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Upgrade Computer Memory - How to Upgrade Computer Memory

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Computer technology advances at a staggering rate; we all know that. Unfortunately, not all of us are able to or even want to replace a computer when it starts becoming obsolete. A computer is not like a car, though, where 3 or 4 years don’t have any real effect on the vehicle. A car might get a little less shiny on the outside, and it might lose that new car smell, but its performance is not going to be adversely affected just because someone upgraded the road, the gasoline, or the car in front of you.

A computer is different. It doesn’t take long at all for it to be rendered obsolete, especially if it wasn’t cutting-edge to start with. A machine that was powerful in 2007 is wimpy by 2010’s standards. Plus, any computer will start running into snags as the programs themselves become more advanced and require more resources. The more programs you have, the slower it becomes.

Fortunately, many users will find it easy to upgrade computer memory. The task itself is simple enough that it can be done at home with mail order parts, but you can always take it to a computer repair shop if you feel uncomfortable rummaging around in your computer’s tender areas. However the job gets done, a memory upgrade is often the most cost-effective way to enhance a computer’s performance.

The key word here is “RAM.” That stands for Random Access Memory; memory in this case does NOT refer to the hard drive. Nor should it be confused with Video RAM, which is separate on most desktop computers. If the computer has integrated graphics, then you’re effectively upgrading both at the same time.

First, you need to know how much memory the computer already has, and if it’s enough. Open Task Manager by pressing CTRL-ALT-DEL and click on Performance. See where it says “Physical Memory”? If the value for “Available” or “Free” is zero or close to it, it wouldn’t hurt to upgrade computer memory.

Now go to My Computer, right click anywhere on the white background, and click “Properties.” It should show some basic system information, including RAM. 1 GB is about the minimum for today’s computers; you might be able to get by with less if you’re running XP or an older OS, but not if you have Vista or Windows 7. You want at least 2 GB if you run resource-hungry applications like games or Photoshop; more never hurts. Some high-end PCs now come with 8 GB or more!

If you do decide on an upgrade, computer memory comes in a few different forms. It’s vitally important that you get the right kind. The main distinction is between DDR, DDR2 and DDR3; each one is faster than the one before. You’ll need to check your computer’s manual or otherwise find out what kind of motherboard it has. Then, you can find out which kind it takes. Most motherboards can only accommodate one kind.

Next you need to find out exactly what is in the computer. Most boards have four slots for memory – you might have some open. A computer with 1 GB of RAM could have 4 small modules or 2 larger ones. It may only have one. If they’re all full, you’ll have to replace a couple. Most RAM in today’s PCs is dual channel, meaning that it comes in pairs and works best that way. Also, be sure to check the motherboard’s maximum capacity. There’s no point in buying 8 GB of RAM if the board can only support 4.

Remember, all RAM is not created equal. This is one area where you don’t want to pinch pennies. A small savings can cause big headaches later. Buy from a reputable manufacturer like Kingston, Crucial or Patriot. As an added bonus, these companies have handy online tools to help you identify the best RAM for your machine.

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