Your windows laptop starts to be slow, maybe after updating the operating system, or you installed new programs or games.
Chances are you are running out of very little storage space or RAM.
Also: How much RAM does your Windows 11 PC need?
RAM – short for “random-access memory” – is vital for your computer system to open, run and manage programs, applications and services. This is where your computer stores data that it needs to access quickly.
The amount of RAM a system has can make or break a PC. The more RAM you have (up to a point), the more apps you can run side-by-side.
OK, so you decided to save some money and buy a laptop with 4GB RAM and you are feeling it now.
Just add more RAM, right?
I wish it were that simple.
Do you need more RAM?
What I find on Windows 11 is that those running systems with less than 8 GB of RAM are most likely to feel the pinch. Windows 10 users can get away with a little lessbut if you have less than 4GB, you’re in that danger zone.
Windows 10 and Windows 11 are really good at telling you if RAM is low. You will see a message saying: “Your computer is low on memory”.
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This either means you just don’t have enough RAM (meaning you need to upgrade), or you’re running a particularly demanding app (either stop using it, close some apps, or you need more RAM).
If you just bought a new system and it seems sluggish out of the box, my advice is to send it back. It’s not going to get any better, and chances are that even if you could upgrade it to make it faster, it’s going to cost you more than buying a decent system to start with.
Can you even upgrade your laptop?
Over the past decade we have seen a move (initially driven by Apple’s MacBook lines) towards systems where RAM cannot be upgraded. This is often justified by manufacturers as a way to make systems thinner and lighter, but it also means people can’t upgrade these laptops, so they become prematurely obsolete.
OK, but how do you know if your system can be updated?
Well let’s start with Apple MacBook. If your system was made after 2011/2012, you’re out of luck. That’s why I won’t consider upgrading MacBooks here at all.
As for the Windows system, things are much more complicated.
There are two ways to find out if your system’s RAM can be upgraded:
- Check the documentation that came with your system – look for a phrase such as “Upgradable RAM”.
- Let the RAM experts tell you – both Crucial and kingston have tools to help you locate this information (that’s what I use – don’t just guess!)
Information you need to know
Here’s what you need to know before you pull the trigger on an upgrade:
- Can your laptop be upgraded?
- How much RAM can it have?
- What type of RAM does your system take?
RAM comes in modules – cards with chips – that slide into slots in your laptop. There are a few variables – different modules, different RAM capacities, and different speeds – that you need to be aware of to find the right RAM for your system.
How much RAM do you have?
Here’s how to find out how much RAM your system has:
- press the the Windows key
- Click on Settings
- In the right pane, scroll down to About and click on it
- Installed RAM will appear under Device Specifications
How much RAM should I buy?
Your laptop has 4 GB but you want 8 GB.
That means you have to buy 4 GB, right?
Most laptops have one or two RAM slots, and if there are two, chances are both are in use.
If your laptop is 4GB, it will have a 2GB module in one slot and another 2GB module in the other. Manufacturers do this not only because smaller RAM modules are cheaper, but also because the system will be a little – a tiny bit – more efficient if you use both slots.
If only one of the two RAM modules is used, you can keep the original RAM module.
Another thing to know is that if there are two RAM slots, they will be overlapped and you will have to remove the top module to access the one below.
If there is only one slot, the RAM in that slot cannot be used.
The best way to find out how RAM is organized in your system is to open it up and take a look (more on that shortly).
Tools you need
You need a few tools to do this job.
I recommend using good screwdrivers, because nothing will ruin your day more than rendering a screw unremovable by chewing on its head with the wrong tool.
How to use an ESD (ElectroStatic Display) wristband
People are confused by ESD straps.
One end goes around your wrist, but what about the other end? The internet will tell you to connect it to something that’s grounded, but that’s not helpful for those doing a DIY upgrade at home.
My advice is to connect the other end of the strap – usually an alligator clip – either to the laptop’s metal case or to a metal screw inside the system.
Do not attach it to components or circuit boards, as this may damage objects!
How to Add More RAM to Your Laptop
Accessing RAM: Older laptops had small slots that allowed access to RAM, but on newer systems you have to remove the entire bottom cover, usually held in place with tiny screws.
A good place to find information about opening your laptop is to see if there is a iFixit repair guide. It’s a fantastic resource for upgrading and repairing your devices.
You can also find useful information by searching the Internet. Each laptop will be slightly different; it’s impossible to give you step-by-step instructions for every laptop.
OK, here are the steps to enter your laptop to change your RAM:
There will be parts and screws that will be easier to track if there is no other clutter they can get mixed up with.
Don’t rummage inside a plugged-in laptop!
If the battery is removable, remove it. If not, you can disconnect the battery from the motherboard after removing the back cover (be careful, as these connectors and cables can be quite fragile).
Do this either through a small hatch held in by a screw, or remove the entire base of the laptop (lots of screws – be aware that some may be different lengths), and take your time and work slowly and methodically, paying special be careful when removing the laptop base (work gently, do not pry or force anything).
Pro tip: Take photos using your smartphone to see where everything is going.
RAM modules are held in place by small clips on either side of the module, and you release it by gently pulling these clips sideways. It will then lift out of the slot and you can remove it.
Insert the RAM at the same angle it appeared at, then press it into place – you’ll hear it click into place. If it doesn’t seem to snap into place easily, stop, check that the orientation is correct, and try again.
Disconnect your ESD strap and replace the laptop hatch or base, and make sure there are no pieces left. Do not force anything into place and be careful not to pinch any cables. If something is wrong, undo what you are doing and check.
If your laptop boots, verify that the extra RAM is seen by the system.
You have finished!
It can. If your system is limited in RAM, this is a good upgrade to make. However, this is not a guarantee and there may be other bottlenecks, such as slow CPU or storage.
Also: AMD vs Intel: Which Desktop Processor is Right for You?
However, if you have a decent amount of RAM – 4GB on Windows 10, 8GB on Windows 11 – RAM might not be the issue. A good test is that if your PC is normally quite responsive but certain applications (such as Google Chrome or Adobe Photoshop) are slowing things down, RAM is likely the culprit.
I generally stick with Crucial or Kingston RAM. These are the brands I’ve had the most success with.
Unless you’re running very heavy specialized workloads, such as rendering high-res videos or working with 3D models, then yes, that’s overkill. I find 32GB to be more than I need on my MacBook Pro, and I’m pushing that system all the way.
But you will never encounter a situation where you don’t have enough RAM!
Waste a LOT of money!
The truth is, you won’t find a laptop with around 1TB of RAM.
For some laptops 4GB is the max and the end of the road, for other laptops you might be able to bump that up to 8GB, 16GB or beyond.