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Laptop Memory Explained

Updated on July 9, 2009

How would you like to speed up your old laptop computer (or your new one)? One of the quickest and easiest ways to speed up a computer is to add more memory. It's not too terribly expensive either, and laptop memory upgrades are probably something you can do yourself with a little care. First lets talk a little about memory for laptops and what you'll need.

Laptop RAM Memory, A Simple Metaphor on Why it Can Speed Up Your Computer.

When you say computer memory, it's commonly understood to mean RAM memory. Still, some people get confused by RAM memory and hard drive memory, which is understandable. Think of a hard drive as storage though. I'll use a little metaphor I used on my pink laptops Hub. Think about your short term memory and what it does when looking up a phone number and dialing it. You go to a phone book, look up the number, put it in your head then dial the number. By the time you're halfway through the call, you've forgotten the number, which is ok, because you don't need it any more, and it's still in the phone book if you need it as a reference. Think of the phone book as a hard drive and the data as phone numbers. You don't need to memorize the whole phone book because you can just look things up as you need them. But imagine if you needed to look up a hundred numbers and call them. It would take forever because you'd have to keep looking up, dialing, looking up, etc. That's why a computer with limited memory is slow. It has to keep going to the hard drive (it has to physically flip through, just like you), looking things up (program data, etc) then loading it into memory. When it's memory gets full, it dumps a little bit out and looks at the hard drive again. It might do this hundreds of times a second, still, the more it has to look up the slower it is. So if it had more memory it could load more things and not have to keep going to the hard drive. Same with your short term memory, suppose you could memorize a hundred phone numbers, you could recall them from memory quicker than looking in the phone book. That's how memory can make your computer faster. There are other factors in computer speed of course, memory size is just one facet, so don't expect it to be a silver bullet.

Now let's look at how to find and install your memory in as non - technical way as possible. It's daunting to some, so I'll explain it without too much jargon.

By Swanksalot via Flickr.  Notice the clip that holds the memory down.
By Swanksalot via Flickr. Notice the clip that holds the memory down.

Things to Check When Buying Laptop Memory.

When you start looking for memory it can be pretty confusing with all the terms thrown around. The things you should mainly look for are pin numbers and memory speed. Most memory today is DDR (double data rate) memory. Your laptop depending on age, could use DDR DDR2 or DDR3. The higher the number the faster the memory. Basically DDR2 laptop memory is twice as fast as DDR and DDR3 is twice as fast as DDR2. You need to find out what kind your computer uses. The next thing you need to match is the number of pins in the memory itself. It needs to match up with the socket on your laptop. Pretty much all memory for modern computers is in the DIMM (Dual Inline Memory Module) configuration. DIMM merely refers to the shape of the memory, your laptop more than likely uses it, since the DIMM predecessor the SIMM (Single Inline Memory Module) is now obsolete. You shouldn't need to worry too much about it, but you might see the term DIMM come up. So basically if your new memory matches your laptop memory speed (it can be higher but not lower) and the memory pins match your laptop socket it should work. So in a nutshell your new memory needs to match:

  1. DDR number

  2. Memory Speed

  3. Pin Configuration

Install Memory for Laptops

By Fabio Bruna via Flickr.  If you get the right pin number the slots will match making it impossible to put the memory in wrong.
By Fabio Bruna via Flickr. If you get the right pin number the slots will match making it impossible to put the memory in wrong.

Installing Your Laptop Memory Upgrades.

It's not as scary as it seems, because of the pin configuration (assuming you've got the right one!) there's only one way the memory can go in. It's basically a matter of inserting it firmly and snapping down any retaining clips. There are usually instructions that come with the memory. The memory in most laptops is located somewhere near the battery compartment, so the battery will have to be removed. First you'll remove the battery and locate the memory compartment. Computer memory is very sensitive to static electricity, so what you need to do is touch something metal that's grounded like a water pipe, usually a doorknob will work too (I don't always do this and haven't had any problems, but better safe than sorry – Notice they don't ground themselves in one of the videos either). Now don't touch something metal then walk across the carpet to where the computer is, have it next to you. Then line up the pins and notches in the memory and your computer and snap it into place.

If you're still not sure what to do, there's probably somebody you know that can install it for you, it's a pretty simple procedure as you can see. There are find a laptop memory finder on the web that can help you choose what to do if it's too hard to find on your laptops manufacturer website. I usually buy cheap laptop memory as long as everything is ok, speed, pins, etc it works fine for me. Your manufacturer might tell you you need acer laptop memory, or hp laptop memory, or toshiba laptop memory or whatever, but if the memories spec's are the same then it will work no matter who makes the memory.

Laptop Memory Upgrade Video 2


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      danwat1234 5 years ago

      DDR2 twice as fast as DDR1 and DDR3 twice as fast as DDR2?

      Not really, as Latency I think doubles from DDR1 to two to three.