How To Upgrade A Laptop’s RAM, Step By Step

Tina Sieber 30-04-2013

laptop ramIs your laptop old, slow, and has the hardware never been upgraded? Working on a slow computer can be a real drag. Before you buy a completely new one, however, you should consider ways to give your old friend a new life 5 Ways To Give An Old Laptop A New Life Computers seem to become slower as they age. Operating systems tend to become more resource-hungry over time, hardware ages, and the exuberance felt during the first months of laptop ownership fades. This is why some... Read More and decide whether it’s worth to upgrade or repair your laptop Should You Upgrade Or Repair Your Computer? Computers age rapidly. In one year they mature, in three years they become elderly and after five they are ready for retirement. Both geeks and casual users have become accustomed to – or annoyed by... Read More . In addition to a fresh installation of Windows, upgrading the RAM How To Upgrade Your Laptop In a Flash: Add a New Hard Drive & Increase RAM Laptops 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... Read More and adding an SSD 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 is pretty easy and can make a major difference!


Not sure whether you can upgrade hardware all by yourself? Don’t worry, it’s probably not as complicated as it may seem. While not every part of a laptop is easily accessible, the laptop RAM is often super-easy to exchange. Check whether your laptop has an access hatch for the RAM on its back or whether the back cover or keyboard is easy to remove to expose the RAM. If it’s not instantly visible, consult the manual or the manufacturer website. Once you know how to physically access the RAM, the hard part is to figure out how much RAM you need, and which type of RAM is compatible with your laptop. So let’s go over the basics and see what you really need, before we dive into the actual handicraft.

What is Laptop RAM and Do I Need More?

RAM stands for Random Access Memory. It is also known as physical memory; virtual memory is explained in the next paragraph. RAM is used to temporarily store information of running processes and tasks. The more RAM is available, the more processes can run simultaneously.

Performance issues occur when the available RAM is exhausted. To free up memory for active processes and tasks, the system starts to write excess data, i.e. information of idle processes or tasks, to the hard drive (virtual memory). When the user returns to an idle process or task, the system must first free up RAM, then fetch the data of the requested item from the hard drive and load it into the RAM. Since hard drive read/write speeds are significantly slower than RAM read/write speeds, the user experiences lag.

If you frequently experience lag when you want to switch from one program to another, adding laptop RAM will probably give your system a significant boost.

laptop ram


How Much RAM Do I Need?

This depends on what you do with your computer and the amount you can add is limited by the type of operating system you have.

All 32-bit Windows operating systems support a maximum of 4GB RAM. Windows 7 Home Basic 64-bit is limited to 8GB RAM, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit can use a maximum of 16GB RAM. All other 64-bit versions of Windows 7 support up to 192GB RAM. The regular edition of Windows 8 64-bit is limited to 128GB RAM, while the Professional and Enterprise editions both support up to 512GB RAM. A full overview can be found on this Memory Limits for Windows Releases page.

Now that you know the maximum RAM your operating system supports, let’s find out what you currently have. In Windows, click the keyboard shortcut [CTRL] + [SHIFT] + [ESC] to open the Task Manager. Switch to the Performance tab and check what it says under Physical Memory (MB). Total indicates the amount of RAM currently installed on your system.

upgrade laptop ram


If your total RAM is less than what your system supports, you have room to upgrade. And if your RAM is maxed out, you have reason to upgrade. Keep the Task Manager open and see how your RAM performs over time as you continue using your computer.

You can assess how much information is written to virtual memory using the Performance Monitor. In Windows 7, go to START, type perform into the search field, and open Performance Monitor. Under Monitoring Tools, click Performance Monitor, then click the green + symbol to add another variable. Pick Paging file from the list and click the Add >> button at the bottom. Click OK and watch. This will give you an idea how much RAM you really need.

upgrade laptop ram

Generally, 2-4GB should suffice for normal web browsing and text editing. 8GB if you run multiple programs simultaneously and/or keep a lot of browser tabs open. More only if you run memory-intensive programs.


What Type Of RAM Do I Need?

Before you can upgrade your memory, you need to figure out which type of RAM is compatible with your laptop. The most convenient way to look into your laptop and determine what will fit, is to use Crucial’s Memory Advisory or System Scanner Tool. For the first you need to enter laptop manufacturer and model, while the former is an executable that scans your system and automatically determines matching hardware. Both tools are available from the Crucial homepage.

upgrade laptop ram

Kingston offers a similar service for searching the right type of memory. You can search by system/device, memory part number, or memory type. Unlike Crucial, Kingston actually had my laptop model listed and recommended a compatible module.

upgrade ram on laptop


If you are unsure about your laptop model, I recommend running Crucial’s system scanner. It will show you what type of memory stick you are using right now and recommend a new module based on that. My laptop, for example, has one 4GB memory stick, thus one of the two slots is available.

upgrade ram on laptop

Crucial’s system scan detected a DDR3 PC3-10600 RAM stick and offered a respective module. The result came with several notes about things to keep in mind. Kingston on the other hand determined that a DDR3 1333 MHz RAM stick is compatible with my model’s memory slots, but didn’t provide further details or recommendations.

The key pieces of information here are DDR3 PC3-10600 and 1333 MHz. A wrong type of RAM (e.g. DDR2 instead of DDR3) won’t fit into your laptop. And to get optimal results, be sure to buy a RAM with a matching clock rate (identical MHz count to the one you already have). Also keep in mind that laptop RAM modules are significantly smaller than those for desktop computer, hence they are called SO-DIMM for small outline dual in-line memory module. Don’t accidentally buy the wrong type of DIMM.

Here is a summary of what you need to know:

  • Type of RAM, i.e. DDR, DDR2 or DDR3
  • Amount of MHz supported by your laptop
  • Physical size (SO-DIMM for laptops)

Obviously, both Crucial and Kingston offer these free tools because they want to sell you their respective RAM modules. And both manufacturers offer good deals and high-quality hardware. However, with the information gathered from their tools, you can safely shop at eBay or Amazon or your local electronics store. I purchased my Kingston 8GB RAM kit from Amazon.

upgrade ram on laptop

Theoretically, I could have upgraded to 8GB RAM by adding on additional 4GB module. However, this can cause performance issues due to RAM incompatibilities. In the worst case, your system won’t boot or one of the modules won’t be recognized. If you want to keep the original RAM module and if you are not comfortable with adjusting settings in the BIOS, you need to find a second module of the exact same make, i.e. same frequency, latency, and voltage. Because it’s too easy to mess this up and because changing BIOS settings to fix incompatibilities can be complicated, you will often hear the recommendation to buy a completely new memory kit and remove the old memory stick. It’s the easiest and safest choice.

How Can I Fix BIOS Settings In Case I Have a RAM Mismatch?

If you have two laptop RAM modules with mismatched frequency, latency, or voltage, your BIOS will harmonize the settings and default to the lower value. That’s if it recognizes both modules or boots at all. To prevent a loss in performance, you can overclock your RAM. Do this at your own risk!

Before you add the new RAM, boot into your BIOS and check whether you can adjust RAM latency, frequency, or voltage. If that is not possible, find out whether you can upgrade your BIOS.

If RAM settings can be changed, set the higher values of the two modules. Again, you are overclocking the RAM at your own risk! Particularly increasing the voltage can damage the hardware. Save and exit the BIOS and proceed as described below.

How Do I Add New RAM Modules?

Once you hold the new RAM modules in your hands, there is no escape. Now you must lay hands on your laptop and add the new hardware. The exact procedure will depend on your individual laptop model. I previously demonstrated Disposing Of An Old Laptop - What To Recycle, What To Keep Laptops are a treasure trove of parts that can live more than one life. Whether they continue a life as spare part or become the subject of a DIY tech project, you can get a... Read More how to salvage hardware from an old HP Compaq nw8440 and showed you where the RAM modules sit and how to release them.

Today, I will briefly show you how to do the same with a Sony Vaio VPCCB laptop. If you have a different laptop model, I recommend visiting the manufacturer’s website to find a manual or instructions for your device. Before you take apart your laptop, make sure it is turned off, unplug the power cable, take out the battery (if it’s removable), and ground yourself.

Locate the removable plastic cover that covers the RAM compartment. There are typically two compartments; the larger one holds the hard drive. Release the screw of the smaller cover and remove it. This should expose one or two RAM slots of which one or both can be filled. To release the module, pull back both sides of the frame on its left and right.

How To Upgrade A Laptop's RAM, Step By Step RAM Sony Vaio VPCCB

To insert a new RAM module, slide it into the slot in a ~45° angle, be sure it really sits in the slot, then push it down. In my case, the upper slot would resist the RAM module until I had found the right angle first. With the lower one, however, the module just slid in as I pushed it in and down simultaneously.

How To Upgrade A Laptop's RAM, Step By Step Insert RAM

You know that you inserted the modules right when the little notches on the sides of the RAM module align with the small protrusions of the frame.

How To Upgrade A Laptop's RAM, Step By Step Installed RAM

And that’s it! Put the cover back on, tighten the screw, and boot your computer.

You can enter the BIOS before you boot into Windows to check whether the RAM was recognized and whether there are any additional options you can enable. My new RAM was recognized fine and there were no extra options to choose from.

laptop ram


The procedure of upgrading the laptop RAM is straightforward, technically easy, and can give your system a huge performance boost. Since most users max out the RAM before the CPU reaches capacity, a memory upgrade is usually smarter and equally effective as getting a new computer. And besides, it’s a lot cheaper and you don’t have to worry about migrating your data. There are also a few tips to keep in mind on how you can clear memory and increase RAM on your Windows computer.

Have you ever upgraded computer hardware yourself and what was your experience?

Image credits: Snail on Keyboard via Shutterstock

Related topics: Computer Maintenance, Computer Memory.

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  1. george johnson
    June 12, 2020 at 6:20 pm

    Two of my three laptops were easy to upgrade went on amazon and ordered two 4 GB DDR3 laptop memory chips for $30 or $40 and slapped them into the machine bingo. Less lag and more vroom.

    The third is a really nice old Dell XPS-M1530 complete with a remote control but requires the old DDR2 which come in either 667 or 800 speed and have a different pin configuration. Come to find out stunes on ebay think these should be worth $50 per 4GB chip yeah $100 to get two old old dusty ram chips! Cray right? I mean $100 is more than I paid for ANY of these old laptops. Certainly not worth $100 to upgrade from 4GB to 8GB just to reduce the memory swapping so maybe I'll just stick with linux on it. Someone should make a DDR2 to DDR3 adapter. Right?

  2. Maria
    July 6, 2016 at 8:05 am

    I have a Sony Vaio and after watching youtube videos I diagnosed that my screen was not turnin on due to the Ram, so before buying anything i decided to clean them up - one is 1 GB and the other is 2gb - so i did but nothing happened; I repeated the cleaning two more times and thought the memory sticks were bad or my dgx was wrong, anyways I tried a last time and changed the memory sticks of slots, moved the left one to the right side and viceversa and voila, got my computer back! Yep i did it, I am a 54 year old woman never touched a computer only to write! Now i am going to buy the new Ram, and thanks to you I learned about frequency and all that so probably will buy the two new upgraded pieces and will install them myself, easy! Thank youuu!

    • Tina Sieber
      July 6, 2016 at 5:48 pm

      Very welcome, Maria! I'm super happy to hear from readers who could fix a computer issue with the help of one of our articles. Good on you for giving it a try and succeeding!

      Not sure what you mean with "cleaning RAM", but switching the RAM modules probably fixed a common issue, namely one of the RAM modules not sitting properly in its socket. This could have been caused by physical cleaning or an impact on the laptop, like a drop.

  3. Anonymous
    January 22, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    (I dont know if what I wrote got posted so here I go...)


    I ran both Crucial Scanner and CPU-Z, and they gave me different readings:
    Crucial Scanner told me that I need DDR3 PC3-12800, but CPU-Z told me that I need DDR3 PC3-10600. My laptop is Lenovo B570.

    Which one is correct, and which one should I follow?

    Please help. Thanks in advance!

  4. Josh
    January 22, 2016 at 7:49 pm


    I ran both Crucial Scanner and CPU-Z, and they gave me different readings:
    Crucial Scanner told me that I need DDR3 PC3-12800, but CPU-Z told me that I need DDR3 PC3-10600. My laptop is Lenovo B570.

    Which one is correct, and which one should I follow?

    Please help. Thanks in advance!

  5. Sam
    January 5, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    i have hp Pavilion dv2401tu model laptop.please tell which max. frequency ram it will support.Thanx

  6. Anonymous
    July 21, 2015 at 12:01 am

    Hello. I have a Lenovo laptop which came with a pre-installed Hynix (HMT351S6EFR8C-PB N0 AA, which is basically 1600MHz, 4GB). I wanted to add an additional 4/8 GB RAM but the one I'm getting (HMT451S6BFR8A ) is from the same brand and almost similiar except for VDDQ voltage is different.

    VDDQ=1.5V +/- 0.075V
    VDDQ = 1.35V (1.283V to 1.45V)

    I wanted to know if it was going to make any difference?

  7. Anonymous
    July 3, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    helloo, i have a laptop g4 1003tx with DDR3 SO-DIMM 2GB PC3-10700 (667 MHz) that supports dual channel.. thing that i want to ask to you is i want to buy this ram

    SODIMM HYNIX 2Rx8 PC 3 PC-12800s DDR3 4 GB ..
    is that compatible?

    • Tina Sieber
      July 4, 2015 at 2:45 am

      Both your current and the new RAM module are DDR3 SO-DIMM PC3. I can't tell you whether your motherboard supports 12800 (higher clockspeed), though. You need to find out the amount of MHz your motherboard supports.

      To be sure, please run one of the tools recommended above and it will tell you exactly which type of RAM is compatible with your computer.

      • Anonymous
        July 4, 2015 at 2:58 am

        my motherboard supports pc10700 so if i put higher pc it will decrease its speed to pc10700 right?
        and last thing i want to ask again is, if the amount of chips/ICs is different (mine is 4 chips/face, total 8) and i want to buy this ram which has 8 chips/face total 16 is that gonna work?

        thanks for the answer Tina :D

  8. Ray
    February 14, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    It 'was' a good tutorial. However, (but not to be critical here with a 'however'), after being messed around by Bill Gates' mob I got rid of windows on my laptop in favour of the Linux 32bit OS. Much better too. Now, looking into your points about RAM/32 or 64bit OS systems, my laptop has two slots - one containing a 2GB stick and the other empty, so it looks like, after reading this tutorial, little miss lonely devoid of company and all on her own 2GB will have the company of a sister 2GB alongside her.

  9. Nevzat A
    May 1, 2013 at 7:46 am

    Great article. Year by year, we have more RAM types and it's getting harder to choose the correct type of RAM for our hardware. We need all these tips, thanks MUO.

    • Tina Sieber
      May 2, 2013 at 8:14 am

      Most welcome Nevzat. Fortunately, there are great tools out there that help navigating the hardware jungle.

  10. Humpster Sameasabove
    May 1, 2013 at 4:10 am

    thanks maybe I can add afew more gigs to my laptop

  11. Guy McDowell
    April 30, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    Wickedly awesome and thorough article. Where I find the additional RAM speeds things up is when I'm multi-tasking with several applications open, or if I'm using Photoshop or other programs that require a large 'scratch disk' as it were.

    8 GB. Totally jelly right now.

    • Tina Sieber
      May 2, 2013 at 8:12 am

      Or when you have 3 Chrome profiles and 30+ tabs open at the same time. ;)

      • Guy McDowell
        May 2, 2013 at 11:50 am

        It's funny cuz it's true.
        It's also sad cuz it's true.

  12. Nikita
    April 30, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Thank you for the article! I've been planning to upgrade my laptop for a long time now. Could you forgive me for a newbie question : my laptop has two DDR2 slots, one of them is taken by a 2GB RAM module. What happens if I buy and install a RAM module with the same clock rate, but different capacity (e.g. 1GB ) alongside my existing one? Or is it impossible to do so? Thank you!

    • Alberto Lerma
      May 1, 2013 at 7:54 am

      Yes, the "sizes" doesn't matter (it could be 1 stick of 2 GB and 1 of 512 MB too) as long as the type, voltage and clock rate are the same (and even if they weren't the same you computer might be like "yeah, whatever man I'm cool with this").

      • Nikita
        May 3, 2013 at 1:24 am