If you have an older PC or a cheaper model, you might find that your system isn’t running as fast as you’d like. This may be especially true if you’re using more than one program at once and opening multiple tabs in your browser. That’s because your desktop’s RAM isn’t sufficient for your heavy tasks.
At this point, you’ve decided to upgrade your PC. For a faster, more efficient system, follow our quick guide on how to install RAM.
A few important reminders
Most motherboards only support one type of memory, so check your motherboard to see what type of RAM it can handle. The manufacturer’s name and model number are typically printed on the motherboard manual and packaging. If you don’t have that handy, you can look at the board itself, as it’s usually printed there, too.
When you know what your board is called, navigate to the manufacturer’s website and locate your motherboard using that model number. Verify the memory type, speed, and total amount your motherboard can handle.
Note: XMP profiles and overclocking can make memory run beyond a motherboard’s rated speed in most cases.
Most modern motherboards support DDR4, ranging between 2,133MHz at the low end, to as high as 4,700MHz and beyond at the very top end. If your PC is rather old, your system may only support DDR3, or even DDR2, memory.
Common manufacturers like MSI and Gigabyte list these specifications with their motherboard listings. For instance, the supports up to 64GB of DDR4 memory at up to 4,266MHz speeds, while the supports up to 64GB of DDR4 at up to 3,466MHz.
Keep in mind that RAM is one of the easiest components to install, but static electricity is always a concern. Before you install new RAM, be sure to wear an anti-static wristband, or ground yourself by touching some bare metal in your case periodically. Wear rubber-soled shoes if you can and perform the upgrade on a bare floor: No rugs or carpet, if possible.
The step-by-step guide
Step 1: Disconnect the power cable from your system and, if needed, unplug other back-panel cables so that you can safely lay your system on its side.
Step 2: Remove the side panel (usually on the left) to gain full access to the interior. The RAM slots are long and normally reside to the right of the processor and its chunky cooler. These slots typically number between two and eight and include tabs (or wings) on each end, which lock the sticks into place. Press these tabs down towards the motherboard to eject and remove the old RAM.
Step 3: Look in your motherboard’s manual to determine the correct slots where your new memory should reside. Some motherboards prefer the second and fourth slots if you’re only using one or two sticks. Others prefer the first and third.
Before installing the RAM, make sure the wings at either end of the slot are indeed pushed back, so they’re tilted away from the slot.
‘Note that you can only install RAM one specific way. Look at the side of the RAM stick with metal contacts and you’ll see a notch that’s not centered. You’ll need to line that notch up with the notch — also not centered — inside the motherboard’s memory slot. If they’re reversed, the stick will not click in place.
When you’re sure the RAM stick is lined up properly, grip the top with your fingers and push down firmly and evenly on both ends until it clicks into place. As it does, the wings clamp in and hold the memory securely.
If the stick doesn’t click into place relatively easily, make sure you have the stick oriented correctly. Forcing RAM that’s not lined up correctly can damage your motherboard. If in doubt, double-check. A flashlight can really help you see as well.
Step 4: Once all sticks click into their slots, confirm that the wing clips are locked in to hold the sticks firmly in place. If everything passes inspection, close the PC. Next, plug all cables back in and boot the system.
After the reboot
The good news from here is that if something went wrong, you’ll know right away when your computer doesn’t start. If that happens, repeat the above steps and make sure the new sticks are correctly seated in their socket.
Once the system does start, make sure to check that you have the correct amount of RAM displayed in your system profile. If you see that your system only has 3.2GB after a much larger upgrade, this may be due to running a 32-bit operating system.
Finally, if this whole process has piqued your interest in building computers, here’s our guide on how to put together a whole PC all by yourself.
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