Every year, the complexity and size of programs increases. Whether the increased complexity is worthwhile or not is another discussion (Internet Explorer 8, Adobe CS4 cough cough*). Being able to use these new technologies requires that you increase the capacity of your PC. Most people opt to buy new computers and throw away their old desktop when they find it to be too inadequate. However, simply upgrading the ram in your PC can make a world of difference. If you purchased your PC from one of the big manufacturers, then it probably has very cheap parts in it. The RAM sticks in your computer are the most often affected, as they cut back on the amount of memory total that they install and the speed of the rams tend to be sub-standard. Why waste a ton of money either buying a whole new computer or paying someone to install RAM for you, when anyone can do it? It's not a daunting task and I'll show you how simple it is. If you can put slices of bread into the slot of a toaster, then you have all the qualifications needed to upgraded your own RAM.
Things You Will Need
Phillips head screwdriver
First, you need to know what kind of RAM you have. Their are pretty much only 4 standards out there being used. If you purchased your memory from a store, then you can find what type of memory it uses by going to their website. The most common types of RAM right now, from oldest to newest, are: SDRAM, DDR, DDR2, DDR3. Alternatively, if you can't find the specifications for your ram through your manufacturer, then you can go to this site: http://www.crucial.com/
Most RAM manufacturers have a memory match up tool to help you find the right kind of ram.
Now, you need to find out how many slots you have. On your motherboard, there are a limited number of physical slots. You obviously can't install more RAM than you have space. Some motherboards only have 2 slots, others up to 6, though the average motherboard these days have 4. On the memory tool from crucial, it will tell you how many slots you have on your motherboard. For instance, if it says 4 (2 slots of 2), that means that you have 2 slots right next to each other, and another two forming a pair.
Now, you need to find out what the maximum amount of RAM you can install is. Motherboards put a cap on the maximum RAM it can utilize. So even if you install 4x 2GB sticks for a total of 8GB, if the motherboard only supports 4GB, then the extra memory will not be used.
OK, now that you have the type of RAM your system uses, it's time to decide how much you want to install. For most applications these days, the minimum amount of RAM that I would recommend is 1GB for smooth operation of everyday tasks. However, 2GB is most standard since some of the more memory intensive programs like photo editors, movie makers, and games tend to take up even more memory.
So you know your number of slots, and maximum RAM and have decided on how much memory you want. RAM comes in a variety of sizes, and they are found as multiples of 16MB. The most common RAM sizes today are 256MB, 512MB, 1GB, 2GB, and 4GB. Most of the time, it is cheaper to spread your RAM out into the most number of sticks while still adding up to the RAM total you want. For instance, if I wanted to have 4GB total, it is cheaper to find 4 x 1GB sticks compared to buying just 1 stick of 4GB. There are many places to order your RAM, and the number of online stores tailored to computers is huge. The most well respected and well known site is newegg.com. They consistently have lower prices than other stores and usually provide free shipping on memory. Also, they have the best staff and help you with any problems with your order. I know I'm sounding like a sales-rep but don't just take my word for it. Ask any computer enthusiast, and they will tell you the same. There are also a wide variety of manufacturers of RAM. Some companies are better off since they are responsible and are willing to help you out with replacements should your RAM be defective. Others are not so great. If you do plan on buying from newegg, then you can rely on the reviews of previous buyers. If a product has high reviews, then you can probably trust it. Some trusted brands are: PNY, G-Skill, Crucial, Corsair, Patriot, and OCZ. Of course, no name brands can sometimes work just as well, but if you ever needed help or a return, then you're out of luck.
There are some other specifications of RAM modules, but most of them are negligible for our basic needs. The biggest thing to look out for is frequency and cas latency. When browsing for RAM, you should try to get the highest frequency, or speed of RAM that your motherboard allows. For instance, if on the site, it lists my RAM as DDR2 800, you should try to find DDR2 800 RAM. Note however, that most RAM can run below their stated frequency. So if I purchased a DDR2 1066 RAM, I can still use it in my computer that only supports up to 800 speeds. The RAM will just be operating below its targeted speed. Higher frequency means higher costs, so you should't choose RAM that is above your motherboard's supported frequency. The same goes for CAS latency.
Once you have placed your order and have received your RAM, it's time to install it! Unplug the power from your computer once you have shut it down. All cases are different, and you need to figure out how to open your computer case. Sometimes, there are quick release latches in the back that opens up the side panel, while others are held in place with screws. You should always work on your computer in an area that is low in static electricity. A good place would be a room with wooden floors or tile. Carpet can generate a shock and can damage your computer components by accident!
Once the lid is off, you should be able to see the RAM inside. It is located on the top right of your motherboard (top being the direction closest to the top of your case). Now you'll have to take the old sticks out. On each side of the ram, there should be a small plastic lever. It helps clamp the RAM down in place. To release it, you will have to pull it back, away from the RAM. Some motherboards are different and have different release mechanisms, so just use common sense and don't force it if it doesn't move.
Great! Now, take the new RAM that you bought, taking mind as to the orientation of the sticks. They can only go in one way because of the little notches at the bottom. They line up with notches in the motherboard slots. Again, if it doesn't fit, don't force it.
Now that the new RAM is in place, lock it down by pushing the lever back into the groove on the side of the stick. That's it! You're pretty much done! Just put the lid back on and start up the computer.
If you have successfully installed the RAM, then you will notice a huge performance boost while running multiple programs.
Tips & Warnings
Never force or jam a stick of RAM. It's probably oriented wrong and you can damage your motherboard. Always work in an area with minimal static.