Computer Memory Upgrade Guide

Does your PC need a memory upgrade?

One of the best ways to boost the performance of an older PC is to add more memory, or RAM, to the computer. Before a PC memory upgrade, consider several factors, including whether a memory upgrade is possible or necessary.

Information in this article applies broadly to different computer hardware. Check individual product specifications before making a purchase.

Laptop Memory Modules

Does Your PC Need a Memory Upgrade?

Find out how much memory is in the computer by examining the BIOS or the operating system. For Windows, you can find this information in the Control Panel under System.

On Mac, select About This Mac from the Apple menu to see the total memory.

To determine if you can add more memory to your PC, consult the manual or open the computer and look for the appropriate slots. Many new laptops, especially the ultra-thin models, don't offer physical access to the memory, so you cannot upgrade these models.

How Much Memory Is Enough for a PC?

Your PC speed requirements depend on what type of software you use. Check the operating system and the applications you want to use for the minimum and recommended memory requirements. Choose the highest number in the recommended section and aim for that much memory or more. At least 8 GB of RAM is ideal for modern laptops and desktops, but you can go higher if you use demanding programs.

What Type of Memory Does Your Computer Support?

Look through the manuals that came with your computer or motherboard. The documentation should include a section about memory specifications, which lists the type, size, and the number of memory modules that are supported. Many retailers and memory manufacturers make this information available online. There are also system configuration tools that can determine what types of memory modules your PC supports.

Most systems use DDR3 and either 240-pin DIMM for desktops or 204-pin SODIMM for laptops. Many newer desktops, however, use DDR4 memory. Knowing which type you need is critical since memory modules are not interchangeable.

How Many Memory Modules Should You Buy?

Typically, you'll want to buy as few modules as possible. Still, you should buy memory modules in pairs for efficient performance. Suppose you have a PC with four memory slots, and a 2 GB module uses one. In this case, you can purchase a single 2 GB module to upgrade to 4 GB of total memory, or you can buy two 2 GB modules to go to 6 GB of memory. If you mix old modules with new ones, match the speed and capacity to allow for dual-channel memory if your computer supports it.

Installing the Memory

Installing extra memory, or RAM, on a desktop computer typically requires opening the case with a screwdriver. Some laptops have doors on the bottom for the memory slots, while others have no slots. In most cases, all you need to do is slide the memory module, or RAM chip, into an available slot with the gold pins facing down. Consult the manuals for your computer and the memory module for more specific guidance.

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