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How do I Upgrade Notebook RAM?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 17, 2024
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When computers begin to feel a little slow, one of the first things we might consider is adding Random Access Memory (RAM). This is especially true with laptops and notebooks that sometimes come with less memory to keep the price competitive. Before buying notebook RAM, you might want to see if it’s going to make a difference.

A shortage of RAM slows a computer down, but so can many other factors. A legacy computer processing unit (CPU), a hard drive that’s nearly full, an inefficient graphics card, software that has higher minimal requirements than the computer can meet, and the presence of viruses or malware will all impact performance. A badly fragmented hard drive or corrupted registry can also affect a computer. To make sure you would benefit from additional notebook RAM, check to see how much is available after the computer has booted.

In Windows® XP® hold down the Alt+Ctrl+Del keys to bring up Task Manager. In Vista® use the same keys then choose Start Task Manager, or try Ctrl+Shift+Esc. Click the Performance tab and look under the heading “Physical Memory” to see how much memory is “available” or “free.” You will likely benefit from adding notebook RAM if this amount is much less than 512 Megabytes (MB). If free RAM exceeds 512MB, other problems are probably hindering performance.

Once it’s been established that additional memory would help, consult the notebook’s manual to find out how much RAM the motherboard can support, the type of RAM it takes, and the number of slots or banks the motherboard has. If you don’t have the manual you can probably locate one online by using a search engine. The largest memory manufacturers also have extensive databases that will allow you to search for the correct notebook RAM by entering the model of your computer in their search engines.

There are many different types of memory, so be careful to note the exact type you need and cross reference this information if it isn’t coming directly from the manual. The slots or banks are where you will install your new notebook RAM, but you might have to remove memory already present, so don’t count on being able to add to the RAM already there. Find out what banks are occupied and with what type of sticks. For example, if the computer has two slots, they might both be occupied with (2) 512MB sticks of RAM for a total of 1 Gigabyte (GB). Perhaps you would like to have the maximum, which might be 2GB. The only way to get 2GB is to buy (2) 1GB sticks, and remove both 512MB sticks.

It is also important to note that some types of RAM need to work in pairs to get the full benefit of parallel processing. So let’s assume the motherboard has two slots, but can support up to 4GB RAM, while you only want 2GB at present. It might be better to get (2) 1GB sticks, than to install (1) 2GB stick.

Chips can be damaged by static charge, so before installing or handling your new notebook RAM, ground yourself or wear a grounding wrist strap. Be careful to handle the sticks by their edges, without touching the gold pins at the bottom.

Turn the notebook off, unplug the AC adapter and remove the battery. The notebook RAM lies underneath a plastic plate on the underside of the computer.

To remove RAM, gently push out the retaining clamps at the end of each stick. The stick should pop out of place so that it can be lifted out at an angle. The new notebook RAM will go in at the same angle, and is gently pressed into the slot, gold pins down. The retaining clips should pop back into place, or in some cases you will need to press the clamps into place. See the manual for exact directions for your make and model.

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Discussion Comments
By anon43578 — On Aug 30, 2009

I like it. very informative. Thank you.

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