IT Support 101: Upgrading RAM on your laptop or desktop

Updated: May 14, 2020

You can't just slot a RAM in your laptop or desktop and hope for the best!

Upgrading RAM on your laptop or computer

The times have changed, especially when it comes to RAM or random access memory. Since the takeover of 64-bit computing in the early 2000s, there is a popular idea of the potential for limitless RAM. While that may be true, theoretically, this does not apply in the working world.

If you are trying to upgrade RAM, you need to learn some fundamentals before being able to do so successfully. Let us go through essential points you should take note of, before purchasing RAM and upgrading either your laptop or desktop computer.

RAM form factors : Upgrading RAM on your laptop or computer

Form Factors

Upgrading RAM on your laptop or desktop

The two main form factors you need to note are DIMMs: designed for desktop motherboards and SODIMMs: designed for laptops.

Of course, many know this, but we felt to touch upon this briefly, so you know the difference.

Upgrading RAM on your laptop or computer

DDR or Double Data Rate

Upgrading RAM on your laptop or desktop

The current standard for RAM is DDR SDRAM. Right now, the most advanced standard readily available is the DDR4 standard. However, this does not mean that you should immediately purchase the best DDR4 RAM for your system. Your desktop motherboard or laptop might only support DDR3 RAM, which is why you need to do some due diligence here.

An easy way to find out is to download Speccy and run it. Speccy is a free and fantastic diagnostic tool for your computer.

Speccy : Upgrading RAM on your laptop or computer

If you look at the RAM summary, it tells you if you are either DDR3 or DDDR4. And if you look at the speed beside the DDR3, here written as "797MHz", multiply that by two, and you roughly get 1600MHz, which is the transfer rate of your ram. This number also happens to be the standard of the RAM you are currently using; in this case, the standard would be DDR3-1600.

DDR3 standard and module table

RAM Standards and Module type.

Upgrading RAM on your laptop or desktop

As shown in the illustration is a table of the RAM standard and its corresponding module number. This is very important, especially when purchasing a new RAM. Sometimes the packaging shows the Module number instead of the standard. So knowing the interchangeable standard or module could prove useful.

Best to avoid a situation where a retailer refuses to change the RAM for you because you have opened the packaging. Overall, it's a good thing to know.

There is a limit to Speccy, while it may show you the standard of the RAM installed on your motherboard, this may not necessarily reflect the maximum standard you can affix. The best way to do this is to either google the full tech spec of your laptop, refer here on how to find your laptop model

Alternatively, if you are using a custom desktop, you need the exact model number of your motherboard, which you can also find from Speccy. Read the full tech specs, and you can see the maximum RAM supported in this format: "DDR3 SDRAM (1600MHz ) 2 slots supporting 2G, 4GB, 8GB7 DIMMs". Of course, different manufacturers have their formats, which are more or less the same. Here you can determine that the maximum standard would be DDR3-1600 with each slot supporting up to 8GB of RAM each.

Upgrading RAM on your laptop or computer

Maximum RAM or memory

Upgrading RAM on your laptop or desktop

For laptops and ready-made desktops, with brands such as Dell or HP, you can easily find the maximum RAM they can support in terms of size by GB.

Of course, on the other hand, if you are a custom builder, the maximum size ram you can install varies and depends on your motherboard, operating system, and CPU.

Say you are on a 64-Bit Windows Professional, the maximum RAM is 2TB. If you are on a 64-Bit Windows Home Edition, the maximum ram is 128GB instead.

Now that is not all, next thing we need to look at is the processor or CPU. As long as the CPU can take an X amount of RAM, you can be assured; the motherboard can handle too. Especially when you have a motherboard which can accept i3, i5 or i7 processors (or if you are an AMD user the would be Ryzen 3, 5 or 7), let's not talk about 9 for now. An excellent resource for this is:

Wikichip is a Wikipedia of almost every chip ever made. Here you can easily find, on the right-hand column, the Max Memory.


Upgrading RAM on your laptop or desktop

Last but not least is the installation itself. We won't show you how to do it; there are better videos and blogs out there that can do that for you. And we also don't want to appear too patronizing. What we wanted with this article was to explain, at a higher level, the other crucial aspect of upgrading a RAM.

Thank you for reading 'IT Support 101: Upgrading RAM on your laptop or desktop' and we hope you have a wonderful day.

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