If you’re thinking about spending a few bucks to upgrade your PC you’re probably wondering what to upgrade in order to get the most bang for the buck.
In most cases, except for adding a solid state drive, adding more RAM will do more to speed up your computer than any other upgrade you can make.
Why? Because Microsoft Windows and many of the most popular applications that run on it are resource hogs.
If you run two or three apps simultaneously they must dance around one another as Windows constantly “swaps” part of their code and data between RAM and the hard drive, often bogging the computer down to a snail’s pace.
Adding more RAM could result in less “swapping”, and therefore faster system performance.
Luckily for us, adding RAM is usually one of the fastest and easiest DIY upgrades one can make. It’s so easy in fact that virtually anyone can do it on virtually and desktop PC and many laptops.
That being said, here are a few things to consider before buying more RAM for your PC:
1 – Make sure you buy the correct kind of memory sticks. New computers typically use DDR4 RAM modules these days, but if yours is relatively new it could well use DDR3 RAM.
If your system is old enough to use either DDR2 or even plain DDR RAM it probably wouldn’t make sense to pay for an upgrade. The money you would spend for a RAM upgrade would likely be better spent if you applied it towards the purchase of a new computer.
A quick way to find out which type of RAM your PC uses is to type the model number of the computer along with the word “RAM” into Google and visit a couple of sites until you find the information.
You can also usually find the RAM type listed on the side of the box the computer came in should you still have it lying around somewhere.
Important: You will also need to know the maximum amount of memory your computer supports.
For example, on my laptop that happens to be 16GB. Your computer might support more or less. Just be aware that you can only add RAM until the total amount installed equals the maximum amount that the system can handle.
Another fast and easy way to find out which type of RAM your computer requires is to visit www.crucial.com and run their “System Scanner” tool. You’ll see the link to it right on the home page.
This tool is 100% safe and it works extremely well. In addition to the type of RAM you need to buy, the scanner will also tell you how many empty slots are available. Sometimes there will be two or more, other times there will be none.
If your PC has no empty slots available you’ll have to remove a couple of the existing RAM modules and replace them with the new ones so be sure to take that into consideration when deciding how much RAM to purchase.
For example, if your PC currently has two 4GB modules installed with two slots RAM slots empty, you would need to purchase two additional 4GB modules and place them into the empty slots in order to increase the total RAM to 16GB.
However, if your machine only has two RAM slots and each of them currently holds a 4GB stick, you’d need to remove the two 4GB sticks and replace with with two 8GB sticks to bump the total amount of system RAM up to 16GB.
2 – It’s best to always install new memory modules in matching pairs.
While it is often possible to add a single new RAM module in most computers, adding two or four at a time could make the system run faster and experience fewer random “hiccups”.
3 – Always purchase RAM with the same exact specs as the modules that are already installed. Mixing RAM modules with different memory specs often causes problems with system stability.
If the memory you wish to install is faster than the PC’s existing system memory, consider removing all of the old memory sticks and replacing them with new ones, especially if the motherboard can support the faster speeds. In the long run you’ll be glad you did.
By the way, the Crucial System Scanner mentioned above is an awesome tool for determining the type of RAM you need to purchase because it’ll analyze your computer’s hardware and give you the exact specs for the RAM you’ll need to purchase in order to complete the upgrade.
4 – Even some older computers can benefit greatly from RAM upgrades, specially if you’re planning to ditch Windows and replace it with Linux.
The problem is you might not be able to find the older type of memory sticks your computer needs in your local Best Buy or other retailer.
If that turns out to be the case, don’t despair. You’ll likely find exactly what you need on eBay or Craigslist.
5 – If you don’t feel comfortable working with the components inside your PC, you can probably hire the neighborhood computer pro (most likely a tech savvy teenager) to install your new memory for you.
Alternatively, you can take your computer into the nearest computer repair shop or to Best Buy’s Geek Squad and have them install it for you.
And depending on your skill level (and confidence level) it might be best to take your laptop to a shop for the upgrade if it’s a newer model that must be partially disassembled in order to complete the RAM upgrade.
If you’d like to install your new RAM modules yourself, here are a couple of short videos that show how to do it:
1 – If you have a laptop that has a removable trap door over the RAM slots…
2 – If your computer is a Desktop model…
Note: Your laptop or desktop computer might well be different than the ones seen in the videos, but once you have the cover open the procedure for adding/replacing RAM will be more or less the same.
However, as I mentioned above, some laptop models don’t have removable covers over the RAM slots at all. That means the entire case will need to be at least partially disassembled in order to access the RAM slots.
If your laptop happens to fall into this category you might want to consider paying a computer tech to install the new RAM sticks for you.
Bottom line: A RAM upgrade can often breathe new life into a computer by making it run faster and with fewer random glitches.
Bonus tip: This post explains how you can speed up your computer even more by replacing its hard drive with a super-fast SSD!