Deciding How Much RAM Is Enough
March 4, 2007 6:42pm CST
Every motherboard has a maximum amount of memory that it can support. You can install the maximum amount by filling up all the motherboard's memory banks (sockets) with modules of the right type. RAM is easy to install, requiring only that you remove your PC's case and plug in the modules. Your PC should recognize additional RAM immediately, with no silly drivers required. Also, additional RAM will make everything run faster in Windows . . . both the applications that you run and the operating system itself. You should always try to buy RAM modules of the same brand at the same time from the same dealer. This will ensure that you are spared any compatibility problems when you install the modules. Of course, not everyone can afford to take their PC's memory to the max - buying half a gigabyte (or more) of RAM modules can set you back. At a minimum, you should have 256MB of RAM for Windows XP. Earlier Windows versions may only require 64MB or 128MB of RAM. Of course, memory-hungry applications such as Adobe Photoshop will only run their best with plenty of memory elbow room to spare, so consider these recommendations the absolute bare minimum. Ready to install your new RAM upgrade? Follow these steps to install a typical SDRAM or DDR/DDR2 module: 1. Cover your work surface with several sheets of newspaper (to protect your case). 2. Unplug your PC and place it on top of the newspaper. 3. Remove the PC's case. Most PC cases are held on with two or three screws; just remove the screws and slide the case off. (Don't forget to stash those screws in a safe place.) Other cases are hinged, often with a lock. If you're unsure how to remove your PC's case, check the manual that accompanied your computer. 4. Touch the metal chassis of your case to dissipate any static electricity on your body. 5. Locate the DIMM slots. Check the motherboard manual, which should have a schematic that will help you locate the slots. Typically, the RAM modules are found close to the CPU, in the center or one corner of the motherboard. 6. Turn your PC's chassis so that the DIMM slots are facing you and make sure that the two levers on the side of the socket are extended. Note that the notches cut into the connectors on the bottom of the memory module match the spacers in the sockets themselves, so you can't install your modules the wrong way. 7. Align the connector on the bottom of the module with the socket and push down with a light pressure to seat the module. 8. While you push down, the two levers at each side of the socket should move toward the center, until they click in place. After you correctly install the module, the two levers should be tightly flush against the sides of the memory module to hold it securely. 9. Slide the cover back on your PC and secure it. 10. Move your PC back to its place of honor and plug it in. 11. Restart your computer and prepare to enjoy a faster PC!