Finding the right RAM upgrade
Whenever I’m asked how to speed up a computer, the first thing I ask is whether the RAM has been upgraded or not. Random Access Memory comes in many variations however, so it might not be easy to find the right upgrade for your computer. Crucial however, the self-proclaimed Memory Experts have put together a memory advisor tool for finding upgrades compatible with your computer.
Note: 32-bit operating systems will be unable to use more than 4GB of RAM. To use more RAM, ensure that your processor supports 64-bit and upgrade your operating system to a 64-bit version.
- Find out the manufacturer and model of your computer if bought as is, or the manufacturer and model of the motherboard if you own a custom build. Mine is a custom computer with an Asus P8H61-M LE motherboard, so I will be looking for that.
- Go to www.crucial.com. The advisor tool is on the homepage.
- Select the manufacturer, product line, and model from the dropdown menus.
- Press the “Find It” button to see which memory upgrades are guaranteed compatible with your computer, as well as some more technical details about your machine, such as the maximum supported memory and how many memory slots are available. In my case it recommends an 8×2 GB kit with the following specifications:
– DDR3 PC3-12800. DDR3 refers to the version of the chip, DDR3 being the most recent. DDR4 is currently in development. PC3-12800 is the peak transfer rate of the chip is 12800 MB/s. A higher number is faster and generally better.
– CL = 11. This refers to the CAS latency of the chip, or how many clock cycles it takes before data starts to flow after a command has been received. Lower values are faster and generally better.
– Unbuffered and NON-ECC. Standard computers use unbuffered memory, which is faster than buffered, but less reliable. Buffered memory is used in servers to counteract errors, as well as ECC or parity chips, which continuously check the memory for errors.
– DDR3 1600. This again mentions DDR3, however the important portion are the numbers afterwards. Here the speed of the RAM is given, meaning that this chip has a speed of 1600 MHz. Higher values mean that the chip operates faster.
– 1.35 V. This is the voltage the chip needs to function. Lower voltages mean less power used and less heat in the system, however other values then tend to suffer. If you own a custom computer, make sure that your power supply can handle the voltage if it’s higher than your old RAM chip.
Write down all this information and go to the nearest computer shop to purchase your upgrade. Crucial also gives an indication of the price the upgrade should be. Usually I find online shops to have better prices, but it doesn’t hurt to look around. Enjoy your new upgrade, which once installed will have your computer back up to speed in no time!
Installing the upgrade – General PC instructions
Note: to install RAM modules on laptops, do a search for the make and model of your computer and “ram” to find instructions for your laptop. To find instructions for my laptop, I searched “Dell Inspiron Mini 1012 RAM”.
WARNING: Tinkering with your machine can void warranty and cause damage if you’re not careful. Do this at your own risk.
- Discharge any built up static electricity. Static can fry chips and ruin your machine, to get rid of it touch a metal object such as the chassis of your computer or wear an anti-static bracelet that you can buy at most computer shops.
- Unplug the computer and hold the power button for a few seconds to allow any remaining energy to dissipate. Open the chassis. You may need a screwdriver.
- Locate the RAM modules on the motherboard. Press the levers either side of the modules to release them.
- Remove the modules and put them in the special anti-static bag your new modules came in. Keep these chips safe in case the new modules get damaged. It never hurts to have a backup.
- Place the new chips into the slots, taking care that they are being inserted in the correct direction. Do not put too much force on the chips. Pull the levers either side of the modules to lock them in place.
- Close the chassis, plug the computer back in, and boot. The BIOS may inform you that new hardware was added.
- Once the computer has booted, confirm that your operating system has recognized the new chips by checking the system information. In Windows this is done by right-clicking ‘My Computer’ and clicking ‘Properties’. Other indications that the RAM has been upgraded include faster boot time and quicker application launches.