How to Upgrade Your Laptop’s System Memory in As Little As Five Minutes!

What is RAM or system memory?

System or RAM (Random Access Memory) memory is used to “host” running programs and data that are being used by the operation system (Windows). What this means is that when you start a program, it is loaded in to RAM or system memory. The more programs you are using at any one time, the less RAM memory your computer has at its disposal. Upgrading your memory may or may not speed up your laptop. If you are the type of user that has several programs running at the same time or are running complicated programs such as CAD (Computer Aided Drafting), Video and sound editing software, etc., can require more RAM memory to operate efficiently. If you are an average user and using your computer for running Skype, checking your email, surfing the internet or playing simple games, then chances are adding more memory will not significantly increase your laptop’s speed.

Upgrading your system’s memory

It’s not as hard as you might think to upgrade your laptop’s memory and only requires one or two tools and a little research to do it. Instead of taking your laptop to your local computer repair shop, and spending $75.00 to have it done, why not do it yourself? After reading this” how to” article you can do it yourself in just a few minutes. Finding out the facts about your system’s memory will take longer than installing the memory.

One caveat is that on some lower end laptops the memory modules are not accessible from the bottom of the laptop, which makes the job a little more difficult. Usually these laptops you access the memory by removing the bottom of the case and removing several screws. This type of upgrade is not covered in this article.

Tools you’ll need

The tools you will need are a small Phillips head screwdriver, a small flat head screwdriver (optional) and the internet. If you don’t have the screwdrivers, you can find a nice little set at your local Wal-Mart store for under $10.00. The next tool you will need is an internet connection, to research the exact type of memory you will need, and finally about 1/2 hour of your time to learn the process. That’s it, an easy job that will save you money and loss of the use of your computer while being in the repair shop.

Finding your laptop’s model number

First you’ll need to find the model number of your laptop, which is usually found on the bottom of your laptop case. Look carefully as there can be several printed areas on the bottom of the laptop. You are looking specifically for the word “Model”, not S/N, P/N or service tag #. Sometimes the model number will be located under the battery. Sometimes the manufacturer will have a simple model number on the keyboard area of the laptop, or printed on the screen bezel (rim). Toshiba, for instance, uses model numbers such as L305D-S5935, but only has “Satellite” on the keyboard area, again not what you want. HP uses model #’s like DV7-9600, G6-1064US and others. Dell is usually a four digit number like 1550, 1460, etc., but there should be a model number printed somewhere on the laptop.

Finding the correct memory

The next step is finding the correct memory. Say you have a Toshiba laptop, you’ll need to go to Toshiba’s support page. Just Google Toshiba support USA, then click on the actual link for Toshiba. Some sites use Toshiba in their website name just to get people to click on their link, that’s not what you want.

On the Toshiba site near the top of the page, you will find the “services and support” tab, (other manufacturer’s sites will vary somewhat) and hover over that tab and you’ll see a list for consumer products, business products and industry products. Click on consumer products, then look down the page until you see “tech support” and click on that link, you’ll then be taken to a page where you will have to enter the model number of your laptop or, you will have select your model from several drop down menus. All manufacturers’ sites will vary a bit, but if you’re having trouble, just Google the manufacturer’s name followed by “tech support USA”, and you should find the correct page.

Now that you’ve reached the tech support page, you’ll see several tabs, such as drivers, support bulletins, downloads, etc. Choose Detailed Specs or something similar, and up will pop the specifications for your laptop. Scroll down until you see “Memory”, this will tell you how much memory was factory installed on your system and the maximum amount of memory you can upgrade it to. What is most important is the type of memory you must use in your laptop, i.e. DDR2 800MHz, DDR3 1077MHz, etc. it is very important that you install the same memory as shown on the manufactures spec sheet!

Finding your installed memory

Your laptop came with certain amount of system memory all ready installed. If you bought a used laptop, you may have a different amount of memory installed in your system than what the manufactures spec sheet shows. To find out how much memory is installed in your system, the first thing you must do, is go to the start menu or on the desktop and right click on “Computer” and at the bottom of the drop down menu click on properties.

This will bring up the System window. The System window will tell you several things about your laptop. The installed operating system, the manufacturer, the processor type and most importantly the “installed memory”. Usually on a Windows 7 system it’s at least 2GB (gigabyte) up to 8GB on higher end systems. Now the trick here is finding how the memory is installed in your system. All laptops have two slots for the memory modules. Lower end laptops they will have 2GB, 1GB module installed in to each of the memory slots.

Next, this is very important, disconnect you’re A/C power supply and remove the battery! Turn the laptop upside down and locate the memory slot cover. The memory cover usually has vents cut in to it, as the memory does heat up during use. There is usually only one or two screws holding the cover down, unscrew them and pop off the cover. You may have to take a very small flat bladed screwdriver or a steak knife, and gently work up the screw side edge of the cover to get it to pop off, but in most cases it should just lift off easily.

Now look and see if both memory slots are being used. The slots are offset, and one on top of the other. If there is only one memory “stick” in one slot, and, you read on the System window that you had 2GB of memory installed, that means that you have a 2GB memory stick installed.

How much memory do I need

Memory comes in 1GB, 2GB, 4GB and 8GB sticks, remember your laptop has a maximum amount of memory it can use. If both of your memory slots have a 1GB memory stick, you can still use one of those sticks along with whatever amount of memory you want to install in your laptop. You can install memory anyway you want. Say you have 2GB of memory, using both memory slots. You could remove 1, 1GB memory stick and replace it with a 2GB memory stick, and that would give you 3GB of total system memory. If you want more, just replace one of the memory sticks with a 4GB memory stick for a total of 5GB of system memory or any amount or combination up to your systems maximum amount of memory allowed. For the average user, I believe that 4GB is plenty of memory, but it is your choice, and you will spend less per GB if you buy a 4GB memory stick compared to a 2GB memory stick.

What brand of memory should I use?

There are several manufacturers of laptop memory. Which is best? Well there is Kingston, Crucial, Micron and several other manufactures, and most memory comes with a lifetime warranty. Just because your memory module has an HP sticker on it doesn’t mean that it was manufactures by HP or that you have to replace it with HP labeled memory. You can also buy refurbished or used memory for a little less, but I would stick with new memory modules that comes with a manufacturer’s warranty. Just about any brand of memory will do and it’s very reliable. You can buy it online at very reasonable prices. Avoid buying from repair shops or department stores, their markups can be more than double of what you will pay online and chances are that they will not have the correct memory in stock for your laptop anyway. RAM memory has no moving or delicate parts that can be broken off and is very stable and reliable no matter who manufactures it.

Installing the memory

After you’ve bought the manufacturer specified memory for your laptop along with the amount of memory you want to upgrade it to, all you need to do is install it. Just follow the 7 steps below. Caution, don’t touch or handle the memory stick by the copper pins! Any amount of static discharge could damage the memory module! I’ve never had it happen to me, but the possibility still exists.

  1. Unplug the A/C adapter from your computer.
  2. Turn the laptop over.
  3. Remove the battery.
  4. Remove the memory slot cover.
  5. To remove the memory, all you have to do is push out on the silver rails that run up both sides of the memory stick. The “rails” have a little bend or nodule that click in to the side of the memory stick (95% of the time this rail system is used, but a few manufacturers use a different system on some of their laptops. But, all in all, the different configurations are easy to figure out). Just use your fingers to push the rail out to the side simultaneously on both sides and the memory stick should pop up. Caution, don’t try to force it out with any metal tools, if your fingers are too big, use a toothpick or some other plastic (like a credit card) to move the rail to the side, one side at a time, while gently lifting up on the memory stick. If it still won’t release, try pressing down on it, or you might try to gently wiggle it a bit to see if that will loosen it up.
  6. To install the new memory, Insert memory stick (copper pin side down) and in to the memory slot. The memory slot has a built in crossbar that corresponds to a slot cut in to the memory module, be sure to line these up. Make sure the module is seated all the way down in to the on board slot, then gently push down until you hear a click, don’t force it. Sometimes you might have to move the rails out a little bit to get the memory to seat correctly.
  7. Replace the memory slot cover and screw it down.

Now you’re all done! Fire up your laptop and go to your Computer icon on the desktop or from the start menu, right click, select properties at the bottom of the drop down menu to bring up the System window, and check the “Installed Memory” line to see the new memory you’ve just installed.

Now that you’ve learned all the steps on how to upgrade your laptop’s memory in just five minutes, the next time you do it, it will be a snap! You can then offer to do it for friends and family, for a slight charge of course, and they will love you for the money that you will save them!

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