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Lesson 01 - Introduction to Memory Upgrading

In these videos we are going to show you how to upgrade your desktop or laptop computer’s memory yourself.  Sure, you could pay a computer shop to upgrade your computers memory, but as you’ll see its really easy to do yourself and save between $40 and $75 in fees.

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What is RAM?

We’ll begin by learning a little bit about RAM. Memory also called RAM or Random Access Memory is used to hold the information that the computer is working on. This is different from the computer’s hard drive.  The hard drive is where Windows and your files and programs are stored.  When you power the computer on, it reads all the information needed to start Windows from the hard drive into memory. Once Windows is loaded, the computer loads any programs or files you open from the hard drive into memory. The reason for this is the computer's memory, or RAM, is hundreds of times faster than the computer's hard drive. This allows the computer to perform faster. 

Memory Swapping

If your computer doesn’t have enough memory it has to do something called memory swapping.  Memory swapping happens when the computer runs out of memory space and moves part of what it is working on to a temporary file, called a swap file, on the hard drive.  When the computer needs some of the data in the swap file it reads it from the hard drive back into memory.  Reading and writing to the hard drive this way is hundreds of times slower than just reading and writing from the memory. This causes the computer to slow down and often to stop what its doing, making you wait, until the memory swap is finished. Adding memory to your computer is the only way to minimize memory swapping. 

How much RAM does my computer need?

How much memory your computer needs depends on the operating system you are using and what kinds of programs and files you are using on your computer. Windows XP needs a minimum of 1GB of RAM to run smoothly. Windows Vista and Windows 7 need at least 2GB of RAM to run smoothly. This is with normal computer use such as going to web pages, checking email, watching videos, playing music.  Basically what most people do, most of the time. If you often run lots of programs at the same time, work with large photos, do graphics creation, or video editing, where the computer is dealing with a lot of large files you should probably double the RAM.  2GB for Windows XP and 4GB for Windows Vista and Windows 7.

If you’re going to upgrade to 4GB or more of RAM you need to find out wether you’re running the 32bit or 64bit version of Windows.  With the 32bit version of Windows XP, Vista and 7 there is a limitation on how much memory Windows and your programs can see and use.  The 32bit version of Windows can only see up to 3.5GB of memory.  If you put 4GB or more of RAM into a computer running the 32bit version of Windows it will only see 3.5GB of RAM.  In order to use the full capacity of 4GB or more of RAM you need to install the 64bit version of Windows.  I recommend Windows 7 64bit Home Premium.  You can get it online and in computer stores for around $110 US.  Don’t bother Windows XP 64bit.  It’s terrible and you probably won’t be able to find a copy anyway.  Windows Vista 64bit is OK, but since Windows 7 64bit is the same price or less and newer and yes its way better than Vista, I recommend Windows 7 64bit Home Premium.

Finding how much RAM your computer has

To see how much RAM your computer has in Windows XP go to Start, Right click on My Computer and choose Properties.  In Windows Vista and Windows 7 click the Start orb, Right click on Computer and go to Properties. Now you know how much memory your computer has and how much it needs to run smoothly.

Types of RAM

The next consideration is the type of memory your computer has.  You need to know the type of memory your computer has because you need to get the same kind of memory to match it. Since 2000 there have been 4 types of RAM used in computers.  These are RAMBUS, DDR, DDR2 and DDR3. RAMBUS and DDR were in use, in new computers, between 2000 and 2004.  DDR2 took over in late 2004 and was the main type of RAM until mid 2009 when DDR3 begin to take over.  DDR2 and DDR3 are both still used in computers today, but DDR3 is becoming more prevalent.  If you know when your computer was made you should have a good idea of the type of RAM that is in it or at least you can narrow it down to a few possibilities.  Desktop and Laptop memory come in different packages.  DDR-SDRAM sticks for desktops and shorter SO-DIMM sticks for laptops

Finding more information about your computer's RAM

If you know the make and model of your computer or the motherboard in your computer you can use one of online tools provided by memory makers to find the type of RAM your computer has. is a great resource.  They have a System Scanner that you let run and it tells you the type of memory that is in your computer and the bandwidth or speeds of memory that your computer can accept.  It also tells you the number of memory slots your computer has, which ones already have memory sticks in them and which ones are empty that you can add memory sticks to.  Along with the maximum capacity per slot and the maximum capacity overall. 

If for some reason the System Scanner doesn’t work for you, you can also choose the manufacturer, the product line and then the model number. It tells you how many memory slots you have and the type and speeds of memory your computer can take.  It can’t tell you how many memory slots are currently in use and how many empty slots you have to add memory.  If the System Scanner doesn’t work on your computer you will have to open the case and take a look. The type of memory is an absolute.  If your computer has DDR3 memory you need to add DDR3 memory.  If you have DDR2 memory you need to add DDR2 memory.  You can’t mix different types of memory.  In fact, the wrong type of memory won’t even fit into the slot. 

Memory Speed and Bandwidth

The bandwidth or speed of the memory is a different story.  For most computers there will be a few different memory speeds to choose from.  Its important to find out what speed of memory your computer has because your memory will only run as fast as the slowest stick of memory in the system. For instance, on this computer, the site says that it can take PC3-8500, PC3-10600 or PC3-12800 memory.  The 8500, 10,600 and 12,800 refers to the memory bandwidth the memory can handle which is measured in Mega Bytes or MB per second. Memory speed and bandwidth are directly related.  

We will cover this in Lesson 2. Lets say the memory this computer has is PC3-10600 and I, without checking, get PC3-8500 memory.  All of the memory will work together but the speed of all of the memory in the system will only run at the bandwidth of the slowest memory in the system.  So my 10,600MB/s memory will slow down and run at 8500MB/s. On the other hand if I pay extra to get 12,800MB/s memory and add it to the 10,600MB/s memory in my system, the new memory that is capable of running at 12800MB/s will come down to the 10,600MB/s bandwidth. Lets go over what we know so far about the memory in my computer.  Its DDR3, 3GB in capacity from 3, 1GB sticks of memory already in the system and there are 3 empty memory slots I can add memory to.

We’ll cover memory bandwidth, speeds and other features of memory in Lesson 2 and make sure you know how to find the information you need to buy the correct memory for your system.  In Lesson 3 we’ll show you more placed to buy online and we will install memory into a desktop computer.   In Lesson 4 well will upgrade the memory on another desktop and a laptop computer.

Memory Upgrading

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