well balanced system will have bottlenecks but their effects are minimized to the point where you won’t notice. Your RAM will only bottleneck your CPU if the capacity is low, or the RAM speed is low. Fixing the RAM speed can be easy with overclocking, to increase the capacity involves purchasing more RAM.

The RAM can indirectly bottleneck the GPU, this is due to the RAM bottlenecking the CPU which in turn bottlenecks the GPU. The CPU needs to have sufficient single-core performance for the GPU to work well, and the RAM can influence the single-core performance. This will limit the GPUs performance which will cause lower frame rates in games.