How to Install RAM

Installing new RAM is an easy way to give an aging computer some new life or give you more power for beefy applications. Luckily installing RAM is one of the least complicated upgrades you can do since it doesn’t require power hookups and there are usually no settings you have to adjust. If you’ve picked out the correct RAM to install then it’s just a matter of plugging it into the motherboard.

Installing new RAM is also one of the few upgrades that you can do to a laptop or netbook. Since processors are maintaining their usefulness longer your laptop might just need a RAM upgrade to get it back in action. We’ll talk about installing RAM in desktops and laptops since the process is fairly simple for both. I’ll assume you’ve already picked out the correct RAM for your upgrade and just need to get it installed.

Prepping to Install RAM

Two sticks of RAM thrown haphazardly on one anotherTo get started you’ll want somewhere clean and well lit to work. A kitchen table is always a safe bet. Installing RAM doesn’t require tools but you might need a screwdriver to get the side panel of your case off. Once you have a workspace set then you can shutdown your computer. Unplug all the cords from the rear of the case and bring it to your table. Since you’ll be working inside the case don’t forget about static. Use a wrist strap (like this one at Amazon) if you can otherwise ground yourself on a doorknob before working inside the case. Once you feel safe, remove the side panel and place to to the side.

If you’re building a new computer then you’ll want to install the RAM after the motherboard and processor have been installed. The process will be nearly identical as an upgrade except you won’t be removing any old RAM.

RAM Slots & Old RAM on your Desktop

MOBO RAM SlotsNow that you’re inside the case you can find the slots where the RAM is installed. These are most commonly near the processor and there will be either two or four of them quite close together. They are long and have plastic clips on each end for holding the RAM securely to the motherboard.

It’s important to note how your RAM slots are setup. RAM likes to be installed in pairs and your motherboard probably has slots that are paired for this. You can tell which slots are meant to be used together from numbers printed on the motherboard or from the colors of the RAM slots. It’s usually a safe bet that pairs of RAM modules should be installed in matching colored RAM slots. If all your slots are the same color then the slots might be numbered which means you should install the RAM in order printed on the motherboard. If you have neither colored slots or numbers than your motherboard is probably old and doesn’t care about the sequence. Look up you motherboard’s model number online to see if you can find any information if you’re ever unsure.

If you are doing an upgrade and reusing your old RAM it’s important to make sure things are matched correctly. If you have to remove your old RAM to get matched pairs in matching slots then do it. If you are replacing your RAM completely then you’ll need to remove the old sticks and put the new ones in their place.

How to Install RAM on your Desktop

RAM fitted into motherboardActually removing and installing the RAM is easy. To remove RAM gently push down on the clips at either end of the slot and the stick should pop up. Pull out the RAM stick and put it aside.

To install RAM take note of where the notch on the bottom of the stick is where it causes a break in the pins. This notch lines up with a spot in the slot so the RAM is installed the right way. Line these up and gently push the stick straight down into the slot. It should go in easily at first without much force. Notches on the side of the stick will catch on the clips and lock itself into place. If you’re having problems make sure these side notches are lined up correctly. Once the RAM stick is installed you can double check the side clips to ensure they’re fully raised up and locked.

Your job is nearly done now. Close up your case plug it back in and start it up. When your computer start you should be able to confirm your new RAM is recognized by your computer by going to Control Panel then System. If you’re using Windows 10 simply right click the Windows Start Button and select System from the menu.

If the RAM amount hasn’t change or is different than what you expect then you’ll need to do some troubleshooting. We’ll cover that in another article. If everything looks good then you’re good to go! Enjoy the new RAM!

Install RAM on your Laptop

Laptop RAM BayInstalling laptop RAM is also fairly simple. You’ll need your laptop, a screwdriver to open up the RAM bay and your new RAM. Make sure your laptop is fully shut down before you begin and not in sleep mode then remove the battery. Set everything up on a table with good lighting to get started.

Laptops have removable panels on the bottom that let you get to upgradable components. You might have a separate cover just for the RAM or a single large panel. If you’re lucky each panel will have a little icon indicating what’s underneath. Remove the screws of the panel and find a safe place for them to the side. A small dish works great since they are tiny and easy to lose.

With the cover off you will be able to spot the RAM. Depending on the laptop, each module might have it’s own spot or they might be stacked to save space. Whichever you have the process is similar.

Removing old RAM is done by carefully pushing the retaining clips that are hugging the RAM to the side. The RAM will then pop up at an angle so you can remove it safely. It should come out easily without too much force.

Install the new RAM by aligning the notch with the tab on the slot you are plugging into. Push the RAM into the slot at a 45 degree angle and be careful not to push to hard. When it’s seated push the RAM down flat and the clips should lock the RAM into place. When you have your new RAM modules installed replace the cover, replace the battery and start up the laptop.

You should be able to see the new amount of RAM by going to Control Panel and selecting System. If your computer fails to boot or the new amount of RAM is different than you expected you’ll need to do some troubleshooting to fix the problem. For that information, you can check out our article on how to troubleshoot RAM problems here.