7 Things to Do With Old RAM Modules

Christian Cawley Updated 04-12-2019

If you’ve ever upgraded your PC or laptop, there’s a very good chance that the process involved inserting some more RAM. Boosting hardware performance with extra or faster memory is always a smart option.


But when you upgrade, there might be something left over: old RAM.

So, what can you do with your old RAM modules? Can they be reused? Or recycled? Should they be thrown in the bin? Here are seven ways you can find a new purpose for old PC memory.

Recycle Your Old RAM Chips

Upgrading your computer’s RAM is a great way to improve performance, typically with a choice of faster RAM or more RAM Which Is More Important: Faster RAM or More RAM? You've narrowed the source of your PC's sluggishness to RAM. What do you do? Increase the amount of RAM? Or would you be better off with faster RAM? It isn't that straightforward. Read More .

It’s unusual to gain such boosts without having something left over. Often, you’ll find that one or more RAM modules had to be removed for the new ones to be installed. Memory modules are usually fitted in pairs, both with the same size memory, speed, and from the same manufacturer.

After all, your system can only be as fast as your slowest RAM module. This physical necessity means that there can be quite a bit of RAM wastage.


1. Use Old Ram to Upgrade Old Computers

Upgrade PCs with old RAM chips
Image Credit: Edmund Tse via Flickr

In most cases, RAM that is removed from a PC or laptop can be reused in an old machine. If you take the time to check compatibility with the target device, this should be straightforward. You’ll need to take the same anti-static precautions when replacing RAM.

But what sort of RAM are you using? And how can you find out if the target machine will accept the modules?

There are various types of RAM—DDRAM and SDRAM (including several types of DDR RAM What's the Difference Between DDR2, DDR3, and DDR4 RAM? How do DDR2, DDR3, and DDR4 RAM stack up? Here's our explanation of RAM generations and what they mean for you. Read More )—each with different speeds. You’ve also got several form factors to deal with: SIMM, DIMM, SODIMM. Our quick and dirty guide to RAM A Quick and Dirty Guide to RAM: What You Need to Know RAM is a crucial component of every computer, but it can be confusing. We break it down in easy-to-grasp terms you'll understand. Read More  explains in further detail.


Several tools are available online to help you out. You can use the Crucial Advisor Tool to select the target computer’s motherboard and CPU combination. The tool will then advise on the correct RAM modules to install.

You could also use the Crucial System Scanner, an automated version of the above. It’s best to run this on both computers and look for an overlap in RAM module compatibility.

If you have friends or relatives with an old PC or laptop that desperately needs replacing, expanding the RAM is a great way to give it a quick speed boost. You should consider a lightweight Linux operating system too.

2. Donate to a Local School or Makerspace

How can you reuse old computer memory?
Image Credit: CSM Library via Flickr


It isn’t just technology-phobic relatives who might need the benefits of your old RAM modules, however. Budget cutbacks mean that local institutions (e.g. schools, churches, community centers) need any hardware they can get their hands on.

Naturally, there are processes to follow when donating hardware. In the case of RAM modules, this should be straightforward as they are volatile. This means that any data stored on them is lost when power is removed, unlike hard disk drives. (Disk drives need a thorough clean and deletion before being sold or donated.)

Hobby spaces (aka “makerspaces”) are also great targets for RAM. There are many ways to reuse RAM modules, from teaching PC building basics, to repurposing the modules completely.

3. Connect Old RAM to an Arduino

True to the DIY or makerspace ethos, why not connect RAM modules to an Arduino hobbyist board for extra storage?


Using solder, wires, a breadboard, and code, 1980s RAM modules have been successfully adapted to provide storage for an Arduino.

Admittedly, the 16MB modules in the clip can only offer 256KB to the attached Arduino UNO, due to hardware limitations. As such, this is not a great long-term project, but is an area where exciting developments could be made.

It might require some specialist knowledge, but if you can team up with others, it’s a project that’s worth following. Our Arduino beginner’s guide Getting Started With Arduino: A Beginner's Guide Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to use hardware and software. It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. Read More should help you get started.

4. Build a RAM Disk

Reuse old memory in a RAM disk
Image Credit: AndreasCA via Wikimedia Commons

Another way to repurpose one or more RAM modules is to build a RAM disk. This is essentially a device that you can plug old RAM modules into. Several have been produced over the years with varying degrees of success.

Such an example is the Gigabyte i-RAM (and its alternatives) a solid-state storage device. All you need to do is insert compatible memory modules into the device, and power it up. As RAM modules are volatile, such devices feature a battery to safely store data while the PC is switched off.

Most such RAM disk devices resemble the PCI card above. If you can get hold of one, it’s worth trying out, but may be expensive as they’re no longer produced. The technology hit a dead end with the development of SSDs, so physical RAM disks remain something of a curio, but a great destination for old RAM modules!

5. Make Your Own Computer Chip Keychains

This is a lot simpler than it might sound. All you need are some keyrings (you can buy these in bulk from eBay) and a handheld rotary tool. You’ll also need a protective dust mask and safety goggles.

Desktop RAM modules are too long to be used as a keychain, so you will probably need to cut them through the middle. Old laptop RAM should be fine as is.

Where you make the cut depends on two things: how many keychains you want to get from each RAM module, and where the holes are.

Almost without fail, RAM modules ship with tiny holes in them, perfectly sized for slipping keyrings through. This means you don’t have to worry about any drilling—just cutting, smoothing the edges, and attaching to your keys.

There’s a whole market on sites like Etsy for these, so look at what’s available and see how you can improve on them.

If you’ve got some spare motherboard available, meanwhile, you might consider making some place mats or notebook covers Recycle Old Computer Motherboards As Placemats, Jewellery, Notebook Covers & More How do you dispose of your old computer hardware? Some people take their old PCs to the local landfill; others wipe the devices and donate them to schools or relatives. I prefer to make as... Read More .

Whatever you do, however, make sure you wear a mask and goggles! The dust that results in cutting through RAM modules is dangerous if inhaled, and shards can cause blindness.

6. Freecycle Old RAM Modules

Freecycle your old RAM modules
Image Credit: William Hook via Flickr

Another simpler option would be to simply give the modules away. Perhaps you could use Facebook or Freecycle [] to tell the world you have some RAM? Just be sure to let them know the type, and what devices it would make a suitable expansion for.

Alternatively, you could simply drop the modules off at a local thrift store or church shop. If they can’t make use of the modules themselves, they could sell them for a few dollars.

Having difficulty finding interest? A quick eBay listing with a minimum price point (perhaps with free postage) is likely to pique someone’s interest.

7. Don’t Recycle RAM Without Paying

Of all the suggestions here, this is the most important: recycling safely is paramount. You don’t want hardware to end up in a landfill, where chemicals can leak over time and cause environmental issues.

This means, if you’re opting to simply dispose of the RAM modules, that you do so via a reputable organization. A quick online search will reveal local companies that you can pay a small fee to for safe disposal.

Don’t be fooled by “free” recycling services. These essentially strip down old hardware for any serviceable/reusable parts, then dump what’s left in a landfill. Free recyclers may take your old RAM modules away and use them, but there’s no guarantee.

You Recycled Your RAM: Now What?

With seven different ways to recycle your old RAM modules, you have no excuse not to ensure their safe reuse.

Here are the seven ways you can recycle or reuse your RAM:

  • Upgrade an old PC
  • Donate to a local school or makerspace
  • Boost your Arduino’s storage
  • Build a RAM disk
  • DIY computer chip keychains
  • Freecycle old RAM
  • Recycle with an approved disposer

Of course, you may know of some other uses for old RAM modules.

But you probably have some other old tech cluttering up your home. So, here are some ideas on what to do with that old router 10 Useful Ways to Reuse an Old Router: Don't Throw It Away! Old router cluttering up your drawers? Instead of throwing it away, here's how to repurpose your old router and save some money. Read More .

Related topics: Computer Memory, DIY Project Ideas, Recycling.

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  1. Mike Paterson
    December 10, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    In the UK, Freegle has replaced many Freecycle groups and is a great place to offer or ask for old computer parts and peripherals.

  2. Quinn Carver
    June 25, 2019 at 9:31 am

    Hello, There is also a market for gold recycling. You can cut gold fingered edges of the board and sell them in bulk on ebay OR find a youtube to show how to extract the gold yourself.

  3. Phil
    May 15, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    I use some pieces of old ram as a key fob. With memory on my keychain it helps me remember where I left it. ; > )

  4. nonsense
    October 10, 2018 at 11:56 am

    that is ridiculous. i give stuff and also i pay them? ch.. they should pay me instead! they gonna get resources like gold or chopper.

  5. Jamememeis
    February 19, 2018 at 3:04 am

    Old RAM will not leak or cause environmental issues more than any other normal kind of trash...

  6. Joshua
    December 28, 2017 at 10:22 pm basically the article could have been "Old RAM modules are useless; options available lead to exploitation or spending money or guilt over what you're going to do - throw them in the trash." A bit long, but it has a nice ring to it...

    Lol, donate them to a school... If you're an adult approaching a school & you're only excuse is "I have a bag of computer parts to donate...", then, at minimum, your face is hitting the pavement, at worst, you'll get yourself shot... This was for a U.S. audience, correct? I didn't check if the author is from somewhere like Canada - this could be normal for Canadians...I don't know...

  7. jack
    July 15, 2017 at 4:11 am

    I want to build a GAMING DESKTOP, low power to run off batteries - EQUIVALENT TO A GAMING LAPTOP.

    Will this do it?

    • Mitch
      August 12, 2017 at 5:01 am

      Are you an experienced pc builder? a battery large enough to power a gaming pc for any extended period of time ( and if it cant do an extended period of time what is the point) would be incredibly large. You don't really have to worry about the power consumption of your ram much more important is your gpu and cpu power consumption you'd have to throw a lot of extra money to passively cool it to save on power as well.

    • Mitch
      August 12, 2017 at 5:02 am

      and at the price it costs to build such a thing you are better off just buying a gaming laptop. unless of course you are looking for style points and in that case go right on ahead

    • Mitch
      August 12, 2017 at 5:03 am

      if you want the battery stored within the case youll need to build a custom case as well and this et up wouldnt be the least bit portable without a lot of diy

  8. Scott
    April 8, 2017 at 8:07 pm

    When it comes to RAM (RAM has decent gold recovery and if a recycler charges you to recycle it they are just being greedy) as well as other PC hardware (Power supplies, motherboards, etc), all should be able to be recycled at a reputable recycler for free. You will however need to pay for items such as printers, monitors, and other devices that don't have as much recoverable material in them to offset the cost of recycling. I owned an e-waste recycling company recycling over 100,000 pounds of material a week.

    • Christian Cawley
      April 11, 2017 at 12:43 pm

      Thanks for the tip, Scott!

  9. KT
    April 8, 2017 at 1:24 am

    I had a bunch of sticks laying around mostly ddr400 and ddr800 and the new job I got has a bunch of old pc's powering everything. Well, they all got a RAM boost on me. I actually repaired a down CNC machine with a few sticks I had laying around. The original RAM overheated.

    • Christian Cawley
      April 8, 2017 at 8:13 am

      A great use of old RAM!