How to upgrade your RAM: Boost memory on a laptop or desktop

(Pocket-lint) – If you’ve noticed your desktop PC or laptop slowing down when you have lots of tabs open, or when you run multiple programs at once, then it might be time to upgrade your RAM. Maybe you just want some flashy RGB RAM to make your gaming rig look cooler, whatever the case may be, we’re here to help.

Upgrading your RAM is a pretty easy job. In fact, we think it’s one of the easiest PC upgrades for newbies to try out. So, without further ado, let’s get into it.

How to figure out if you need more RAM

If you’re experiencing performance issues, then the first step should be to check whether more RAM will actually resolve your issue. And if you’re upgrading for aesthetic reasons, it’s still worth checking if you could benefit from a capacity upgrade, too.

The most obvious indicator would be Google Chrome’s dreaded Out of Memory error. If you see this appearing, then it’s almost certainly time to upgrade your RAM.

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For more detailed info, you’re going to want to open Task Manager. To do this, right-click on the taskbar and select Task Manager. Then navigate to the Performance tab, and click on Memory. For even more detail, you can click Open Resource Monitor at the bottom of the window.

In the Resource Monitor, you can see exactly how much memory is in use and which programs are using it. In our screenshot you can see that only about half of our memory is in use, so we don’t really need to upgrade. But, if you find that the majority of your memory is in use, or in the worst case, all of it, then it’s time for some more RAM. 

How to find the correct RAM

First, we need to check which type of RAM our system uses. The most cutting edge modern PCs will use DDR5 memory, but it’s more likely that you’ll have DDR4 or DDR3. The easiest way to find this out is to Google your system’s specifications. These memory types are not cross-compatible, so even though they may look similar, the wrong type of RAM won’t physically fit the slot on your motherboard – and it wouldn’t work if it did.

Next, we need to determine the form factor of your RAM. There are a number of shapes on the market, but two are by far the most common:

DIMM

Almost every desktop PC uses the DIMM form factor. These sticks are about 5.5 inches in length and if you take a look inside your PC case, they should be quite easy to see. Gaming memory often comes with a fancy heat spreader like the one pictured here, but cheaper memory tends to come as a bare PCB, typically in a green, blue or black colour.

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SO-DIMM

If you have a laptop with upgradable memory or a mini-PC, you’ll likely find that it uses SO-DIMM memory. These are most commonly found as bare PCBs without heat spreaders as they need to fit into increasingly thin laptops. They are much smaller than DIMM modules, measuring only 67.6mm in length.

How to install RAM on a desktop PC

Installing RAM in your desktop PC is nice and easy, and all being well, should only take a few minutes.

First, switch off your power supply (if possible) and unplug the PC from the wall.

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Remove the side panel of your case, this usually involves removing two thumbscrews at the back. 

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To remove your old RAM, depress the levers at each end of the socket.

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You will then be able to remove your RAM by pulling it upwards out of the socket.

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To install, first line up the gap in the pins with the notch on the socket. Be sure to use the same slots that you removed the memory from, as this will give you the best performance. If you’re using all the slots, it doesn’t matter what order they are placed in.

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Carefully, but firmly, slide the stick into the socket until it clicks into place, try to apply even pressure on both sides of the stick.

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The levers will click down to secure the memory when it has been inserted fully.

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Place the side panel back onto your case, plug in the power, and you’re all finished

How to install RAM on a laptop

The hardest part of installing memory on a laptop is getting inside the thing, but once you’re in there it’s just as easy as on a desktop computer. 

First, make sure the laptop is turned off completely, not just in sleep mode, and unplugged from the wall.

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Then, it’s time to remove the back panel of your laptop. This differs from model to model but usually involves removing some screws. There could be as few as four or more than twenty-four depending on your model. Consult your laptop’s manual if you are unsure.

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Once the screws are removed, the hard part is over. Take off the back panel and locate the SO-DIMMs.

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If you’re removing an old stick, gently pull apart the levers on each side of the stick.

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The RAM will then pop up at an angle and can be removed.

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To install, first line up the gap in the pins with the notch on the socket.

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Insert the stick at around a 30-degree angle until the gold connectors disappear beneath the plastic, then just push the stick downwards until it clicks into place.

Replace the back panel of your laptop, and you’re good to go.

Getting the most out of your RAM

If you’ve followed the instructions above, then your system should be up and running and ready to use. However, if you’ve upgraded to a high-performance memory kit, then you’ll need to enable XMP to get the full performance from your RAM.

This process will differ between manufacturers, so the best bet is to consult the manual for your motherboard or laptop. But, as a quick outline, here’s how the process goes:

  1. Enter the BIOS, usually by pressing Delete, Backspace or F12 on startup.
  2. Find the XMP profile setting, which is often set to Disabled by default.
  3. Change the XMP setting to Profile#1.
  4. Save and restart your PC.
  5. Once you’re back in Windows, open Task Manager.
  6. Navigate to the Performance tab and confirm that your memory is running at the desired speed.

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Writing by Luke Baker. Editing by Adrian Willings.

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