Choose the Right RAM for Your Motherboard

Edited by Doug Collins

What is RAM or Memory?

We've all heard the phrase or the term RAM as it relates to our computer.

Just what IS RAM and what makes it important?

800px-Memory module DDRAM 20-03-2006.jpg

RAM stands for Random Access Memory. What it really does is to buffer the activity between the CPU and the hard drive in your computer. The term RAM or "random" makes it seem like it is a hit and miss activity that happens without design. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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The CPU, or central processing unit of your computer processes the data that you are using as you compute. Whether you are browsing the internet or sending out email, the CPU is processing data. The CPU takes small amounts of that data and it processes it, reading, writing and then rewriting the data on your computer.

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It skips around grabbing bytes of data and setting it up for you to use. Your Hard drive contains the data. The problem is that the hard drive only functions really well when the data is being held together in bigger chunks. When it is trying to skip around to read and to write and then to rewrite, the hard drive can be incredibly slow. If your CPU was processing the data that it reads directly from the hard drive, the bottleneck of data that could and would take place would slow your gaming or your surfing to a grinding halt.

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The RAM buffers that and helps the CPU to be able to access that data much more rapidly. That is what makes RAM so important to your computer. The more RAM that you have, the better your computer will run because it allows the CPU to take more at a time and to work with it more readily.

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How to Choose the Right RAM for Your Computer.

The RAM that you use is important. Taking one kind of RAM and inserting it into your computer that it is not meant to use usually means that your computer will not boot up, or the RAM will not fit. Choosing not only the right RAM for your motherboard, but also the right pin configuration and the right voltage is important.

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In order to ensure that you do that, the best way and the most precise way will be to review your motherboard or computer manual. Most of us however do not have that available.

  1. 1
    Turn off your computer and unplug it.
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  2. 2
    Open the side or the back of your computer to allow you to look inside.
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  3. 3
    Read the main board or motherboard serial number or part number on your board.
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  4. 4
    Find the relevant information about your mainboard and write it down.
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  5. 5
    Visit the website for your motherboard manufacturer.
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  6. 6
    Look for the specifications for your motherboard.
    In most cases it will tell you precisely what kind of RAM you should be using in your computer.
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  7. 7
    If this method is not workable for you, it is possible that you may need to remove the RAM which is installed in your computer and take it with you to purchase new RAM for your machine.
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  8. 8
    With the computer unplugged and turned off, look into the internal workings of the computer.
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  9. 9
    You will see two or four units of RAM which are close in nature to the image visible above.
    They are inserted into slots on the mainboard or motherboard as you see in the image below
    800px-Acer E360 Socket 939 motherboard by Foxconn.svg.png
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  10. 10
    On either side of the RAM, it is held in place by a small tab.
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  11. 11
    Press down on the tab and the RAM should pop up, which will allow you to remove it.
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  12. 12
    Use a static-free bag to carry it with you to a store such as Best Buy or your local computing store, where they will help you to find a replacement unit to boost the RAM in your machine.
    Got-ram-666819-m.jpg
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Mainboard Image Credit goes to Moxfyre at Wikipedia

How Much RAM do I Need?

There is no such thing as having too much RAM, although in many cases, you will be limited by your computer to the amount that you can install. Older computers will hold less than the newer ones. In most cases they will hold a type of RAM that is also nearly obsolete, may be harder to find and will be more costly.

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How Do I Know if I Need More RAM?

It's not usually difficult to know if your computer requires more RAM.

  1. 1
    Programs that you are using will be slow to open and very slow on the uptake.
    They will, in some cases, close due to an abrupt error.
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  2. 2
    You'll see "out of memory" errors flash.
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  3. 3
    Games will run very slowly, if at all.
    They will tell you that you do not have the RAM required or that your system does not allow for proper function.
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  4. 4
    If you are operating graphic software or other types of software which require the use of a great deal of information swapping around, you'll find they run very slowly and have errors more frequently.
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  5. 5
    In some cases, there are operating systems which will not install at all unless you have a given amount of RAM.
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Pay close attention though, because while you do need RAM, you also need the right type and you don't want to pay more than you have to in order to obtain it.

Other Considerations About RAM

Which RAM is compatible with your computer is more than just a matter of getting something that fits.

  • You'll find a broad range of different kinds of RAM. Every mainboard has a certain type that it will accept and some very tiny little dissimilarities in it that can make it different. Usually it is very easy to tell which is the right RAM for your board.
  • Many times, varieties that are different from what yours will accept will not fit. As an example, DIMM won't fit into a slot that was designed for DDR. It won't fit into the socket unless you drive it in with a hammer, but that is not always the case.
  • Some things about RAM are issues that people don't realize exist. For example, different kinds of RAM also have not only different pins, but different voltages. Some people will tell you that the voltage doesn't matter, but the reality is that it does.
  • You can't always go just by pin or even just by the kind of RAM that you're using. For example, you can fit a RAM that is rated for a DDR3 2000 into a DDR 1400, but it is not the best idea that you've ever had. The voltage is rated for higher than your mainboard because it has a speed table that is internal. Your mainboard will have to work a little harder to run the RAM slower than its rating. Not all mainboards will be able to view that RAM and in some cases, your computer won't boot up.
  • The best and safest way to find the right RAM for your computer and your motherboard is just to look at what is in there now and replace it with a larger amount.
  • If you have problems with any of these steps, ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.

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