Expanding RAM is one of the easiest and most effective ways to upgrade your home office computer. The guide explains what you need to consider and how it works.

Unscrew the PC housing, insert the RAM stick (Random Access Memory), screw it on, done. Sounds easy, and it is. There are still stumbling blocks lurking when upgrading the main memory, because not every bar fits in every computer. A desktop computer, for example, takes up more RAM than a laptop. And not every laptop can be unscrewed without further ado. Also, opening the PC yourself can void your PC’s warranty. You should therefore only consider upgrading the memory if you have built the computer yourself or if its warranty has already expired.

Expand memory: That brings the upgrade

Before we get to work, the question arises as to whether more RAM really means better performance. The processor stores all currently running programs in the working memory in order to be able to access them again as quickly as possible. This is why RAM works much faster than, for example, internal memory in the form of a hard drive or SSD (Solid State Drive). Only when the main memory is full does the computer use this internal memory as a temporary store. And that is exactly what slows down work on the computer enormously.

A lot of memory makes sense if you either work on many programs at the same time or the programs you work with store large files in memory. This is the case with image and video editing software, for example. In addition, gamers benefit from a large and, above all, fast working memory.

However, a lot of RAM does not help if the computer needs to start up faster, for example. Switching from a normal hard drive to an SSD would be advisable here. A lot of memory also does not help to improve the graphics performance of the computer. A more powerful graphics card is required here. And a lot of memory doesn’t help either if you use particularly computationally intensive programs. A fast processor with many cores is required here.

Expand memory: Check the RAM slots beforehand

Now that we know whether more RAM will help us or not, it’s time to find out which RAM is right for us and whether it fits into our computer. Analysis software like CPU-Z does this work for you. Under the “Memory” tab, the program displays the memory type and clock rates of the installed RAM. Note both. This is important to avoid complications because, for example, a DDR3 module does not fit into a mainboard that holds DDR4 RAM. Current Intel processors are even able to use DDR5 bars.

DD-What? DDR stands for Double Data Rate. The designation provides information about the generation of the main memory. In 2022, DDR4 RAM will be the most common. If you still have a processor that only works with DDR3 RAM, you should consider whether it’s time for a motherboard and processor upgrade. DDR5 RAM marks the latest memory variant.

A look inside the computer is also advisable. Normally, a computer’s motherboard has four RAM slots, i.e. space for four RAM bars. However, computer manufacturers like to save money and also install mainboards with only two slots. To find out how many your computer has, it helps to look in the manual or in the computer.

While you’re about to unscrew the case, it’s best to take a look at the processor cooler as well. Large tower coolers in particular can protrude over the RAM slots with the fan. You may have to remove the fan from the cooler or remove the cooler completely to upgrade the RAM. We hang on to:

It is also advisable to take a look at your mainboard’s manual or to google it. You have to find out how much RAM it can process at most and at what clock rate it can do this in conjunction with the built-in processor. For example, if you buy a four-pack of DDR4 bars with 128 GB of memory, but your mainboard can only handle 64 GB, you are wasting money unnecessarily. The same applies to clocking, which the manufacturers specify as mega transfers per second (MT/s). If the board can process bars with a maximum of 3600 MT/s, there is no need to pay for memory with a higher clock rate. In most cases, the mainboard then automatically downclocks the memory. So you’re paying for performance you can’t call on.

How much memory do you need?

How much memory you need depends on what you do with the computer. Microsoft states that Windows 10 needs at least 4 GB of RAM to work. However, that is quite sparsely measured. At least 8 gigabytes of RAM should do its job in the computer for pleasant everyday work. Multitaskers, i.e. people who like to work on several programs at the same time and in Chrome, need a little more

How fast should the RAM clock?

The question remains as to how fast the main memory should clock. As a reminder: Manufacturers indicate the timing in megatransfers per second. The rule here is: the higher, the better. However, not every processor and every mainboard can handle a high clock rate. If this is the case, the mainboard automatically reduces the memory clock. Gamers in particular benefit from faster RAM.

In addition, the memory latency of the RAM is crucial. For this, manufacturers use the somewhat cryptic formulation Column Address Strobe Latency (CAS Latency). It is displayed in a string of numbers such as 16-18-18-38. What is meant by this is the time between the work processes of the computer, i.e. the command from the memory controller to the RAM to access a specific memory column of the module and the subsequent release of the working memory to the files contained therein. The lower the latency, the better.

Buyers should make sure that the clock rates and latencies of all modules are one. It is therefore advisable to install four identical memory modules.

Gamers, photographers and videographers want particularly fast memory that clocks particularly high – if the mainboard and processor play along. Unfortunately, you also have to dig deep into your pocket for this. The premium DDR4 bars undoubtedly include the G Skill DIMM 16 GB DDR4 4000 Kit Gold with a CAS latency of 14-15-15-34 and a maximum clock of 4000 MT/s.

However, 282 euros for 16 gigabytes is quite a steep price that cannot be justified by a really noticeable increase in performance. Price-conscious buyers are therefore looking at memory sticks with a slightly higher latency, such as the G.Skill DIMM 16 GB DDR4-4000 kit with the same clock rate and a CAS latency of 16-16-16-36 for 141.90 euros.

The next generation of Ryzen processors and the current generation of Intel processors work with DDR5 memory. By default, it clocks even higher than DDR4 RAM. At the beginning of 2022, the new type of memory was still extremely expensive, but DDR5 RAM is now available at reasonable prices, such as this 32 GB kit with a clock rate of 5600 MT/s and a latency of 36-36-36-76 from Corsair for 200 euros proves.

Office work does not require a particularly high-performance main memory. Here the price is the decisive purchase criterion and that the bars harmonize with each other. There are already reasonable kits for the popular Fuffi, such as this 16 gigabyte from G.Skill.

Expand RAM: How to install it in the computer

Apart from a few basic rules, there is not much to observe during installation. Turn off the computer and unplug it from the power outlet. Then press and hold the power button for about 15 to 20 seconds to remove any residual power on the computer. Then interrupt the power circuit on the power pack. The corresponding switch is located on the back of the power supply.

Before you unscrew the computer, you need to discharge yourself. Once you have touched the heater, you can unscrew the computer on the side. If you want to be on the safe side, place an antistatic mat on the work surface. Inserting the RAM modules is self-explanatory: There is a notch on the underside (gold plates). Look closely at the slots. There is a clip switch on the side.

The must be open before you insert the RAM. If you want to remove old memory, you must also press down on the toggle switch to release the old modules. Then align the memory to the slot according to the notch. Be sure to use both hands and evenly distributed pressure to press down on the memory sticks until the toggle switch on the side clicks into place. Finished.

If the memory is not installed correctly, the computer will not start. Some mainboards report errors via corresponding beeps. You can use the order of the tones and the manual of the mainboard to find out where the error is.

Expand memory on laptop

Unfortunately, expanding the working memory of modern laptops is no longer so easy. Many manufacturers now solder the RAM, making it difficult for consumers to do it themselves. In many cases you need special tools to even open a laptop. In addition, the opening process differs from model to model and opening the laptop yourself will void the warranty. If you are not 100 percent sure, it is better to consult an expert.

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Note: This article was first published in September 2022.

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