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How to Install RAM (DRAM, SDRAM at DDR, DDR2, or DDR3) in a Desktop Computer

It’s my belief that simple, clear text coupled with before assembly, during assembly and after assembly photographs make it possible for just about anyone to assemble a PC successfully. Once you understand the basic computer components and build your first computer, you will have learned a skill that will last a lifetime! You will be able to upgrade your computer or change the configuration easily when your computing needs demand it, and this knowledge can save you thousands of dollars over time.

Whether you are upgrading RAM in an existing system or simply in the process of assembling your own PC kit, I hope that these assembly instructions prove useful.

The process of installing RAM in a new motherboard, or upgrading RAM in an existing computer varies slightly depending on the type of motherboard and the type of RAM you have. I’ll use a fairly common configuration in this example, but please note that your situation may not be exactly as shown or described here.

This description should work well for most types of desktop RAM, but always make sure you follow the guidelines of your computer, motherboard and RAM. There are a lot of varieties of RAM modules on the market, and the key is making sure that you purchase the correct type, capacity and speed for your motherboard. Incompatible RAM may not allow your PC to boot, or it could cause unpredictable performance and unexpected system crashes.

The following points illustrate the vast selection you will have to choose from, again please make sure you purchase the correct RAM module:

  • Types: 168 Pin SDRAM, 184 Pin DDR SDRAM, 240 Pin DDR2 SDRAM, 240 PIN DDR3 SDRAM
  • Capacities: 128 MB, 256 MB, 512 MB, 1 GB, 2 GB, 4GB, 8GB
  • Speeds: DDR 266 (PC 2100), DDR 333 (PC 2700), DDR 400 (PC 3200), DDR 466 (PC 3700), DDR 500 (PC 4000), DDR2 400 (PC2 3200), DDR2 533 (PC2 4200), DDR2 667 (PC2 5300), DDR2 667 (PC2 5400), DDR2 675 (PC2 5400), DDR2 800 (PC2 6400), DDR2 1000 (PC2 8000), DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500), DDR2 1111 (PC2 8888), DDR2 1142 (PC2 9136), DDR2 1150 (PC2 9200), DDR2 1200 (PC2 9600), DDR2 1250 (PC2 10000), DDR2 1300 (PC2 10400), DDR3 1066 (PC3 8500), DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600), DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666), DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800), DDR3 1625 (PC3 13000), DDR3 1800 (PC3 14400), DDR3 1866 (PC3 14900), DDR3 1866 (PC3 15000), PC 100, PC 133

Step 1 (5-10 minutes): Prepare Your Workspace

Solid preparation leads to the best results. Even for simple projects like upgrading RAM, it’s wise to prepare thoughtfully.

Step 1a: Collect Your Tools

I wasn’t kidding when I said that anyone can assemble a PC, and it’s even easier if all you are interested in is installing RAM modules. The only “tool” you will need for your project is a screwdriver. In addition to the screw driver, there are a few items from around the house that could be helpful.

Please collect the following items:

  • Small or Medium Sized Phillips Head Screwdriver – if you do not have one available at home, most grocery stores and all hardware stores sell them
  • Flashlight – if you have great lighting, you may not need a flash light. Flashlights can come in handy when working within the computer case because shadows can make it hard to see
  • Scissors or Utility Knife – many of the components come in sealed boxes or plastic clamshells. Having something to open the packaging saves time and ensures you don’t damage the parts contained within

Step 1b: Setup Your Workspace

Establishing a solid workspace will ensure your project is easy and you are comfortable. A poor workspace can lead to frustration, lost parts and longer than necessary assembly times.

Please consider the following guidelines for your workspace as you prepare to upgrade RAM:

  • Large Flat Work Surface – dining room tables work well as do coffee tables. You can even get away with working on a tile or wood floor. You may optionally spread out a sheet or large towel to protect the surface you are working on from the case which will be heavy and have sharp corners. We DO NOT recommend working directly on a carpet because of static electricity, and carpets can make it too easy to lose small parts.
  • Clean Working Environment – since your computer will be open and exposed during most of the assembly process, it is important to keep the area you are working in free of potential contaminants. We DO NOT recommend eating, drinking or smoking anywhere close to your workspace.
  • Sufficient light – it is important for you to be able to see well as you assemble your kit. Make sure to work in an area with good overhead lighting. It is also helpful to have a flash light handy if your overhead light is not bright enough to see well inside the case.
  • Limited Interruptions – even though the assembly process is straight forward, concentration will be required. We recommend that you find time to devote to the assembly process when you will not be distracted by other priorities.

Step 1c: Exercise Caution

Before you begin, please consider the following precautions:
  • Static electricity can destroy delicate computer components
    • Do NOT work on or stand on a CARPET while installing or upgrading RAM
    • ALWAYS touch a grounded metal object to DISCHARGE yourself prior to handling RAM modules
  • Liquids or particles can destroy delicate computer components
    • Do NOT eat, drink or smoke near your workspace
    • Do NOT allow pets or small children to play near your workspace or components
    • ALWAYS wash your hands prior to touching parts
    • ALWAYS work on a clean surface
  • Computer components can cause electrical shock
    • NEVER touch any of the internal components while the computer is plugged in
    • NEVER allow children to touch or play with the computer or components
    • ALWAYS close the computer case completely before plugging the cord into an outlet

Step 2 (25-35 minutes): Install RAM, and/or Upgrade RAM

Now that you have setup your workspace, you are ready to start installing your ram.

Step 2a: Collect Required Components

Please collect the following components:
  • RAM – For example, CORSAIR Value Select 2GB (2x1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM 667

Step 2b: Unpack the Components

Before you can assemble anything, you will need to unpack the SDRAM.

Please follow these steps:

  • Before unpacking anything, take the boxes to your work area
  • Consider spreading out a sheet or large towel to work on
  • Discharge any static electricity you may be carrying in your body
    • Touch a metal object that is grounded (e.g., a metal table, appliance, lamp, etc.)
    • Failing to discharge static electricity could result in catastrophic damage to your parts
  • Open the SDRAM Clamshell
    • Again, check to make sure you have discharged any static electricity
    • Open the plastic shell. It easily separates as shown below. DO NOT put pressure on the SDRAM by bending or twisting the box. The plastic box will easily separate. If you should have any difficulty, use scissors to cut across the top of the box and then separate the plastic shell.

NEVER touch the bottom of the SDRAM, ALWAYS hold the SDRAM by the edges as shown
  • However, leave the Ram in its static protective plastic shell for now
  • Place the RAM, still in its protective shell, on your workspace next to the Motherboard

Note: Do NOT discard any of the packaging at this time. You will need to save the packaging so that in unlikely event that you need to return any of the items you will be able to do so. Most suppliers only accept returns that are in their original and complete packaging, and you will not know that your components are working properly until your assembly project is complete.

Step 2c: Seat the RAM on the Motherboard

Typical motherboards support a maximum of 2 or 4 SDRAM modules. In this kit, you will be installing SDRAM into both modules, which are 1MB each (2MB total).

Note: RAM is particularly sensitive to static electricity. Make sure to discharge yourself prior to touching the modules.

Please follow these steps:

  • Discharge any static electricity you may be carrying in your body
    • Touch a metal object that is grounded (e.g., a metal table, appliance, lamp, etc.)
    • Failing to discharge static electricity could result in catastrophic damage to your parts
  • Remove the RAM from the protective static electricity bag
    • NEVER touch the bottom of the RAM, ALWAYS hold the RAM by the edges
  • Unlock the 2 of the 4 DIMM Slots on the motherboard
    • Note that these slots are labeled on the motherboard DIMM A1, DIMM A2, DIMM B1 and DIMM B2. It is very important that the memory is inserted in the appropriate combination. The slots may be color coated to emphasize this fact. Therefore, either unlock DIMM A1 and DIMM B1 (yellow) OR DIMM A2 and DIMM B2 (black). See below:
  • Note: For upgrade potential, the P5L-VM used in this example can support up to 8 GB (4 X 2 GB) of unbuffered non-ECC DDR2 DIMMs.
    • The white clips on the sides of the DIMM Slots are the locking clips. Simply push or pull down and away gently on the white locking clips to unlock DIMM Slots.
    • Unlock the two Slots by pressing down on the Module Clips, four in total
  • Insert the first RAM module in one of the unlocked Slots
    • Select one of the SDRAM modules
    • It does not matter which SDRAM Module you start with, they are identical
    • Press the SDRAM Module into the slot. Because of the design of the groove in the SDRAM and the slot in the Motherboard, you will only be able to insert the SDRAM the proper direction. Note the groove in the SDRAM and the groove in the motherboard below. These “grooves” will align when inserting the RAM.
    • After RAM is placed into the slot, apply downward pressure. (Sometimes it helps to manipulate locking clips upward while applying moderate downward pressure on the RAM) The locking clips on either side should lock into place automatically as you apply downward pressure. See picture below:

Congratulations! You’ve just upgraded RAM in a PC! Or, perhaps you are building a computer kit and now you are one step closer to completion. Either way, you have taken some of the mystery out of the box and that is a great feeling. The good news is that you’ve learned a skill for life and should now have the confidence to build another computer or upgrade your computer with new components. Investing the time to learn to build a computer may save you thousands of dollars in the long run. CONGRATULATIONS!


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