While a RAM upgrade helps speed up your computer and boost performance, it also may leave you with a few extra old memory modules. If your upgrade has you replacing the memory currently in the system, think twice before discarding the memory. Memory modules contain high levels of lead, making them environmentally unsafe to dispose of as normal trash.
While continued use works only if your computer has enough memory space, you may be able to use both your new and old memory. For example, if you're buying one 2GB memory module for a PC with a 4GB maximum memory limit, two memory slots and a 1GB memory module by default, you can simply move the smaller 1GB default module to the second memory slot. The important factors to consider are your PC's maximum memory capacity and how many memory slots the motherboard has. For this to work, you need to install the modules in order by size with the largest module installed first and the smallest last.
Even if your new memory takes up all your memory slots, you may still want to save your old RAM. If you begin experiencing problems with the new memory or the upgrade doesn't work properly, you can switch back to the old memory to ensure you can still use the PC. While your PC will naturally be slower, a slower PC minus the faulty upgrade is better than a PC with bad memory that won't start at all. The backup RAM also helps diagnose memory problems the computer may have. If your backup modules work, it tells you the problem lies in your upgrade modules. Conversely, if the backup modules also fail, the problem is likely with the module bays or motherboard instead of the memory itself.
While it may seem like junk now that you've upgraded, your old memory may be worth money. Memory manufacturers and vendors often offer store credit or money for used memory. Not only does this method prevent the memory from ending up in some landfill, but you can look at it as saving money on your overall upgrade costs. While the process differs by company, you typically fill out a form stating the type of memory you have, send it in for appraisal, and then receive your money or credit within a few days to a couple weeks, depending on the company.
If you'd rather just be rid of your old memory or you know it's not worth enough to bother trying to sell, recycling the memory is the proper way to dispose of it. This method may cost you postage but you'll have the peace of mind knowing you've recycled the lead-filled memory modules instead of sending them to the land fill. Computer and electronics recycling centres often take used RAM. If you can't find a computer recycling centre in your area, places like 4 All Memory (4allmemory.com) and Edge Tech Corporation (edgetechcorp.com) allow you to mail in old memory you'd like to recycle.