How to Upgrade RAM and Get More RAM on Your Laptop

Yes, you can on most but first be sure a memory upgrade is possible for your specific laptop

Restart your computer or shut down running processes for the quickest way to free up RAM

How to Check if You Can Upgrade Your Laptop’s RAM

The first step in upgrading your laptop’s memory is finding out if you can do it. Checking the bottom of your notebook for a dedicated memory access panel is an excellent first step. Although it’s not strictly necessary, if you have one, then your laptop should be upgradeable.

You can also use the Crucial System Advisor tool to determine whether your memory is removable or not (i.e., whether it’s soldered to the motherboard and cannot be replaced). Input your laptop manufacturer and model number. If it suggests that your memory is removable and recommends some specific modules, you’re in luck: you can upgrade your laptop’s RAM.

Alienware Area-51m details from the Crucial System Advisor tool
 Alienware Area-51m details from the Crucial System Advisor tool.

The Crucial tool will also tell you what your laptop’s maximum memory is in terms of its gigabyte (GB) capacity. To find out whether your existing RAM is less than that and therefore worth upgrading, you can look at Task Manager’s performance tab.

Memory details listed in Windows 11 Task Manager

If your current memory is less than the maximum amount your laptop supports, you can upgrade it. You can also use Task Manager when you’re working your computer hard to see if you’re using most of your memory. If that’s the case, then an upgrade could improve system performance.

How to Perform a Laptop Memory Upgrade

The first step in upgrading your laptop is buying it. The right RAM for your computer depends on the model, your memory needs, and your budget. Check with your laptop manufacturer to find out what memory capacities and speeds are supported, and opt for what suits your needs the most.

As a general rule of thumb, 16 GB is more than enough for most users unless you’re doing heavy video editing or other intensive tasks.

Laptop RAM also comes in SO-DIMM size, not DIMM, so make sure to buy laptop memory.

It’s a good idea to ground yourself when performing any system upgrade with computer components. You can touch a grounded object near you or wear an anti-static wristband. Also be mindful of other important computer safety repair tips.

  1. Remove your laptop’s power cord and battery (if possible).

  2. Remove the screw(s) on the RAM access panel.

    Some laptops allow you to upgrade the memory after removing the entire underside panel, but this can be highly labor and time-intensive, as well as risky. If you decide to do so, be sure to consult a detailed teardown guide of your laptop model before doing so, and even then, proceed with extreme caution.

    Accessing RAM in a laptop
  3. If you remove the old sticks to make room for the new ones, then unclip the retention arm(s) holding them in place, gently slide them out of their RAM slot. Experts recommended doing this since mismatched memory can reduce your memory’s overall performance.

    Clips that hold a DIMM onto the motherboard of a laptop.
  4. Making sure to line up the SO-DIMM sticks in the correct orientation with the RAM slot, carefully insert them into it. Press down gently to hold them in place, then press the retention arm(s) back into place to hold them down.

Replace your laptop’s panels and boot it up. Use Task Manager again to confirm whether your RAM upgrade has been successful.

The Most Common Types of RAM

 Although all RAM basically serves the same purpose, there are several different types commonly in use today:

  • Static RAM (SRAM)
  • Dynamic RAM (DRAM)
  • Synchronous Dynamic RAM (SDRAM)
  • Single Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic RAM (SDR SDRAM)
  • Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic RAM (DDR SDRAM, DDR2, DDR3, DDR4)
  • Graphics Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic RAM (GDDR SDRAM, GDDR2, GDDR3, GDDR4, GDDR5)
  • Flash Memory

How Do I Increase My Computer’s RAM?

Random-access memory, or RAM, is the physical hardware responsible for handling active processes on your computer. The more RAM your machine has, the more tasks it can perform simultaneously. Upgrading the physical hardware is the most effective way to have more RAM. Still, if that’s not an option, you can increase available memory by limiting the number of applications and processes running simultaneously.

Viruses and memory leaks can cause problems with RAM, so fixing these issues will make a big difference.

How Much RAM Can I Add to My Laptop?

Some laptops come with an extra RAM slot so that you can add more memory on your own. You might be able to replace the RAM, but the maximum memory your computer can handle depends on the rest of the hardware.

Use the Crucial System Advisor tool to find out if your computer’s RAM is upgradable, then check the Performance tab in Task Manager to see if your current RAM is less than the maximum. On a Mac, go to the Apple menu > About This Mac and select the Memory tab to see how much RAM you have.

Apple’s laptop line of computers (MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro) no longer supports adding RAM after purchase. Any Mac laptop with a Retina display does not support user-replaceable RAM.

How Do I Get More RAM on My Laptop for Free?

Before you go out and purchase more RAM, here are some ways to make the best use of your computer’s RAM:

These tips apply to Windows PCs, but most of the information is also relevant to Macs and Linux machines.

Restart Your Computer

Restart your Windows PC or fully shut down your Mac. Unlike your computer’s hard drive, everything stored in the RAM is cleared out each time your computer restarts. If programs start running slowly, a reboot to clear your computer’s memory may be sufficient to smooth things out.

Quit Running Programs and Processes

Memory and End Task in Windows Task Manager

On Windows, you can see exactly how much RAM each program uses from the Task Manager under the Processes tab. Select the Memory header to sort processes by RAM usage to determine which programs consume the most RAM, choose the process you want to quit, and select End Task. You can check memory use in the Activity Monitor to quit apps and processes using too much RAM on a Mac.

Clean Up Your Background Apps

Background apps in Windows 10 settings

If you use Windows, you could have apps running in the background that you don’t even know about. Check out our guide on how to stop Windows 11 apps from running in the background. For older versions of Windows, go to Settings > Privacy > Background Apps to control which apps are running behind the scenes.

Clean Up Your Desktop and Close Finder Windows

On a Mac, all the files and apps you have on your desktop get loaded into RAM. So if your desktop is cluttered with icons, delete them or move them to a folder. Each Finder window also loads its contents into RAM, so close any open windows you don’t need.

Disable Startup Programs

Disable unnecessary startup programs on Windows or remove login items on Mac. By default, some programs start up as soon as your computer boots. Instead of closing them one by one each time, you can control what happens when you first start your computer. Disable any apps you don’t use daily, so they aren’t using up RAM unnecessarily.

Update Your Software and Operating System

If there’s a new version of your operating system or a program you frequently use, it’s probably better optimized for your computer than the older version you have now. Having the latest versions of software can prevent memory leaks and other bugs that affect performance. Be sure to keep Windows up to date and update your Mac regularly.

Uninstall or Disable Programs You Don’t Use

Uninstall or disable programs you don’t use. Closing programs is the quickest way to free up RAM, but if you don’t need a program, you might as well uninstall it, so you don’t have to worry about it ever running in the background. You can uninstall apps on a Mac using Finder.

Scan for Viruses

Viruses and other malware can slow down your computer, so you’d be wise to periodically check for and eliminate malicious programs. Regularly running antivirus software is recommended to keep your computer in peak position anyway; that said, if it’s running in the background, then it’s using RAM that other programs could be using.

Check for Memory Leaks

A memory leak occurs when a program doesn’t release RAM back to the operating system when it’s not in use. Typically caused by software bugs, Windows memory leaks can be diagnosed and fixed with the Resource Monitor tool. If you see that a program uses an unusual amount of RAM in the Task Manager, there could be a memory leak. You can check for memory leaks on a Mac with the Instruments app.

Increase Your Virtual Memory

When a Windows PC is running low on RAM, it uses a page file, also known as virtual memory, as a backup. Although there is a limit, virtual memory can be increased slightly to squeeze a little more out of it.

Use Windows ReadyBoost

If you have a Windows PC with a hard disk drive, there’s a built-in performance-boosting tool called ReadyBoost that can use data from a USB flash drive or SD card as additional RAM. ReadyBoost won’t affect RAM if your computer has an SSD.

Disable Windows Visual Effects

By default, Windows adds several minor visual enhancements to improve the overall look of the operating system. Like everything else, these processes use RAM, so disabling visual effects will free up some memory.

Use a RAM Cleaner

Programs like Microsoft PC Manager and Wise Memory Optimizer keep your RAM and hard disk clean by automatically deleting unnecessary data. The noticeable gains will likely be minimal, but every bit counts.

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