If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

How to install RAM

If memory serves, this is how you install DDR4 or DDR5 kits

Installing RAM takes mere seconds – honestly I feel a little silly for even having an entire page dedicated to explaining how to do it. The only possible complexities come from making sure you have the right kind of RAM for your system, and that you’re inserting each stick of memory into the right slot. But these are easily done as well, making RAM installation both the most painless part of building a PC from scratch and a dead simple way to upgrade your rig in the future.

By "the right kind of RAM", I’m talking both the form factor and the memory type. For desktop PC builds, you’ll be needing DIMM sticks of either DDR4 or DDR5 memory; for extremely small PCs, like Intel NUC systems, you might instead need more compact SO-DIMM sticks instead, which can come in DDR3, DDR4, or DDR5 varieties. Let’s focus on installing DDR4 and DDR5 DIMMs for now, as these will be your main options for a conventional gaming PC.

Watch on YouTube

DDR4 and DDR5 RAM sticks are installed in pretty much the same way, but they’re not cross compatible. Even though some CPUs might work with both types, motherboards can only support one or the other, not least because the slots you’ll install them in are slightly different. Get memory that doesn’t match your motherboard specs, and those sticks of RAM might as well be sticks of butter. All RAM is clearly labelled as either DDR4 or DDR5, though, so that would be a pretty hard mistake to make.

As with installing the CPU, this is another PC building step you can complete on the motherboard before mounting the latter inside your case. Which you'll get to do very shortly, assuming you’ve been following along with our guide, so get the RAM installation out the way and your handbuilt PC will soon take its proper shape.

A pile of assorted DDR4 and DDR5 RAM sticks.

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’ll be next to the CPU socket. The number of available slots usually varies between two and eight, with a four-slot setup the most common.

Unless you have enough identical RAM modules to fill every single slot, here comes the important part: ensuring that you insert each stick into the right slot. Please do consult your mobo’s manual at this point, as configurations can vary; for a four-slot layout you should generally fill the second and fourth slots (counting from left to right) first, but again, check what your specific motherboard needs.

Once you’ve ID’d the correct slots, open their plastic retention clips by pushing them down and outwards. Like so:

Step 2 of how to install RAM: identify the correct RAM slots to use, then open their plastic retention clips.

Step 2: Line up the little notch on the bottom edge of your RAM stick with the slot. DDR4 and DDR5 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 2 of how to install RAM: line up a RAM stick with the slot, making sure the central notch aligns.

Step 3: Slide the stick downwards into the slot, and push firmly on it until you feel it click into place. The clip on the sides will snap back into place as well, securing the stick. Repeat for any other sticks you have, again making sure to follow the slot numbering scheme.

Step 3 of how to install RAM: push each RAM stick into the correct slot until the clip clicks back into place.

If you ever need to remove your RAM, just push the clasps down to release them again, then pull the stick upwards out of its slot.

Hold up there, pardner

A lil' note for those following our PC building guide: for the sake of keeping all storage installation instructions in one place, our guide to installing an SSD comes later on. But, if you specifically have an NVMe/PCIe SSD to install, you have the option of doing so now, before the motherboard goes inside the PC! Just skip to that storage section of the guide and follow the steps on installing an NVMe SSD.

Two sticks of SO-DIMM RAM installed inside a mini-PC.

How to install SO-DIMM RAM

Again, this part only concerns miniature PC builds that require the much smaller and thinner form factor of SO-DIMM RAM. Building a PC is building a PC, though, so let's not leave out these dinky sticks entirely...

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 bottom edge so it will fit in the slot.

A stick of SO-DIMM RAM is lined up with the memory slots inside a mini-PC.

Step 2: Push the RAM into the slot until the copper contacts are fully concealed inside. It might point outward at an awkward-looking angle, but don’t worry – it’s not bending unduly.

A stick of SO-DIMM RAM being pushed into a memory slot inside a mini-PC.

Step 3: Gently but firmly, push down vertically 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.

A hand pressing down onto a stick of SO-DIMM RAM, locking it in place inside its motherboard slot.

Rock Paper Shotgun is the home of PC gaming

Sign in and join us on our journey to discover strange and compelling PC games.

Related topics
About the Author
James Archer avatar

James Archer

Hardware Editor

James had previously hung around beneath the RPS treehouse as a freelancer, before being told to drop the pine cones and climb up to become hardware editor. He has over a decade’s experience in testing/writing about tech and games, something you can probably tell from his hairline.