So you’ve installed a new hard drive and expanded your computing horizons with new PCI cards – and that’s great and everything – but your computer still runs too slowly. Sure you’ve got all that extra storage capacity and all those different ways to interface with your computer, but you’ve noticed that the old box just doesn’t move like it used to.
Consequently, you’ve been worried that you may have to put the old girl to sleep. After all, your computer’s had a good run. You’ve been through it all together – Slashdot to Digg, Dark Age of Camelot to World of Warcraft, HTML to PHP – but it just doesn’t have the memory to keep up with all the spry young apps of today.
Worry no longer! This week, the hardware installation series takes on speeding up your old PC by installing more RAM (random access memory).
RAM wha?! If you’re not familiar with RAM, think of it like this: If your CPU were a cook, then your hard drive is the refrigerator, and your RAM is the kitchen table. When your CPU starts cooking dinner, it lays out food from your hard drive/refrigerator on your RAM/kitchen table for fast and easy access. If your RAM is too small, you might not have enough space for all the food when the CPU starts cooking a big Thanksgiving dinner. That’s when you know you need more RAM.
To those of you afraid of opening up your computer:
Computer hardware isn’t the mysterious bad-boy you always thought. It s actually more like the mysterious bad-boy who just wants to be loved. Once you show hardware acceptance, it ll open up and totally love you back.
Opening up your computer comes with some risk. Always keep safety in mind when working inside your computer (as you should with any electrical device). That said, getting comfortable with cracking it open and fiddling around opens up a whole new world of options and upgrades to your personal computing experience.
Before you undertake your installation, remember: More RAM isn’t always the answer to fixing up a slow PC. After a certain point, your computer may not be able to take advantage of extra RAM, and additional memory may actually slow down your PC. Then again, if you’ve never installed RAM before, you aren’t one of those people.
The type of RAM we’re installing is DIMM (Dual In-line Memory Module – as opposed to S[ingle]IMM). Unless your PC is a real dinosaur, DIMM should be the right type. To make sure that you’re installing the correct RAM for your PC, be sure to check your owner’s manual. Motherboards can be finicky when it comes to RAM compatibility, so be sure to look before you leap. Regardless of specifications, the installation of RAM is simple and basically the same from motherboard to motherboard.
What you’ll need:
- Compatible RAM
- Phillips screwdriver
- Your computer
For my installation, I’ll be using the 184-pin DDR SDRAM pictured above.
Step 1: Prepare your computer
To get your computer ready, you need to make it safe. That means turning off the switch on the back of the power supply unit. (If you’re going to be using your PSU as a grounded metal source, you’ll want to keep it plugged in. If you have another ground, it’s best to unplug the computer completely.) After turning off the power supply, wait at least 10 seconds before cracking open your case to allow the motherboard’s capacitors to discharge. Once you’ve done this, you can sigh a deep breath of relief – you’ve circumvented the most dangerous aspect of installing RAM – electricity.
Once you’ve rendered your computer powerless, it’s time to open up your case. This process varies from case to case, but it’s relatively simple, especially with newer cases, and usually involves the removal of a couple of screws and a side panel. This should give you easy access and plenty of room to install your RAM.
While working inside your case, be mindful of static electricity. To avoid building up a static charge that could potentially short out a component, some people use an anti-static strap to ground themselves (available from most computer hardware retailers). I prefer not to use the strap. Instead, remember to touch a grounded metal surface from time to time to prevent a static charge from building. Touching your computer’s power supply unit (provided it remains plugged in and turned off) should do the trick.
Step 2: Find and prepare an empty RAM socket
This is easy enough. Just locate the RAM sockets on your motherboard and find an empty one. If you’ve never installed RAM in your computer, you should have at least one or two empty slots. When you’re choosing the socket in which to install your RAM, again you should consult your manual. For example, your motherboard may require you to fill the sockets in a particular order. In my installation, my motherboard supports dual-channel mode, but the sticks of RAM need to be installed in the correct sockets for this to work.
Next, the RAM retaining clips need to be opened up in order for RAM to be installed. All you need to do is press the retaining clips outward, opening the socket for installation.
Step 3: Install your RAM
Now pick up your stick of RAM by the edges – it s best not to get your fingerprints all over the working parts of the memory itself. The RAM should be slotted so that it can fit in the socket only one way, so just line up the slotted RAM with your motherboard’s RAM socket.
Firmly press the RAM until it is seated securely in the socket. If your socket has retaining clips, press down until the clips snap back into place.
After this, your RAM should be properly seated and installed.
Step 3: Finishing up
It’s all pretty simple from here on out. Replace your computer’s side panel and screw it into place. Plug in your power supply unit (remembering to flip the switch back on) and boot up.
Now you’re back in the realm of software where you’re the undisputed master. To verify that your RAM upgrade was successful, right-click on My Computer and select Properties. Under “Computer,” your expanded RAM size should be listed. If everything went well, you should see more MBs of RAM than you had before your installation.
Easy, right? Who knew upgrading your computer didn’t involve a trip to the landfill followed by a phone call to Dell? Your newfound ability to install RAM should help out with those long load times and major system slow-downs you’ve been putting up with lately.