If you learn how to upgrade computer memory you could extend the life of your computer by a couple years. Most people decide it’s time to buy a new computer because the one they’re currently using is just too slow.
However, in many situations, people are unaware that by simply adding more memory to the computer they have, they can make it faster.
Upgrading Memory Improves Speed
Computer memory is extremely fast. So, if you have enough memory in your computer to have four or five programs open, and residing in memory (I’ll explain that in a minute), switching between these open programs should be quick. However, if you don’t have enough memory installed to contain each of your programs in active memory, the operating system has to “swap” those programs back and forth between active memory and what’s known as the swap file.
When you first boot up your computer, the main portion of the operating system is loaded into a special section of the system memory. When you launch a single program, it’s loaded into active memory. This is the installed memory, which is the memory that is readily accessible to the operating system and where it can be manipulated by you and the operating system. This is dynamic memory, also known as random access memory, because the operating system can access the data stored in it randomly. You can think of this as the page in a book you are currently reading.
The swap file is a file the operating system uses to write information to when it becomes too much for active memory. This type of memory can be thought of as a readily accessible filing cabinet. If what you have open is too much to be held in system memory, it gets written to this file and when you want to access it, it has to be located in the file and then read from the file, which resides on your hard drive, which is about one quarter as fast as your system memory, if you’re lucky.
Therein, lies the reason that by simply knowing how to upgrade computer memory can make your computer seem to be much faster than before.
“Oh man, that means I have to open the computer up and reach into that unfamiliar area and run the risk of ruining something,” you might be saying to yourself. Actually, if you’re careful, there is very little risk involved. So, let’s get to it, shall we?
How to Upgrade Computer Memory
Before you do anything, you have to know exactly what kind of memory is installed and how much. How much is easy: On the Desktop, right-click on the ‘Computer’ icon and choose ‘Properties’ from the drop down menu. A window will open up telling you quite a bit about your computer, including how much memory is installed.
To determine what kind of memory is installed, you either need the specifications sheet that came with it, or to look up the specs on the computer maker’s website. I’ve included a link to the detailed specs for my Toshiba Satellite laptop so you know what you’re looking for. As you can see, it came with 3GB of DDR2 memory (Double data rate, version 2). Pay special attention to the DDR type, it’s very important. Knowing this information, you can now go to your local computer store and buy more memory.
Open the Case
Unplug everything but the power cord from your computer and carefully drag it out of the nook you have it in. Determine how the case opens and remove the cover. It may be closed with a few screws, a latch, a button, or a combination. Once you have the case opened, you can disconnect the power cord. You kept it plugged in up to now, so you could discharge any built up static electricity your body had. Static kills computer components.
Out with the Old and In with the New
Take a look at the image of the motherboard and the memory slots at the top of this page. At either end of the memory cards (called DIMMS-Dual Inline Memory Module), you will see a tab that locks the DIMM in place. Lightly push down and away from the card and the card will pop up slightly. If it won’t come straight out, you can easily pull from one side. Maintain the card’s orientation as you pull it out.
Next, take a close look at the contact side of the card. You’ll notice there is a notch towards one side. This notch makes sure you can’t insert the card incorrectly. Orient your new memory correctly and insert it straight down into the memory slots. Push firmly until you hear it click into place, but don’t force it. If it doesn’t easily click into place, remove it and make sure you have it aligned correctly and try again. Once you hear it click, try pulling it out gently without unlocking the tabs. If it comes out, reseat it. If not, close the case.
Plug everything back in and boot it up. If no picture shows up, shut it down and reseat the memory. Change the positions of the DIMMs also. If the computer makes some weird, scary beeping noises, you didn’t properly seat the memory and will need to do it again. Just remember to ground yourself to the chassis before reaching inside the computer. Personally, whenever working on the guts of a computer, whenever possible, I do so with one hand and keep my other hand on the chassis, so that static electricity is unable to build up on my body.
Congratulations! You learned how to upgrade computer memory and you have just succeeded in making your computer switch between programs faster!