Installing more RAM on your computer can be incredibly simple sometimes. All you may need to do is turn off your device, access the interior, and line up the new memory stick on the motherboard. Adding RAM to your PC isn’t some kind of cure-all for every problem, but it can vastly improve your computing experience.
These days, the need for RAM can be great, with users packing more and more software onto their PCs. That need is even stronger if you notice any slowdown when using an older computer or when running complex applications. Fortunately, the solution can be as simple as adding more RAM. It’s one of the classic and still most-accessible DIY computer hacks, and one that just about any knowledgeable user can tackle on their own with the right info.
What is RAM?
Short for “random access memory,” RAM is how your computer stores temporary information related to the applications you run. Similar components do essentially the same thing for a variety of devices, from smartphones to consoles, so you can enjoy seamless use from task to task. To do this, RAM stores short-term information about the programs you’re using and their requirements. This is what makes your overall operation smooth and efficient.
Different types of RAM
Historically speaking, there are many different types of RAM. Looking at a list of them could give you the impression that you have a lot to keep straight. Between static RAM (SRAM) and dynamic RAM (DRAM), with different generations and speeds, it can get confusing.
Fortunately, the reality is fairly simple. Static RAM and dynamic RAM are catchall terms used for different applications: static RAM is used by core components to store information continuously, while dynamic RAM is focused on managing system memory from session to session.
The specific type of RAM that most modern computers use for their system memory, and the type you’ll primarily deal with as a user, is called “synchronous dynamic random-access memory.” As the name implies, SDRAM is synchronized with the rest of your PC hardware by an external clocking system that improves overall efficiency.
The difference between memory, RAM, and storage
Terms like “memory” and “RAM” are frequently used interchangeably. While memory is sometimes used to describe features of conventional storage, “memory” and “RAM” are generally the same thing: your device’s short-term storage.
Your PC uses RAM to maintain consistent performance from moment to moment. For example, when playing a resource-intensive video game or using heavy-duty software, your PC uses RAM to budget its effort accordingly. That’s why some software ends up consuming more energy than others.
In the context of PCs, “storage” almost always refers to your long-term storage solution, which includes several formats. The traditional format for PC storage is a hard-disk drive (HDD), which reads information from an internal disk, but there’s also solid-state drive
(SSD) storage that is much more efficient.
How to choose the correct RAM for your motherboard
Not all RAM and motherboards are compatible. You should always ask questions like “What RAM will work with my motherboard?” when you aren’t sure about the specifications.
Matching the generation of RAM and motherboard is crucial, but it’s not the only thing you should remember. It’s best to have all your RAM working at the same speed
, which you can typically see in “MHz” after the product name. You’ll also want to make sure that any additional memory will fit alongside your PC’s other components, especially if you’re using a heavily customized build.
You’ll recognize the latest generation of RAM components through the addition of “DDR4” (double data rate generation 4) to their name. If your RAM has DDR3 in the product name, you need to find the same generation of component because your motherboard is not compatible with components outside its generation.
How do I know if I can upgrade my RAM?
In order to upgrade your RAM, you need to have enough room on your motherboard to support new components. Or if you’re replacing an old RAM stick to get performance, you want to make sure that any new component your purchase offers better specs than whatever you’re replacing.
To make sure you know everything about your device beforehand, we highly recommend visiting your device’s product support page at the manufacturer or consulting a user guide for detailed information. In this situation, you’ll want to look for your device’s original RAM specifications, then check to see how many additional memory or DIMM slots are available.
Your needs may vary and upgrading to your full RAM capacity isn’t always necessary, but DIY upgrades like this can be an economical way to get more out of your computer.
A checklist for RAM installation
Remember that each device is different, which means you need to follow the guidance of your user manual and product support. That said, here’s a simple checklist you can follow when adding new RAM:
- Turn off your device and disconnect any cables. If possible, find the cleanest and clearest space to work in
- Open your device’s access panel, which may require a screwdriver. On a conventional desktop PC, your access panel is usually on the side. For a laptop, access is usually via the underside of the device
- After taking a moment to make sure the space is clear of dust, line up your RAM stick with the corresponding slots on your motherboard and slide it into place
- Make sure the RAM stick is secure and resecure your access panel
- Close the access panel, plug your regular connections back in, and power up your computer
If you need a more thorough rundown with extra details and notes on each stage, take a look at HP Customer Support’s supplemental guide to memory installation
Why would I need extra RAM?
Ultimately, there are tons of reasons to add extra RAM to your PC. It gives you access to better performance from your device, which can be a big help as you add more files and software to your computer. Remember that having a lot of RAM may be more important to some users than others, but it’s still a critical part of your PC’s performance no matter how you use it.
It’s always important to gauge your needs before you buy or make a commitment to upgrade. Be sure to think about questions like “How much RAM do I need for my computer?” If you do choose to install more RAM, there’s no better - or easier - way to avoid slowdowns when you’ve got too many browser tabs open or too many applications running at once.
About the Author
Dwight Pavlovic is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Dwight is a music and technology writer based out of West Virginia.