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laptop memory upgradeLaptops are not as easy to upgrade as desktops. Many components are simply soldered on to the motherboard and others, though technically replaceable, are restricted by technical skill and cost.

There are, however, two upgrades you can perform that will improve your laptop. One is beefing up the RAM, and the second is replacing the hard drive – preferably with a solid state drive Should You Get A Solid State Drive (SSD)? [Opinion] Should You Get A Solid State Drive (SSD)? [Opinion] If you've kept up with some of the latest news about new computer parts, you may have heard about SSDs, or solid state drives. They are designed to replace your clunky, slow hard drive and... Read More . These enhancements can add life to your system. Better still, most laptops allow the replacement of these components with nothing more than a Phillips-head screwdriver.

Acquiring Hardware

I’m going to assume that you have already done the research needed to find out what would be a proper upgrade for your laptop. This is not a hardware buying tutorial. MakeUseOf Answers can be a good source of help if you’re unsure about what to buy. I also recommend reading the latest hardware reviews from top sites like PC Perspective, The Tech Report and Anandtech

Preparing For Work

Before you make any upgrade it’s wise to create a backup. This is obviously true for a hard drive upgrade, as you’ll re-install your operating system anyway. But it’s also true for RAM. There’s always the tiny, small, ever-so-slight chance of something going wrong. You don’t want to lose your data if that something happens.

Once you’ve made the backup find a nice, dry, level place to do your work. A kitchen table works well if properly swept free of crumbs. A desk works well if it’s large enough. Make sure you can have your tools nearby and that there’s nothing above or beside your work space that might leak.

Opening Up The Laptop

laptop memory upgrade

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When you flip your laptop over you’ll see a site similar to the one above. You’ll notice that the battery is at the top of the laptop and secured by a latch. At the bottom is a panel secured by a screw. That’s where the RAM and hard drive is located.

First remove the battery. Slide the latch or latches (some laptops have two) into their unlocked position, then pushed the battery out and lift it away from the chassis. Be gentle with it. You shouldn’t need to use much force. If you do, it’s probably because the latches are not entirely open.

laptop hard drive upgrade

Now grab a Phillips-head screwdriver and unscrew the panel covering the RAM and hard drive. The laptop in this example has one panel for both, but some laptops will have two separate panels. A rare few lack easy access panels, a situation I’ll address later.

laptop hard drive upgrade

The panel will probably still be secure after you’ve removed the screw. Use a sharp knife to pry the panel away from the rest of the laptop’s chassis. Firm, even force is the name of the game.

laptop hard drive upgrade

Move around the panel in a clockwise fashion, prying up the plastic every inch or so, until the entire panel comes loose.

Replacing RAM

Now you should see the RAM and/or hard drive. Most laptops will have just two DIMM slots for RAM, and they’ll lay one over the other. You have to remove the top DIMM to access the bottom one. Note that since you usually only have two slots, and they are usually both occupied, you can only upgrade RAM in most laptops by purchasing two new RAM DIMMs of larger capacity.

how to upgrade laptop

Removable requires that you press down the tabs on each side of the RAM slot. They may vary a bit in color, but will be generally similar to the white tabs in these photos. Push outwards on both sides simultaneously to release the first stick of RAM.

how to upgrade laptop

It will probably rise up to an approximately 30-degree angle on its own. This means it is free and you can remove it.

how to upgrade laptop

Perform the same steps with the second DIMM. Installing the new RAM is easy as pie. Just place them into the slot, then push down until they lock in to the brackets and stay flat.

Again, not much force is needed. If the RAM doesn’t want to stay it’s probably because you’re trying to install the RAM in the wrong position. The notch on the DIMM needs to line up with the notch on the socket.

Replacing The Hard Drive

The exact method used to secure a hard drive differs a bit from one laptop to the next, but most use between two and four screws. They will be apparent, as they are in the picture above, and probably Phillips-head. Just unscrew them.

Now lift up on the tab attached to the hard drive, as shown above. You will first need to slide the drive out a half-inch so that it detaches from the SATA socket, then you can lift it away. The drive will still be sitting in its hard drive cage, so you need to unscrew it before completely removing it.

laptop memory upgrade

Installing a new drive just requires a reversal of these steps. Put the drive in the hard drive cage and secure it with screws. Then slide the drive cage back into the laptop and replace those screws. Make sure all the screws-hole line up well. If they aren’t, it’s probably because you did not slide the drive entirely into its SATA connection or you may have installed the drive into the drive cage backwards.

Powering Up

Once you’ve replaced the component you wanted, re-install the plastic access panel, re-attach all screws and replace the battery. Now you’re ready to power up.

RAM is basically a plug-and-play solution. No drivers need to be installed. It should just be detected and used automatically. If your computer refuses to turn on, re-check that the RAM was properly seated and make sure you purchased the correct RAM for your laptop.

The hard drive of course requires you install an operating system, but otherwise it too won’t require any special drivers. Solid state drives can be an exception – some ship with useful custom software including TRIM support. Make sure you install the drivers, if applicable.

The entire process of removing and replacing either of these components can be done in five minutes or less. It’s not difficult – once you have an understanding of what you need to do. Feel free to post a comment if you have any questions or wander over to MakeUseOf Answers and ask your fellow readers.

  1. Anonymous
    October 14, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    Nice article. Too bad I wanna keep the rest of my MSI GX660R's manufacturer warranty.

  2. Mustafa A.
    October 6, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    Haha, after reading this article, I got the urge to upgrade my laptop! I ordered 12GB of RAM to max out the capacity of my laptop, and it just arrived yesterday! Will be installing it soon! :D

  3. Edward Bellair
    September 14, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Is an ssd really that big of an improvement? Even if it is faster, does it give you more room? Also with digital cameras and cell phones it is easy to snap a few pics for reminders of where the screws go. In case you forget.

    • tarzan2001
      September 16, 2012 at 4:08 am

      From what I've read over the last year, an SSD will lower your boot time anywhere from 20-40 seconds less than with a regular HDD. I haven't done it yet, but only because I don't have the money at the moment. There are SSDs with decent amount of storage space available now, but most people suggest keeping a second regular HDD with lots of space for installing and storing your programs and data. Only the OS and some key programs should be installed on the SSD so that its life span is not reduced by the constant write/rewrite action caused by accessing heavily used files. I personally think an SSD is a worthwhile investment worth doing if one has the money. :)

      Also, SSDs never need to be, nor should be, defragmented because they are very fast, and also because, again, the write/rewrite action of defragmentation will vastly reduce its life span.

      • Edward Bellair
        September 18, 2012 at 4:09 pm

        Thank you. I guess its like a lot of other things in life, I am waiting for the bugs to be worked out and the market flooded.

  4. Kao Vang
    September 14, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    With all the SSDs deals recently, can't go wrong.

  5. Curtis C.
    September 14, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Thanks for the tutorial! Now I know how to replace ram to my laptop in order to make my laptop faster! :)

  6. Faisal Ahmed
    September 14, 2012 at 6:04 am

    The price of SSD compels me to buy a 2 TB HDD...however, the RAM can be replaced to boost my laptop's sluggish performance...

  7. Michael Jan Moratalla
    September 14, 2012 at 2:09 am

    Thanks for the tutorial I really need this.

  8. Richard Steven Hack
    September 14, 2012 at 1:45 am

    I second the anti-static mat or alternatively an anti-static wrist cable. At the very least ground yourself in some way before removing the new RAM from their packaging.

    Also keep your fingers away from the RAM circuitry and chips. Handle them by the edges.

    On hard drives, if you really want to improve the laptop, replace the lame 5400 RPM hard drive with a 7200 RPM one if available. But be careful, a higher rotational speed means the laptop will get hotter and if it's not designed for that fast a hard drive, you could reduce its lifespan via overheating.

  9. Lucas
    September 13, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    It would have been nice to show how to put an SSD in plus inside by removing the optical drive!
    But nice topic.

  10. Olga
    September 13, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Upgrading RAM - done. About a new hard drive - I don't need yet...

  11. GrrGrrr
    September 13, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    nice article Matt, but I found following precautionary things missing:

    1. no mention of anti-static mat. this is a must
    2. no mention of a way to remember how to place removed screws, and where to put them back

  12. Alex Perkins
    September 13, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Upgrading the RAM in my laptop was one of the first things I did when I got it. Definitely one of the best things to do to breath new life into an old laptop.

  13. Truefire_
    September 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    I highly suggest a Solid State Drive over any other upgrades. My computer boots in around 5 seconds, I use it more than I ever did.

    • Truefire_
      September 13, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      I also recommend G.skill brand for RAM. Great customer service, quality, and prices. Best online store is Amazon or Newegg!

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