Modern computers are packed with a range of different components. RAM, or random access memory, is one of the most vital of your PC’s parts, and it wouldn’t be possible for your machine to run without it.
Learning how to upgrade RAM is something that any PC user can do, and this process is incredibly easy once you know what you’re doing. This guide will show you how to install RAM and give you some pointers to choose the best RAM upgrade for your computer.
What Is RAM?
Before you can understand what your PC’s RAM is responsible for, it first makes sense to explore your CPU. Modern computer processors can perform billions of calculations each second, but they typically have a small built-in cache that isn’t able to store much data.
This is where RAM (random-access memory) comes in. Acting as a form of temporary storage for data that can be accessed by your processor, RAM dramatically increases the rate at which your machine can perform operations.
This explanation is quite basic, only really scratching the surface of RAM’s role inside your PC. We have an excellent article that you can read if you would like to learn more about random access memory in greater detail.
Choosing Your RAM Upgrade
If you haven’t chosen your RAM upgrade already, there are a few different factors to consider when you are shopping for a component like this. You need to be very careful with this; not all RAM packages will work with your machine.
- DIMM Slot Compatability: DIMM slots are the connectors on your motherboard that house your sticks of RAM. Several generations of DIMM slots have been available over the years, with the vast majority of modern motherboards being home to DDR4 DIMM slots. RAM is not cross-compatible, and this means that you need to make sure that your slots correspond to the RAM you purchase.
- Motherboard Compatability: Alongside the type of slots your motherboard has, you also need to consider the speed of the RAM you purchase. This is measured in MHz, and you can find out which speeds your motherboard can handle inside its manual.
- DIMM Slot Availability: Most modern motherboards will have four available RAM slots, though some will have as few as two and others will have eight plus. You need to pick a RAM upgrade kit that will fit on the motherboard you already have.
- RAM Capacity: RAM kits come in a variety of different sizes. Your motherboard will have a limit to the amount of RAM it can use, but you don’t always need to reach this limit to maximize your performance. We have an excellent article that can help you to figure out how much RAM you actually need.
With all of that out of the way, it’s time to learn how to add RAM to a PC.
How to Install or Upgrade RAM
Learning how to install RAM is possibly the easiest process you can go through with PC hardware. You won’t need to play with screws or cables, and the whole job can be completed within a few minutes once you know what you’re doing.
You can find a step-by-step process with images below that will show you exactly how to install RAM below.
RAM Installation Safety
Safety is incredibly important when you are working with computer hardware. You need to make sure that your PC is off and unplugged before you touch anything inside, but you also need to ground yourself.
This can be achieved by touching the outside of your power supply when plugged in or using an anti-static wristband/mat as you go through the process. Of course, you should also avoid touching components like capacitors as you work on your machine.
Step 1: Read Your Motherboard Manual
When you have more than one stick of RAM in your machine, you can improve its performance by having it run in dual-or quad-channel modes. You will need to use the right DIMM slots to achieve this.
Your motherboard’s manual will tell you which of your slots are connected like this, but they will usually also be made from the same colored plastic to make it easier. We are installing dual-channel memory and will be using the slots shown in the next step.
Step 2: Remove Your Old RAM (Optional)
If you already have RAM installed, you may need to remove it if you will be replacing it entirely with your RAM upgrade. This can be done by pressing down on the tabs at both ends of your DIMM slots until the sticks pop out.
Step 3: Open Your DIMM Slots
Most motherboards will be shipped with their DIMM slots closed, and this means that you will need to open them before you can continue. The small tabs at each end of your DIMM slots can be pressed down, and this is all you need to do to open them.
In some cases, you will only need to do this at one end of your DIMM slot. DDR4 memory often only has one tab that can move, while older form factors, like DDR3, will open at both ends.
Step 4: Line Up Your RAM
RAM can only be installed in one orientation and you need to make sure that you line it up correctly before you attempt to install it. There will be a small indent in the contacts on your sticks of RAM that will correspond with a small barrier inside the DIMM slot itself to show you which direction to install it.
Step 5: Insert Your RAM
With your RAM lined up, it will be time to insert it into its slot. If your DIMM slot only has one open tab, you will need to insert the RAM into the end that doesn’t open first. If your DIMM slot has two open tabs, you will need to insert the RAM evenly.
Once you have your RAM resting in the slot, you should push down on both ends of it until you feel/hear a click and see the tab(s) close to secure it. New motherboards often feel quite stiff and you may need to apply a bit of pressure to make this happen. If your motherboard is flexing or the DIMM slot moves, you should stop and make sure that you have followed the other steps correctly.
Related: Common PC Building Mistakes Beginners Make—and How to Avoid Them
Step 6: Boot Your PC Into the BIOS
Once you have your new RAM installed on your motherboard, it will be time to make sure that it is working properly. This can be done by booting the machine and entering your UEFI BIOS.
Most PCs will show you which key you need to press to enter the BIOS as you boot them, with common examples being DEL and F12. You will need to press this key as soon as you can once the motherboard splash screen appears.
Step 7: Check Your RAM Speeds & Add XMP
You will usually be able to find a System Information section within your computer’s BIOS. This will tell you how much RAM you have installed and the speed that it is running.
If you are running dual-channel memory, the speed will sometimes show as half of the actual speed it says on your kit, though this is nothing to worry about.
Make sure that your memory is running at the speed stated on the pack you’ve bought. If it is lower than the speed you were expecting, you can follow the next step to fix this issue.
Add an XMP Profile (Optional)
An XMP profile is a premade set of settings that enables you to reach the right speed with your RAM without having to adjust it manually. You may need to consult your motherboard’s manual and the instructions that came with your RAM to choose the right profile.
Once an XMP profile is added, you shouldn’t notice any issues with your PC. If it starts to blue screen or has performance issues, though, you may need to go back and choose a different profile to fix the issue.
Adding More RAM to Your PC
Learning how to upgrade RAM is one of the easiest improvements you can make to your PC. Depending on what you use your machine for, you may notice a significant performance increase once this job is complete. Of course, though, there are plenty of other upgrades that you can make to further improve your PC’s performance.