Computer Memory Upgrade Guide

Does your PC need a memory upgrade?

Laptop Memory Modules


One of the best ways to boost the performance of an older PC is to add more memory, or RAM, to the system. Before a PC memory upgrade, consider several factors, including whether or not 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.

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, you will need to consult the manual or open up your computer and look for the appropriate slots. Many new laptops, especially the ultra-thin models, do not offer any physical access to the memory, so you cannot upgrade them.

How Much Memory Is Enough for a PC?

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

What Type of Memory Does Your Computer Support?

Look through the manuals that came with your computer or motherboard. Included in the documentation should be a section about memory specifications, which lists the type, size, and the number of memory modules that are supported. Many retailers and memory manufacturers have this information available online in case you cannot find the manuals. 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 and 204-pin SODIMM for laptops. Many newer desktops, however, use DDR4 memory. Knowing which type you need is critical since they are not interchangeable.

How Many Memory Modules Should You Buy?

Typically, you'll want to buy as few modules as possible, but you should buy them in pairs for the most efficient performance. For example, let's say you have a PC with four memory slots, and a 2GB module just uses one. You can purchase a single 2GB module to upgrade to 4GB of total memory, or you can buy two 2GB modules to go to 6GB of memory. If you are mixing old modules with new ones, try to match their speed and capacity to allow for dual-channel memory if your system 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 little doors on the bottom for the memory slots, while others have no slots at all. 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.