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How to Add Memory to Your Computer

In principle, it's easy enough to open up the case of your computer and add memory. In practice you need to know a few things before you can give it a try.

What Types of Memory are There?

Ram has come a long way since the introduction of SDRAM back in the 20th century. Most computers use some form of DDR; with DDR3 and DDR4 being the most common, followed by DDR2. All three kinds are readily available, but they are not interchangeable; different types of RAM require different slots on the motherboard. The three main types of RAM and their packages are:

  • DDR2: DDR2 SDRAM comes in a 240-pin DIMM with a notch near the center of the connector. It runs at 1.8 Volts with a maximum transfer rate of 1066 MT/sec.
  • DDR3: 240-pin DDR3 SDRAM features the same pin count but a different pinout. It has higher latency but more bandwidth, running at up to 2133 MT/sec. In addition to higher speeds it features lower voltage dropping the requirement to 1.5 Volts.
  • DDR4: 288-pin DIMMs for 4GB DDR4 are different again. They bring another voltage drop to the table, topping out at 1.2 Volts for even less power usage. Transfers go up to 3200 MT/sec.

How Do You Select RAM for a Computer?

There are a number of things to look at before adding more memory to your computer. To start with, laptops require SODIMMs which are about half the length of standard DIMM. Once you have the form factor settled the rest of the features are relatively simple to figure out:

  • Data Protection: Servers not only work in data-intensive environments but also mission-critical ones. Where most home users can get by with unbuffered RAM, servers not only have registered memory but also ECC memory as non-ECC RAM is not robust enough for financial data.
  • Memory Kits: Most computers use dual-channel memory, and so it's easier to install two Crucial 4GB modules for 8 GB rather than use a single memory module. 
  • Performance Memory: Performance memory like Crucial Ballistix and Ballistix Sport comes with integrated heat spreaders that help the RAM handle more intensive loads such as high intensity gaming. 

Using A RAM Upgrade

Upgrading from a system based on DDR2 modules like PC2-6400, PC2-5300, all the way up to PC3-12800 effectively doubles your bandwidth. The DDR3 1600 modules are going to be much faster than the DDR2 SDRAM on the previous system. Faster memory gives you a better experience whether using a laptop, a desktop, or a workstation. In all cases you're going to be able to get more uses from all the other components of your computer if you have enough memory. Don't install enough memory, and your computer slows to a crawl as everything waits for data to load.

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