Understanding RAM Allocation for Graphics in Windows

If you’ve ever checked the Windows Task Manager, you might have noticed something intriguing: RAM allocation for your graphics card. This phenomenon occurs even when you have a dedicated graphics card with its own VRAM. Why does this happen, and is there a way to prevent it?

Dedicated graphics cards come equipped with their own VRAM, but integrated graphics processors rely on the system’s RAM because they lack dedicated memory. Take, for example, an AMD Ryzen APU with integrated graphics but no dedicated memory. In this scenario, a portion of the system’s RAM is allocated to the graphics card.

This allocation is entirely normal and logical. However, what may seem less intuitive is that Windows assigns a portion of system RAM to a graphics card with its own VRAM. Let’s delve into the rationale behind this.

vram graphics card

Shared RAM with the Graphics Card

Windows reserves a portion of RAM that can be potentially used by the graphics card. It doesn’t render this RAM “unusable” or locked; it merely designates it in case it’s needed for any unforeseen circumstances—a precaution, if you will.

It’s worth knowing that the graphics card primarily stores data in VRAM to access it swiftly. Secondary storage is the SSD, where decompressed textures and additional data are stored. RAM serves as a tertiary level, in a standby state, ready to be called upon if necessary.

ram graphics card Windows

ou can easily check if your computer is reserving RAM for graphics as follows:

  1. Right-click on the Windows taskbar.
  2. Select “Task Manager.”
  3. Navigate to the “Performance” tab.
  4. Look for the “Shared GPU memory usage” option, indicating that RAM is set aside for graphics.

Is Windows Taking Away My RAM?

This typically occurs when the processor has integrated graphics that remain active. Even if you designate the dedicated graphics card as the primary GPU, the integrated graphics are still technically operational, and Windows recognizes them.

resizable bar nvidia

The only way to prevent this RAM allocation is by disabling integrated graphics in the BIOS. You can do this if you choose, but it’s not recommended. Disabling integrated graphics could leave you without a means to output an image to your monitor if your dedicated graphics card were to malfunction (unless you replace the faulty GPU with a new one) and may require complex BIOS resetting.

In practice, this reserved memory often goes unused. Although it appears as “allocated” and still available for the system, it has no significant impact. If Windows detects a need for more RAM for its own processes, it will reclaim it from this allocation.

It’s relatively rare for this shared memory to be utilized, as the VRAM in the dedicated graphics card is typically sufficient. Ultimately, it’s an additional technology akin to technologies like Resizable Bar, designed for specific use cases but potentially problematic in the long run.

It’s crucial to emphasize that this allocation does not harm your RAM in any way. In reality, it’s a safeguard in case it’s required and there’s insufficient memory available in the system. However, given today’s system capabilities, it may appear as an outdated technology.

We Don’t Recommend Making Changes

While you can choose to disable integrated graphics via the BIOS, we strongly advise against it. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. It can serve as support: Integrated graphics are particularly useful in tasks like video editing. You can assign the integrated GPU for rendering in applications like Photoshop or Premiere.
  2. In case the dedicated graphics card fails: This can happen more frequently than you might think. If it’s needed, and this reserved memory is disabled, you could end up having to restart your system.
  3. BIOS resetting: If you disable integrated graphics via the BIOS, you’ll need to re-enable it if you ever need it. This could render your computer unusable until the BIOS is reset—a somewhat tedious process.