Nowadays we need more and more RAM. If you have Windows boxes,
you know that 512MB is becoming bare minimum, the same is true for
Macs and although Linux can get by with less, more is better..
Here's a page that
for how much RAM you might need.
Installing RAM is not hard - if you can follow basic instructions,
you can do this.
It's also not very expensive. Prices do vary from time to
time, but it's unlikely to cost you very much at all. This is
an easy, inexpensive upgrade that can really help your computer.
Tools needed for memory upgrade
Push button open
Ready for memory
Let's start by clearing a work space and assembling the tools
you'll need for the job. These consist of the items shown at right:
- Phillips screwdriver
- Propane torch
- Drill bit assortment
- Electric drill
- Stiff wire brush
- Magnifying glass
- Tape measure
- Household oil
- Rubber mallet
- Two pound sledge
Got all that? OK, put everything away but the screwdriver. That's
all you'll really need for the job, and sometimes you don't even need that.
This Dell machine on the right opens up by pushing on that green button -
no tools needed at all!
Oh, but wait: you need the new memory, right? Well, yes, but
actually you do need to open the machine before you buy that. Why?
Because memory "sticks" come in different sizes. A machine that
has 512MB of RAM might have one 512MB stick installed, or two
256MB sticks or even (older computers) four 128MB sticks. Your
machine may have room for only one or two sticks, too, so (for example)
if it were a 512MB machine with only one memory slot, buying another
512MB stick won't help you: you'd need a 1GB (or larger) stick and
you'd replace your old stick with that. So the very first thing
you need to do is open your computer up and take a peek inside.
In the picture labeled "Ready for Memory", I actually found
two sticks installed and removed one to show you what an empty slot
looks like. The stick I removed is lying on top of the green
Before you touch anything inside, we've got to talk about static and
a few other things. First, I hope it's obvious that you need to
power your computer off before you open it up.. and you should
unplug anything and everything that's plugged into it. Does that
worry you because you won't know where to plug things back
in when you are down? Well, most things are either color coded
or just won't fit anywhere but where they need to go, but if
you aren't comfortable, take a photo with your digital camera,
or draw a picture, or tape colored paper onto the computer and
the things you disconnected.
With a laptop computer, you may need to remove the battery
before you do anything else. A laptop can also be very hot
inside, so you may want to wait a few minutes before you touch it at
If you've never done this before, it's a good idea to find your
manual that came with the computer. If you don't have that,
often you can find information on-line: find your make and
model, and search Google for that plus "manuals". You might
even just search for your computer plus "adding memory" - for example, here
on-line instructions for my Apple MacBook Pro.
More traditional computer cases look like those shown at Removing case covers but
even then you may not need a screwdriver: often the screws you need to
take out have large knurled knobs you can turn with your fingers.
The electric drill and two pound sledge can be used if
necesssary. Don't forget to wear the goggles.
Once inside, you should be able to see your existing memory. In
a laptop, the cover you opened may have nothing but the memory
under it, but on a desktop computer, you have to find it. It's not
hard: it's always going to look very similar to the memory shown
here. Here's two other pages that show memory:
Don't touch anything inside yet: we still haven't talked about static electricity.
A nice static shock can kill your whole computer. That's not
likely, but it can happen. Even a teeny shock can weaken electronic
electronic chips so they won't last as long as they would otherwise.
It would be nice if you bought an anti-static wrist strap when you
buy your new memory, but if you don't do that, at least be sure
you aren't shuffling around on carpet and that you touch something
metal to discharge yourself before touching anything in the computer.
Crucial (a large memory reseller) recommends this:
Static electricity can damage your module and other computer parts. You need to ground yourself to avoid "shocking" your computer. If you have wrist straps designed for this purpose, you should wear them. If you don't have wrist straps, here is the easiest way to ground yourself:
- Turn off the computer, monitor, and all accessories (printer, speakers, etc.)
- Leave the computer power cord plugged in. (It's OK to unplug your accessories if you like.)
- Briefly touch an unpainted metal part of your computer case.
- Plant your feet and don't walk around. If you do need to walk around, ground yourself again before touching any of the internal parts of your computer.
OK, so now you can see your memory, and you know how many
slots you have open. Now you need to visit
Crucial.com to find out what kind of memory you need. You can
buy your memory upgrade there if you want, but even if you
are plannning to run down to Staples today, you want this
because it will help make sure you are getting the right
memory for your computer. For example, on some computers
memory has to be installed in matched pairs always - Crucial
will tell you if that's what you need. Staples should know that
too, but who knows? Trust, but confirm, right?
Oh, look: they even have a tool that looks inside your computer
and finds out what you have - maybe you didn't need to open it after
all? Well, maybe, but again: trust and confirm.
There are many different styles of memory: see Memory Module Identification for
examples of the most common types.
Seating it in
We'll wait here while you go get your memory..
Wow, that was fast! You are back already.. did you remember
the wrist strap?
OK, we're ready
to put it in. In general, all modern memory slots have some
ejector clips or tabs that you open to get the memory
out. Those are the white things near my finger and thumb in the
picture labeled "Seating it in". You'll open those tabs to remove
any memory you might need to take out, and if you are just putting
memory into an open slot, you'll push them open to
If you aren't strong enough to do that, use the propane
torch to burn these tabs away. I don't know how you'll
You should look at your memory and look at the slot it
goes into - there is almost always an offset hole that lines
up only in one direction. See the picture labeled "Detail"
for an example. See the little slot down in the gold colored
teeth? That's going to line up only one way in the memory
slot you are going to put this into.
Can't see it? Go get that magnifying glass.
Well, maybe.. that slot is almost always offset.. 72 pin SIMMS
(which you are not likely to have) and a few other odd ones have the slot square in the middle - no help there!
If you need still need help figuring out which direction
to orient the stick, use the tape measure to determine how far
the orientation guide is from one end, then measure the
receiving slot to see where the corresponding ridge is. You'll
figure it out..
Memory goes in one of two ways: the tilt method or straight down.
Which way just depends on the design of your computer. If your
computer takes SIMMS, it uses the "tilt" method (see Installing SIMMs), otherwise it pushes
straight down. Either way, as it seats the clips should rise up
and lock the memory in place. If you look at the right hand
side of "Seating it in" you see the clip in an open position,
the "All Done" picture shows the clips in their final positions, locked
into the holes on the sides of the memory sticks..
Seating the memory is very important! You may or may not
hear the tabs click into place, but you need to look and make sure they are.
If you are sloppy about this, most of the time your computer either
just won't boot at all, or won't see the memory you added, but it is
possible to damage your motherboard from this, and that kills
your computer. Don't panic - that's very unlikely, but even so, make
sure the memory is seated. If there was memory you didn't touch, look and feel
that your new memory is at the same relative height and that it is level
with reference to what's already there.
You really shouldn't use the rubber hammer to seat memory. Nor
should you use household oil to help it slide in more easily.
Rarely, the gold contacts on chips oxidize (they wouldn't
if they really were pure gold, of course). We used to recommend
polishing them up with a rubber eraser, but that stiff wire brush is
so much more effective, isn't it?
You are all done.. put the covers back on, plug everything back in
and fire it up. Very old computers will stop and complain when
they find new memory - they make you go into the "BIOS" to confirm
what you added, but newer models just notice the extra memory
and start using it automatically: there's nothing else you have
to do. Check to be sure it sees what you
expect it to see, and you are done.
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© 2011-03-09 Anthony Lawrence