How to Upgrade RAM in a Laptop?

If your PC struggles to keep tabs open and refreshes webpages every time you go back to another tab, it is time to consider laptop memory upgrade. The same goes with a regular desktop PC. Lack of enough RAM converts to bad PC performance, apps restarts, and other inconveniences.

Before you decide to upgrade RAM in laptop, make sure there is actually a need to do so. Just use your PC as normal. Open Task Manager and click the Performance tab. Take a look at the Memory graph. Is it always above 90%? If so, then it is time to shop for new laptop RAM.

Download More RAM

Don’t be fooled. RAM is not something you can download from the Internet. If your friends tell you to simply download more RAM to improve computer performance, they are simply mocking you. RAM is a hardware, not a software. The only way to increase the amount of RAM is to buy additional memory sticks or replace existing with the one that has bigger capacity.

External RAM for Laptop

Again, there is no such thing as external memory for a laptop or desktop. RAM is an internal part of a computer’s hardware. Although there are different external GPU’s, external RAM for laptop does not exist (maybe yet). RAM uses extremely fast interface and requires direct connection to the motherboard to keep speeds high with minimal latencies.

Laptop Memory Upgrade

First thing you need to know is whether your laptop RAM is upgradable or not. Many manufacturers nowadays solder RAM directly to the motherboard thus make RAM upgrade in laptop completely impossible. For example, RAM in modern MacBook is not serviceable at all. Do you need to upgrade RAM in MacBook? Too bad. Gotta buy a better config next time.

Before cracking open your laptop case, consider reading the user manual. Look for RAM section. If your laptop’s RAM is serviceable and replaceable, you will find info about it and instruction how to properly access it. Do not have a user manual? Google your laptop model and find the official website. All required information will be there.

Now grab your laptop, flip it over, and look for a small cover with a memory stick icon. That is where laptop RAM lives. Usually, this section is easily accessible and has only one or two screws. If there is no such cover, you need to remove the bottom case entirely to access and replace laptop RAM.

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Important: if your laptop’s warranty has not expired yet, removing the bottom case may end up in warranty being void. In such a case it is better to contact your manufacturer or certified service center. They will upgrade laptop RAM and this procedure won’t void the warranty.

Ok, suppose you have accessed RAM compartment. What’s next? Now you need to check how many sticks of RAM your laptop has. Usually, laptops have two slots with one occupied and one free. You can put an additional stick in there. If a laptop has two memory sticks inserted, you will have to replace them both.

Find two small retention clips at the side of the memory stick. Pull them sideways and RAM will pop out. Look at the sticker covering the memory chips and find memory ID. For example, Kingston KVR24S17S8/8. Google this model and you will end up with something like Kingston Technology ValueRAM 8GB 2400Mhz DDR4 Non-ECC CL17 SODIMM 1Rx8. There is no need to buy exactly the same RAM model (if you intend to buy an additional stick, not replace two existing). Usually, different RAM models work fine but for the sake of best performance and compatibility, we recommend you get the same memory as installed inside your laptop.

If you want to replace laptop RAM entirely, do not buy one stick. It is better to go with 2 each with 4 GB rather than 1 with 8 GB. Two sticks work in dual-channel mode and provide much better performance than one module. Sure, one stick will work too. Also, you buy get one if you want to install additional stick later and double the amount of RAM in your laptop.

Things to consider when upgrading RAM in a laptop:

  1. Memory standard. This is the first thing you should consider when shopping for a RAM on Amazon or in any other shop. There are DDR4, DDR3, DDR2, and DDR. DDR2 and DDR nowadays almost went extinct and it is very difficult to buy such memory. Important: memory standards are not backward compatible. You can’t install DDR4 memory in your DDR3 laptop and vice-versa.
  2. Memory format. Desktop computers use large DIMM-sticks (a bit more than 130 mm in length) while laptops use smaller SO-DIMM format which is much more compact. And yes, you can’t install DIMM into SODIMM slot and vice-versa. SO-DIMM memory is also called SDRAM (DDR3 SDRAM pictured below).
    upgrade ram laptop external
  3. Memory size. Memory is highly chipset-dependent. In other words, you can’t install more RAM than your chipset supports. That is why it is very important to consider user manual and/or official specs on a manufacturer website. If you install more RAM than laptop support, you will end up with non-working laptop stuck on a black screen. No need to upgrade RAM in a laptop if it already has 8 GB stick and a chipset does not support higher capacities.
  4. Memory clocks. The higher the speed the better performance (although the difference may be very insignificant). You can’t go wrong with faster RAM but again, effective speed will depend on a chipset and its capabilities. Also, some laptops are capable of RAM overclocking thus you can buy memory with a lower speed and overclock it later. You can install fast memory like Corsair Vengeance DDR4 SODIMM 2666 16 GB or a bit cheaper Timetec Hynix IC 16GB 2444. Both will work fine, and BIOS will set the correct clocks itself without the need to tweak something.
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Upgrading Memory in a Laptop:

  1. Power off your laptop and disconnect it from the power source. Don’t electrocute yourself. Remember, safety first!
  2. Open RAM cover or entire bottom cover. Locate the memory modules.
  3. Pull of retention clips and remove existing sticks.
  4. Place one stick into the one in front of another. Simply insert it into the slot and push it until retention clips fix the module in place. Do note that RAM is not symmetrical, and you need to look for a small gap between the pins in order to install it properly. Do not push it too hard and at the same time make sure it is fixed firmly at the place.
  5. Insert the next module above the first one and fix it in place.
  6. Put the cover back in and power on your PC. There is no need to change settings inside the BIOS unless you want to overclock RAM in your laptop. After you get to the desktop, open Task Manager to check how much memory is available.

All done. Enjoy your upgraded laptop!

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