What you need to know about laptop upgrades (part 2: Memory)

Laptops aren’t easy to upgrade as desktop PCs. In fact, newer laptops are becoming harder to upgrade- but you still may need to upgrade your laptop with more RAM or a solid-state drive.

Efficiency is all about performance. Since computers are used to do almost everything, improving your system’s performance is one of the easiest ways to improve your performance. Time management techniques can certainly help you become more efficient, but they don’t help when you’re held hostage to long load times and left staring at your computer screen.

One of the best ways to perk up the performance of an older laptop is by increasing its memory.

Will more memory make any difference?

Whether or not a RAM memory upgrade will make a noticeable difference will depend on how your workforce uses their laptops and whether or not they have many applications running simultaneously. With today’s workload, switching from one application to another, from running reports and giving presentations, adding extra memory will certainly allow the laptop to cope much better with having multiple browser tabs open at the same time.

When the laptop runs out of available RAM, it starts using the hard drive instead. This is much, much slower than RAM and will cause your system to slow down. It’s likely that heavy use of a web browser will push overall memory requirements beyond your available 4GB for example, so increasing this to 8GB will prevent such slow-downs.

Bear in mind that upgrading your hard disk to an SSD is likely to provide a bigger performance increase. See SSD laptop upgrades for more details.

More RAM means better multi-tasking

First, let’s take a moment to clarify what exactly more RAM can (and can’t) do for you. The biggest benefit of upgrading your laptop’s memory is better multi-tasking, especially for those of us using RAM-hogging applications like Photoshop, Outlook, or Firefox 5 minutes after we’ve opened it. Having a lot of memory means that you can quickly switch back and forth between the different applications without Windows writing the process memory out to the page file.

What Applications Actually Use 4GB+ of RAM?

ram applications

It’s true, very few applications are going to use large chunks of your system memory, but there are some applications that will benefit greatly from an upgrade—image editing applications like Photoshop, video/audio editing applications, or virtual machines like VirtualBox or VMware will use as much RAM as you can spare.

What type of memory do I need? What is the difference between DIMM and SO-DIMM?

DDR, DIMMS and SODIMM are memory modules used in computers. DIMMs are used in desktop computers and servers.

A DIMM is a standard format Dual In-line Memory Module. These have different pins for the different types of memory specification, so a DDR3 module will have a different edge connector to a DDR2 module and so on. A SO-DIMM is a Small Outline version of a DIMM, hence the “SO”. These were designed for laptops where full size DIMMs wouldn’t fit.

SO-DIMMs are a smaller alternative to a DIMM, being roughly half the size of regular DIMMs. SO-DIMMs are often used in systems that have limited space, such as notebooks, small-footprint personal computers (such as those with a Mini-ITX motherboard), high-end upgradable office printers, and networking hardware like routers and NAS devices.

Find here the guide for DIMM and the guide for SO-DIMM. Please note these are for guidance purposes only.

The Bottom Line

Let’s break it down into a couple of bullet points for easier digestion:

  • If you are a regular user, just light browsing, IM, or YouTube, you are probably just fine with 4GB of RAM—but check Resource Monitor if you aren’t sure.
  • If you consider yourself a power user but don’t use Photoshop or virtual machines, you should probably have a minimum of 8GB of RAM installed.
  • If you are a power user with virtual machines or you do heavy audio/video/image editing, you should consider upgrading with as much RAM as you can afford—just keep in mind that you’ll need a 64-bit version of Windows to take advantage of it all.

Fun fact: 92% of people who have done a memory upgrade would recommend it to a friend

Fun fact: 92% of people think multitasking is necessary for being highly efficient

Fun fact: Nearly 100% of professional gamers use high performance gaming memory

Fun fact: 87% of people say tech has a direct impact on what they’re able to get done

Fun fact: 91% of people say it can take an extra hour to get things done on a slower system