Lesson 03 – Buying Memory and Upgrading a Desktop Computer’s Memory

In this lesson we are going to show you other places to buy memory for your computer and how to install memory into a desktop computer.

Places to buy RAM online

Crucial.com is a great way to find out about the memory in your computer and the prices are pretty good.  In addition to shipping to the US, they even ship world wide.  They have a UK store here and a EU store here that will ship your memory anywhere in the world.  That said you may be able to find memory for your computer cheaper at a different website or local store. You can take the information about the memory you need for your computer from Crucial.com’s System Scanner and CPU-z and compare prices on other websites and local computer stores.  Shipping costs and times are another consideration.  A website that is located near you will charge less for shipping and the delivery time will be shorter.  If you buy from a local store there are no shipping costs or delivery times, though the price of the memory will usually be higher than buying online.

Inside the US you should consider Newegg.com and Tigerdirect.com. Both carry memory from just about every manufacturer, have similar prices and reasonable shipping rates. If you’re located in Canada change the .com on Newegg and Tigerdirect to .ca and you’ll go to their Canadian sites.  If you’re in the UK check out misco.co.uk.  We have lots of customers in the UK and have received very good feedback about misco.  Elsewhere in the EU replace the .uk with your countries code.  For instance misco.co.de will take you to the misco’s German site.  If you’re down under check out www.techbuy.com.au.  Our Aussie customers speak highly of it.  We haven’t had enough feedback to recommend websites in the rest of the world.  Check prices and trust your gut when dealing with any website. If you buy from a local store you can compare the prices in the store with the price online and make sure you’re not being gauged.

Sorting through RAM on different websites

I’m going to go to Newegg.com to buy the memory upgrade for my system.  I’ll choose Desktop Memory.  Newegg has hundreds of different models of RAM. To help find memory with the features and specs I need for my system I’m going to use one of the search options on the left of the page.  It defaults to Guided Search. Basically its all broken down into categories.  I can search by price, manufacturer, the type of RAM and so on. In the parenthesis it shows how many models of memory fall into each category.  This search works but there is a lot of scrolling up and down the page.  The Advanced Search is a little easier, at least for me.  You get the same categories only in drop down lists.  I know what I’m looking for so I’ll just get started.  The type is DDR3, the capacity I want is 6GB which 3, 2GB sticks add up to. The speed is 1333,  CAS Latency is 9, the voltage is 1.5V and I need a triple channel kit.  I’ll search and Newegg.com has 6 models of memory that fit my RAMs specifications.  You’ll notice the categories I choose are gone from the left side of the page and are now up here. Other websites have similar ways of sorting through memory.  Tiger Direct’s Guided search is extremely similar to Newegg’s.  I’m not sure who ripped who off.  Misco’s site has fewer categories for memory so its a little harder to find exactly what you want, but it gets the job done.

Back of Newegg.com, of the 6 choices I’m going to go with the Corsair brand.  The other manufacturers make good memory.  I’m primarily basing my choice on the ratings.  Many of them have 5 out of 5 eggs but the Corsair has 111 ratings while the others only have a few.  The ratings are from actual end users.  If you click on the eggs you’re taken to a page with all of the ratings for the products and what real people have said about using them.

Installing DDR3 RAM

I’ve received the RAM from Newegg and I’m ready to install it.  I’ll shut down the PC and disconnect the power cable from the back of the computer.  You may, like me, have to disconnect the rest of the cables in order to pull the computer case out where you can work on it.  You need to remove the side cover that is on the opposite side from where your mouse and keyboard cables connect. On most computers this is the right side of the computer case if you’re looking from the back of the computer. On my computer the case cover is held in by 2 thumb screws. {reg} Getting into your computer case may differ. Check your computer’s manual or do a google search for the make and model of your computer and remove cover and you’ll usually find instructions.

Before we move on we need to talk about static electricity.  If you live in a high static environment where you’re constantly getting shocked when you touch metal or another person you should probably buy and use an anti static wrist strap.  If you are not in a high static environment just touching an unpainted metal part of the computer case will discharge any static electricity in your body.

Once you have the cover off, lay the computer on it’s side.  Next you need to locate memory.  On my computer I have 3 sticks of RAM already in the system and 3 empty slots to add my new RAM.  The 3 sticks are in slots 1,3 and 5.  These are the correct slots to enable triple channel mode.  If I had the sticks in slots 1,2 and 3 for instance the memory would still work but it would run in single channel mode.

If all of your memory slots are in use and you need to remove your current RAM in order to add the new, higher capacity, sticks of memory the process is very easy.  On either side of the memory sticks there are tabs.  If you press down on them they will rotate down and the memory stick will pop out.  Only touch the memory sticks on their edges, making sure not to touch any of the chips or exposed circuits. Notice the notch, slightly off center, on both the memory stick and memory slot.  These are there to make sure the memory stick cant go in backwards.  I’m going to put the memory stick back by lining up the notched, inserting the memory into the guides next to the tabs on either side of the slot and pressing down evenly, at the same time on each side of the memory stick.  The tabs come up to hold the memory in place.

I’m going to add the 3 sticks of memory I purchased from Newegg to slots 2, 4 and 6.  This will make sure they are in triple channel mode just like the existing RAM.  I need to open the tabs on the empty slots. Then one at a time I’ll make sure to match up the notches on the memory and the slot, insert the sticks into the guides on each side of the slots and press down at the same time on each side of the memory sticks until they snap into place and the tabs come up to hold them in place. On some systems you have to add the higher capacity sticks of memory into the lower numbered slots. Check your computer or motherboard manual to be sure its OK to add higher capacity sticks after the lower capacity ones.

I’ll re attach the case side and reconnect all of the cables to the back of my computer.  If you’re not sure where the cables go on your computer just remember this.  If it fits its probably in the right place.  The one common exception is the speaker cable.  Look for a green connector.  Green is standard for a speaker connection on just about all computers.  If you have an older computer where the keyboard and mouse connections are round and right next to each other, look for keyboard and mouse icons next to the connections and connect them accordingly.

Making sure the computer sees the RAM

When you power the computer on you may see a screen that shows the amount of memory in the system.  You can use this to tell if the memory is being detected.  However, on most computers this screen is covered up by a logo screen made by the computer or motherboard maker. On some computers you may get a message on screen that the amount of system memory has changed and a prompt to go into the BIOS setup or continue.  Choose the option to continue and let the computer go into Windows.  In Windows you can check the amount of memory by clicking Start in Window XP or the Start orb in Windows Vista or 7, right clicking on My Computer in Windows XP or Computer in Windows Vista or 7 and choose Properties.  On my computer the system is seeing the full 9GB of memory.  That’s all I have to do.  This is true for all computers and any version of Windows.  The computer will see the extra memory and start using it. Just remember the 3.5GB limitation on the 32bit versions of Windows.  If you’re installing more that 3.5GB of RAM you need to have a 64bit version of Windows on the system.

Checking the Page File

There is one setting buried deep in Windows that you need to check after you upgrade the RAM to make sure the system is running at its best.  To get there in Windows Vista or 7 go to the start orb, right click on Computer and click Properties.  On the left click Advanced System Properties.  In the Performance box click Settings, then the Advanced tab and click Change in the Virtual Memory box.  This dialog controls the size of the page file, also referred to as the swap file, we discussed in Lesson 1.  You need to have Automatically manage paging file size for all drives checked and System managed size selected.  To get here with Windows XP click Start, right click on My Computer and properties.  Click the Advanced tab, in the Performance box click Settings, Advanced and Change.  There is no Automatically manage box at the top.  Make sure System managed size is selected and OK out of the dialog boxes.  If you’ve had to change the settings Windows will prompt you to restart your computer to let the changes take effect.

In the next lesson we are going to upgrade the memory on another desktop and laptop computer.