How to Get More RAM (Random Access Memory)

One of the easiest and most reliable ways to significantly improve the speed of your computer is to add memory, especially in the form of RAM (Random Access Memory). If you’re wondering how to get more RAMthe answer is quite simple, although it helps to understand the parts and process.

A RAM upgrade isn’t a solution, but it can do a lot to keep your computer running smoothly, improve performance, and make your computing experience much more enjoyable. Plus, it’s one of the easier changes you can make to your computer yourself. While this will not void your warranty in most cases, it is always a good idea to check your manufacturer’s guidelines first.

What is RAM?

The abbreviation stands for ‘Random Access Memory’, a form of physical memory stored on your computer. That means it exists as a physical part of your computer’s internal components.

If you choose to buy more RAM for your computer, it will come as a small array of chips on a rectangle of silicon, very similar to the kind of stuff already in your computer. Some RAM upgrades actually insert a new RAM module into the RAM slots of your desktop or laptop.

How RAM works

Imagine RAM as if it were laid out as a large grid, a bit like the board in a game of Battleship. Each box in the grid represents a memory cell and each cell can store information. You can access any cell within RAM if you know which row and column it is in.

That’s why having more RAM means you have a faster computer. The more squares on the grid, the more data your computer can process and store. This makes running programs faster (i.e. more efficient) for your machine.

Information in RAM memory cells can be overwritten or erased. That’s one of the ways it differs from read-only memory (ROM). Your computer’s ROM is connected to your machine’s circuitry. It contains the information that allows your computer to perform basic functions such as starting the operating system or activating hardware.

What does RAM do for my computer?

RAM usage is critical to ensuring your computer can run applications. Your computer stores temporary information in its memory cells and references the data while applications are running.

If the information is not in your computer’s RAM, the computer must point to the hard drive. This is slower than retrieving information from RAM. So if your computer doesn’t have enough RAM to run multiple applications or even one large program, it may feel like it’s just crawling along.

Every computer has a maximum RAM capacity. Once you hit that limit, you’ve gone as far as you can go with your hardware. But unless you’ve modified your machine, chances are your computer has enough capacity for additional RAM.

Before you upgrade your RAM

The first step to a RAM upgrade is to gather some information. First you need to know how much RAM your computer already has. Then it’s time to take a look at how your RAM is being used through an app like Task Manager on Windows.

From there you can free up RAM using a number of different methods. Finally, if you still find that your computer is not running fast enough, you can purchase and install more RAM in your computer.

Checking Your RAM: Windows PCs

To see your current RAM usage, open the Task Manager on your Windows PC. Then select the Performance tab and click on Memory. This will allow you to see how much RAM your machine is currently using, whether both RAM slots are full, and how many gigabytes of current RAM you have.

Checking your RAM: Macs

What if you use a Mac? Apple has made it easy to find out how much RAM you have in your computer. Click on the Apple icon in the top left corner of the screen. Choose the option that says about this computer. You will see a line that says Memory. This is how much RAM your Mac currently has.

Know your RAM upgrade capacity

Once you know how much memory your computer has, you need to know how much it can handle. There are hundreds of different computers on the market and not all of them have the same features and limitations. It is impossible to list them all here.

Fortunately, there are some resources online that track this information. We recommend the use of:

These resources will tell you not only how much RAM your machine can handle, but also what type of RAM you can install. There are almost as many different types of RAM chips as there are computer models; you need to match the correct RAM to your machine.

One stick or two?

If your computer uses dual-channel memory, you may need to install two RAM modules (or sticks, as they are sometimes called) instead of just one. So if you want to upgrade to 8 or 16 gigabytes of RAM, you may need to install two separate RAM modules.

Make sure that both modules have the same specifications, otherwise the dual-channel function will not work.

Free RAM improvement

Before you buy some not-so-cheap RAM modules, it’s good to know that you can get more performance out of your current RAM with some relatively simple steps. Then, if you still find your computer running slow, you can throw away that hard-earned money.

  1. Stay tuned for updates. If you have an old operating system, your computer’s RAM usage may be less optimal than it could be. Staying up to date with the latest operating system will ensure you get the best performance from your current RAM.

  2. Less multitasking. Running programs takes memory, and running many programs at the same time can put a strain on your RAM. To free up RAM, try closing programs you don’t need at the moment.

  3. Restart your computer. This is a classic, reliable method to free up RAM on your machine. Sure, it’s annoying. Who wants to wait a few extra minutes for their computer to shut down and then restart? – but it can really help.

  4. Adjust the virtual memory. Virtual memory is a way to get around RAM limitations. On both Macs and PCs, you can maximize your virtual memory by going to your System Settings.

  5. Clean house. This is another simple but somewhat labor-intensive process that will help improve the performance of your computer. By deleting both files and programs that you don’t use, you make the most of all the RAM you currently have.

Upgrade your computer’s RAM

Now that you know how much RAM you have, how much your computer can handle, and what kind of RAM chip to buy for your machine, you need to get the new RAM modules and grab a few tools.

In most cases you only need a small screwdriver. If in doubt, consult your PC’s user manual.

Power failure

Before making any changes, make sure your computer is turned off and unplugged. If you’re upgrading a laptop, it’s a good idea to remove the battery before getting started.

Open the case of your PC with your screwdriver and locate the area on your computer’s motherboard that contains the RAM. Consult your owner’s manual if you need help. Some laptops even have a specific panel that you can remove to replace RAM modules.

Before you touch any parts inside your computer, discharge any static electricity. The elements in your computer are very sensitive to electricity; hitting them with a quick zap of your fingertips can damage them.

But it’s easy to discharge static electricity: just touch something metal before continuing.

Remove old memory modules

If you are replacing existing memory modules, you will need to remove the modules currently in your PC. Many PCs use clips to hold RAM in place. If this is the case, gently lift the clips, remove each module from the RAM slot and set them aside.

Install the new RAM

Then take your new RAM out of the envelope. Be careful not to touch the metal connectors or circuitry on the module. Align the module with the slot in your computer. Most PCs have a notch to guide you so you don’t install the module incorrectly.

Gently press the module into the RAM slot. Once you have the module in place, you can close the clips, replace the PC cover and you are good to go.

Turn on again

Don’t forget to replace the battery if you work with a laptop. Plug in the PC, turn it on and check your system’s RAM. If the updated information is correct, you’re done!

If not, you may need to restart. If you are still having problems, turn off the machine, unplug it, open it up and check that the module is properly seated.

That’s all there is to it.

More RAM allows your PC to run more applications simultaneously without consulting your PC’s hard drive. While you haven’t increased the processing speed of your computer, you have reduced the amount of time it takes to check for specific data. It’s an easy and relatively cheap way to get more life out of your PC.

Much more information


  • Apple. “iMac: Memory Specs and Upgrades.” March 17, 2009. (May 6, 2009)

  • Apple. “Macbook: Installing Memory.” March 17, 2009. (May 6, 2009)

  • Computer memory upgrade. “Install laptop memory.” 2003. (May 4, 2009)

  • (May 5, 2009)

  • Kingston Technology Company. (May 5, 2009)

  • Microsoft. “Find out how much RAM your computer has.” (May 5, 2009)

  • Pass, Adam. “Hack Attack: Install RAM.” Lifehacker. November 22, 2005. (May 5, 2009)

  • Rosenthal, Morris. “Upgrading a Laptop Computer – Upgrading Laptops or Notebooks.” 2008. (May 5, 2009)

  • Send, Kirk. “How to Upgrade Your PC’s RAM.” Computer world. February 27, 2007. (May 4, 2009)

  • Hiker, Andy. “How to Add RAM.” January 1, 2008. (May 5, 2009)

Original article: How to Get More RAM (Random Access Memory)

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