Installing RAM is both one of the easiest steps to building a PC and one of the simplest ways to upgrade an existing gaming rig. In a physical sense, anyway. Just like installing an M.2 SSD, there are no power or data cables to worry about, and as long as your RAM sticks fit the RAM slots on your motherboard, ultimately you just need to push them in. There is room for error, though, hence why this article is going to continue beyond the introductory paragraph. See? RAM can be interesting.
Before getting into the hands-on stuff, let’s start by making sure you have the right memory. At the time of writing, that almost definitely means DDR4 in standard DIMM format: this is the RAM type supported by all recent Intel and AMD desktop processors, as well as their compatible motherboards. DDR5, which promises major speed and capacity upgrades, is just around the corner, but you’ll need a next-gen CPU and mobo to install DDR5 sticks. However, the physical process of installing DDR5 RAM should be more or less identical to DDR4 sticks, so you can still follow the steps below if you’re upgrading to a whole new generation.
You can also get much smaller SO-DIMM RAM sticks, which are designed for laptops and mini-PCs like Intel NUCs. If you own or are building a more conventional PC, even one with a relatively small case, full-size DIMM sticks are the way to go, but I’ve included a guide to installing SO-DIMM memory further down anyway. In any case, installing faster or higher-capacity can help get the most of out the best CPUs or best graphics cards, so it’s worth knowing how.
How to install RAM (the standard DIMM kind)
Step 1: Having made sure your RAM type is compatible with your motherboard, find the RAM slots on the motherboard – they’re usually next to the CPU socket. The number of available slots usually varies between two and eight, with a four-slot setup the most common. You can’t just shove your RAM into any of them, though. Each slot will be numbered, and you’ll need to add each stick in numbered order: the first stick goes into slot 1, the second into slot 2, and so on.
You can find the slot numbers in your motherboard’s manual, and/or printed on the board itself; look for lettering that reads “DDR4_1”, “DDR4_2” or similar. Note that slots 1 and 2 will usually work as a pair, as will 3 and 4, though they’re often split up so that the slots are numbered (counting left to right) as either 4-2-3-1 or 1-3-2-4. And if all of that was as confusing to read as it was to write, just focus on finding slot 1 for now. And slot 2, if you’re installing a dual-channel RAM kit. Once you’ve ID’d the slots, open their plastic clasps by pushing them down and outwards.
Step 2: Line up the little notch on the underside of your RAM stick with the slot. DDR4, DDR5 and older DDR3 sticks have this notch in different places, so you’ve somehow ended up with the wrong type…this is a good way of figuring that out, I guess?
Step 3: Slide the stick downwards into the slot, and push firmly on it until you feel is click into place. The latches on the sides with snap back into place as well, securing the stick. Repeat for any other sticks, again making sure to follow the slot numbering scheme.
If you ever need to remove your RAM, just push the clasps the release them again, then pull the stick upwards out of the slot.
How to install SO-DIMM RAM
Step 1: Locate the memory slots, which unlike standard DIMM slots are usually oriented horizontally. If your PC has more than one memory slot, start with the one on the bottom. Grab a stick of SO-DIMM RAM and line up the notch on the underside so it will fit in the slot.
Step 2: Push the RAM into the slot until the connectors are fully inside. It might point outward at an awkward-looking angle, but don’t worry – it’s not bending.
Step 3: Gently but firmly, push down on the RAM until the metal arms either side of the slot click into place. Repeat for any other sticks/slots, and if you ever need to remove a stick, pull the metal arms away until it springs loose. You can then simply pull the stick out of the slot.