Total Available Graphics Memory Explained (Complete Guide)

Graphics cards are a common component of gaming computers, but they also have uses in areas outside of gaming. If you’re not familiar with how graphics cards work, then this blog post is for you. We’ll cover the different types of graphics card memory and what that means to you when shopping for your next computer upgrade. 

What’s the total available graphics memory on your current system? Is it enough for your needs or should you consider upgrading to something with more RAM? Read on to find out!

Total Available Graphics Memory Explained

what is total available graphics memory?

Total available graphics memory is the maximum amount of RAM that your graphics card can access to do its job. Like any other type of computer hardware, there are different speeds and types of RAM available, however it’s important to pay attention to memory type when shopping for a graphics card upgrade because you’ll probably want a couple different sticks in your system for optimal performance.

For example, an Nvidia GeForce 660 with 2GB of dedicated video RAM (DVR) will display its available memory as 2048MB.

different types of graphics memory on a graphics card

There are three main types of memory on a graphics card:

  • dynamic random access memory (DRAM),
  • double data rate synchronous DRAM (DDR-SDRAM) and
  • video RAM.

These three different types of memory have different purposes, despite being used to store pixels that create your display image.

This type of memory is the smallest on the card. It is used to store information that changes frequently, such as pixel data. It has low latency and is tightly integrated into the graphics rendering pipeline. DRAM is what’s called “dynamic” because its contents are dynamically refreshed every few milliseconds (the refresh rate varies depending on the monitor).

The amount of DRAM on a graphics card can range from a few megabytes on older cards to up to 12GB on some high-end gaming cards.

This type of memory is larger and slower than DRAM, but has far greater storage capacity. It is primarily used as the frame buffer – the area where pixel data for an entire frame is stored before it’s rendered. It tends to have a longer refresh rate than DRAM, so it can be used as an intermediate “permanent” storage by the graphics processing unit (GPU).

This is the fastest memory on a graphics card and can be found on both integrated and discrete models. Unlike DDR-SDRAM, GDDR5 is designed specifically for use in graphics cards. GDDR5 allows very high data transfer rates – the theoretical maximum being 32,000Mb/s per pin, although in reality it will likely be slower due to interference from other components on the card.

What is graphics memory, and what does it do?

Graphics memory is the hardware inside your computer that allows it to process and produce images. The more RAM a graphics card has, the faster it can complete processes, which results in smoother performance.

Higher resolution photos and videos demand higher amounts of processing power from your CPU and GPU (graphics processing unit). If you’re working with large files such as uncompressed high-definition video, then the memory requirements go even higher.

For example, a 4K (3840×2160) video at 30 frames-per-second requires about 627 MB of continuous bandwidth to display on screen. For editing purposes you’ll probably want to preview your videos in real time with enough headroom for effects processing.

How to check your computer’s total available graphics memory

Checking your available graphics memory is a snap on Windows-based computers. Here’s how:

  • Open the Control Panel
  • Click on System and Security
  • Click on System Scroll down to the section labeled
  • Display  and click the link labeled
  • Change display settings
  • Click Advanced Settings in the Adapter tab In the Adapter Profile dropdown menu, select Memory

How to check your Mac available graphics memory

On Mac computers, you can see how much RAM is being used by individual processes. To do this,

  • open Activity Monitor and
  • look for the Memory entry with a triangle icon.
  • When it turns red, that means it’s using more than 4GB of RAM.
  • If you’re running out of memory, consider upgrading to a computer with more RAM.

How much total available graphics memory do you need?

It’s a good idea to have more graphics memory available than your software requires. For example, when you’re editing 4K video with After Effects CC, I recommend a minimum of 8 GB of graphics memory – even though the actual render process typically requires only about 2 GB.

This gives you enough room for temporary files and preview files.

If you’re running multiple applications at once, it’s also a good idea to upgrade your graphics memory. When rendering is taking place in one application, other programs can still benefit from extra RAM because of their ability to use the CPU instead of the GPU for some processes.

Ways to increase your computer’s total available graphics memory

Depending on your budget, you may want to consider upgrading the graphics card or adding more memory.

However, if you’re using an integrated graphics chipset and your memory is already maxed out, you can consider external GPUs as a possible solution. An external GPU connects to the Thunderbolt port on your Mac and draws its power from the same cable that transmits your video signal.

There are a few different companies that offer external GPUs, and the one I use is an OWC Mercury Helios . It’s available with either AMD or NVIDIA graphics cards. And…it even has an SD card slot so you can transfer files from your camera to your computer quickly and easily!

The benefits of having more than enough graphics memory :

  • Faster rendering: When you’re working with large files, having more available graphics memory allows AE to complete the rendering process faster.
  • Higher video performance: More RAM also improves your overall video card performance for smooth playback and an overall better user experience.
  • More room for effects: The Mercury Helios has 4 additional DVI ports, which means you can connect up to 5 additional displays at the same time!
  • More room for other programs: If you multi-task often, then having more graphics memory is a great way to increase your available resources.

Graphics cards that include a lot of total available graphics memory:

When you’re shopping for a graphics card, pay attention to the total available graphics memory.  This will give you an idea of how many large files you can work with at once without running into performance issues. Here are some examples:

  • NVIDIA Quadro K6000 – 24 GB
  • NVIDIA Quadro K5200 – 8GB
  • AMD FirePro D700 – 6GB

Please note that these specifications apply to desktop computers.  If you’re looking at a portable or laptop, make sure to check the total available graphics memory it offers before purchasing additional memory for your computer.

The effects of low total available graphic card memory on gaming performance :

For gamers, having enough available graphics memory is important for a good user experience. If your computer doesn’t have enough RAM and you try to play a game (like Call of Duty or Battlefield ), it may start slowing down as soon as you open more than one application that uses the GPU. This is because the graphics card simply doesn’t have enough RAM to keep the game running smoothly.

Solutions for low graphic card memory problems in video games

If you have a low amount of graphics memory and you really want to start playing intensive games, there are a few possible solutions:

Upgrade your graphics card:

If you have an integrated chipset, this is probably the best option for increasing your available graphics memory. It’s easy to install new graphics cards yourself – just take a look at our video on how to upgrade your graphics memory .

Upgrade your computer:

If you don’t want to bother changing the hardware of your computer, upgrading to a higher-end computer is also an option. Keep in mind that this can be expensive, especially if you’re buying a very high-performance laptop. External GPU: An external GPU can help take some of the stress off of your internal graphics chipset and allow you to play games with large memory requirements. Please note that many of the available external GPUs, such as this one from OWC , can’t power a secondary display, so you would need an mDP-to-VGA or mDP-to-DVI adapter.

Use external GPU available:

The Razer Core is a huge external GPU that requires a desktop computer to operate. It’s got an absolutely enormous amount of memory, but at around $500, it’s also one of the most expensive options out there. And…since you have to connect it to a desktop computer, you’ll need a lot more desk space, too!

Remember that if you have an integrated chipset, your video card memory may be adequate for light work applications but not capable of handling intense graphics requirements. Check out our last blog to find out what kind of available memory your computer has before you buy additional RAM.