How to tell if my new RAM is compatible with my computer?

Written by sara williams
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How to tell if my new RAM is compatible with my computer?
Find out if your RAM is compatible by checking your old RAM first. (Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Memory upgrades are the most common yet most easily misunderstood. Although it is easy to take out old RAM (Random Access Memory) sticks and replace them with new ones, you need to know first whether your RAM is compatible with your computer. Specifications for RAM include capacity (amount), DIMM type, RAM type and speed. Get the specifications from your computer's current RAM to find out if the new RAM you bought is compatible. You should also check to see how much RAM capacity your computer's motherboard supports.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Check the package of the RAM and find out if it says "DIMM" or "SODIMM." Desktop computers can only use "DIMM" while laptops must use "SODIMM." You can also tell the difference between a DIMM and SODIMM stick of RAM by its size. The SODIMM type is about 3 inches long while the DIMM type is longer.

  2. 2

    Find out how much RAM your computer can take. For store-bought desktop computers and laptops, check the box your computer came in or go to the manufacturer's website and search your model number. Locate the model number on the back or underside of your computer. If you built your own computer, check the box your motherboard came in or look up its model number. The model number is typically listed on a small sticker on the board or printed somewhere near the centre or on one of the edges.

  3. 3

    Turn off you computer and unplug it from the wall. Disconnect all external devices such as the monitor, mouse and keyboard. Remove the case cover if you computer is a desktop model or turn your laptop over and remove its back panels with a small Philips-head screwdriver. Read the sticker on your RAM to see its model number and specifications. Look up the model number if you do not see any specifications on the sticker. If you do not see the sticker, pull the tabs away from each end of one RAM stick and pull it out of your computer so you can look at its other side.

  4. 4

    Check the speed and RAM type against the RAM you found installed in your computer. Common RAM types are "DDR2" and "DDR3," and your new RAM must match the type already in your computer. While less important, the speed of your new RAM should closely match the speed of your old RAM. Speeds are listed in megahertz like "1066MHz."

Tips and warnings

  • Touch metal or use an antistatic strap to remove static from your body before handling electronic parts, which can become damaged from static electricity.
  • Do not buy ECC or high-density RAM for a regular desktop or laptop computer. ECC-type RAM only works in certain kinds of servers, and high-density RAM has a low rate of compatibility with most motherboards.

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