If you’re building a PC or upgrading an old desktop or laptop, you may need RAM. Here’s how to make sure it’s compatible with your system.
RAM, or Random Access Memory, is somewhere between the speed of your hard drive or SSD and that of cache memory. In other words, it’s like a plate sitting in front of you on the table, holding the food that you’re currently planning to eat. It stores things that your CPU system is currently using or that it is planning to use in the near future.
When it comes to RAM compatibility, it almost always relates to your motherboard in some way. So before you get going, you want to find out what motherboard your system has. You can then check the generation of RAM, which is usually expressed as “DDR” and then a number. Your motherboard will specify what type of RAM it supports, and it will most likely be DDR4 or DDR3.
Every motherboard has a maximum amount of RAM that it supports. Whether it is 32, 64, 128, 256GB, or whatever other amount, make sure you don’t get more than that, because that would just be a waste. It is also worth checking how many DIMM slots your motherboard has because those are where you plug your RAM in.
If you are trying to upgrade a system, you want to make sure that you aren’t mismatching RAM. Ideally, all of your sticks should be completely identical. You need to find out what RAM is already installed in that computer and see if you can get your hands on more of the same RAM modules. If that is not an option, make sure that the frequency (also known as speed of the RAM), capacity, and latency are the same for the RAM you are buying and the one that you want to pair it with.
One other thing that is easily overlooked is RAM clearance. If you have a particularly compact board, a really huge CPU cooler, or super tall and bulky RAM, you might find that the CPU heatsink will overlap the DIMM slots, not letting you plug your memory in. To prevent this, you can do a quick Google search for the CPU cooler that you are looking to pair with your motherboard and RAM and see if you can find people complaining about RAM clearance issues.
If you want to buy RAM for your laptop, you need to look for SO-DIMM sticks. Laptops use SO-DIMM slots unlike the usual computer DIMM slots for DIMM sticks. It’s just a different size format, and other than that, the whole compatibility side of things is the same, so everything we’ve said before still applies here.
To summarise, here’s what you need to check when buying RAM:
– Is it the right generation?
– Am I getting the right size format (DIMM for PC’s and SO-DIMM for laptops)?
– Do I have enough slots on my motherboard?
– Does my motherboard support the amount of RAM that I am planning to get?
– Will my CPU Cooler leave enough room for my RAM to be mounted?
– Am I getting modules that have the same specs?
If the answer to all of those questions is yes, then you are good to go!