In this age of instant gratification, nothing can frustrate a computer user more than a desktop PC that takes a really looooonnng time to finish a task. But that’s the reality when you’ve been using a system for a few years. In the interim there have been new applications you’ve downloaded, maybe even a new operating system that you’ve installed because you thought it would actually speed up your PC. The most likely culprit for this loss of speed is the memory (or not enough of it). The good news is upgrading to more memory is a simple enough fix, and we’re just the ones to walk you through the steps.
When it comes to upgrading your system’s RAM (random access memory), the hardest part isn’t the installation. Rather, it’s the research and shopping you’ll have to do to find the correct memory module.
How Much Memory Do You Have?
The first thing you need to figure out is how much memory you actually have. To do that, you point your cursor to the “My Computer” icon on your desktop, right-click, and choose Properties. This procedure is slightly different in Windows Vista and Windows 7, where you will have to click on the windows icon in the bottom left of your screen an then right click on “Computer”. The window that comes up will tell you the basics about your system, including how much memory you have on board.
Do You Have Open Slots?
The next step is to determine how many empty memory slots you have in your system. That helps you figure out whether you just need an extra memory stick or two, or buy completely new memory because all of the slots are taken. To find this out, you have to open your chassis. To do this you may need a screw driver, the DIMM slots will be the smaller slots usually located right next to the processor. In many cases, when you pop open the case you will discover only one or two of your RAM slots are actually being used.
You actually don’t even need to open the case to find this information. If you built the PC yourself and still have the motherboard manual handy, take a quick look at it to see exactly what type of RAM you have and in what configuration it needs be installed. If you don’t have the manual, or you bought your system, there are alternative ways to determine you memory upgrade needs. You can download CPU-Z, a great freeware program that will give you all kinds of useful information about your system, including what kind of RAM you are using now. Alternatively, memory manufacturer Crucial offers an application you can download that willscan your system and tell you what you are running now, how it is configured, and what the optimal upgrade would be. If you want to buy the suggested configuration you can do it all right on Crucial’s site. These tools can also tell you if your particular motherboard has a limit to the amount of memory you can install.
How Much Memory Do You Need?
At this point you have a couple of decisions to make. How much more memory do you want to add? If you just want to double your memory, and you have a DIMM slot available, then all you need to do is purchase another, identical stick (or module) of RAM. If you want to add more than that, then you have to find a memory module with a higher RAM capacity. If all of your DIMM slots are filled, then you will have to replace the current memory modules you have with modules with a higher RAM capacity. (For instance, if you have only two slots, and both are filled with two 256MB memory modules, you will have to replace both with, say, two 1GB modules.)
What Kind of Memory Do You Need?
And last, but certainly not least, you have to figure out what kind of memory you have. Is it DDR, DDR2, or DDR3 memory? Keep in mind that because of the way DIMMs are designed, you won’t be able to install one kind of memory stick in a slot meant for a different type. DDR won’t fit in slots meant for DDR2 or DDR3, and so on.
If you upgraded your PC to Windows 7 you might be able to go big and add in 8GB of RAM or even more. There’s theoretically no currently reachable upper limit on the amount of RAM addressable in PCs with 64-bit operating systems, though in practical terms 24GB is going to be the max for most people. Chances are that most manufactured today will be able to handle 8GB, but it’s best to check to be sure. And, in general, DDR2 or DDR3 isn’t going to matter in terms of capacities. DDR3 is faster and more energy efficient, but not inherently capable of greater capacities than DDR2.
Now, all that sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. And what you get in return is a desktop PC that is significantly faster.