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Staples Explains: Let's Talk PC Memory

Are you thinking about adding RAM to your PC? Learn the ins and outs before you make the investment.

With random access memory (RAM) prices falling fast, you may be considering memory upgrades for your office desktops and laptops. But before you take the next step, make sure you know the exact amount and type of RAM that will suit your needs.

Determining Your Memory Needs

Getting the right RAM for your machine begins with knowing the type of operating system (OS) you’re running — and how much RAM it can support. A 64-bit OS like Windows 7 can handle large amounts of RAM effectively, while a 32-bit version of Windows can only support up to 3.5 GB. If you’re not sure which OS you have, go to Start > Control Panel > System Properties.

Another way to retrieve details about your machine’s memory is to download a free online program like the Crucial System Scanner, which scans your hardware and produces a detailed report. Staples EasyTech also offers a diagnostic service for PCs that can be conducted in the home office or in-store.

A third option: Go to Ctrl+Alt+Delete > Task Manager > Performance to see how much memory you’re using. Also, consult your operating manual for details about the amount and type of RAM that’s right for your machine.

Different Types of RAM

Your system scanner, operating manual or EasyTech associate will let you know which types of RAM are appropriate for your laptop or PC. Here are four common varieties:

  • Dynamic random access memory (DRAM) stores bits in memory cells that require constant refreshing.
  • Synchronous dynamic random access memory (SDRAM) synchronizes DRAM with the microprocessor’s clock speed for faster performance.
  • Double data rate (DDR) SDRAM uses a higher bandwidth for even greater speed.
  • Complementary metal-oxide semiconductor RAM (CMOS RAM) relies on a small battery to store the information your computer needs to boot up.

The Memory Upgrade Process

Once you’ve determined the amount and type of RAM to add, the physical act of upgrading is pretty easy.

RAM comes in little sticks, called modules, which slip into designated slots in your computer. They are typically available in 1 GB, 2 GB and 4 GB sizes.

To replace or add a RAM stick, start by opening the casing of your machine with a screwdriver and locating the memory slots on the computer's motherboard (look for two or four side-by-side slots). Then, simply slide the new stick into place. Along the way, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use a grounding strap.

Our technology trained associates can guide you through a memory upgrade or even perform it for you with a quick turnaround. Done right, adding memory can really boost your machine’s performance — particularly if you’re running resource-intensive applications.

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