Step-by-Step: 5 laptop upgrades you can do yourself

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Time: 10 minutes

Adding or replacing memory has always been one of the simplest upgrades to perform on a laptop; even novice computer users should have no difficulty with it. And in our tests, this upgrade gave the most bang for the buck. On our Dell Inspiron 1525 test model, an upgrade from 1GB of RAM to 2GB (cost: $50) boosted the laptop's WorldBench 6 score from 57 to 62.

Quick tip: Use Crucial's System Scanner to find out what type of RAM modules you need. You can mix and match old modules with new ones, but some systems may end up with better performance if you install a matched pair of identical DIMM units.

You can find a selection of laptop memory modules from a variety of vendors in PC World Shopping.

RAM photo 1.
Photograph: Charlie Nucci

Most laptops have a panel on the underside that, when removed, exposes the DIMM slots for RAM (see photo 1 at left). (On some models, however, you must remove the keyboard to reach the slots; see the next paragraph.) To remove the panel--which is often labeled either with an M (for memory) or with a picture of a RAM chip--unscrew the holding screw or screws. Usually a single screw holds the panel in place, though some laptops may use as many as eight.

If you need to remove the keyboard, follow these steps:

  • Remove the laptop's hinge cover by prying up the plastic.
  • Detach the keyboard by taking out the two screws beneath the hinge cover that secure it, lifting it off, and then unplugging the connector.

(Reverse these steps when the new RAM is in place.)

RAM photo 2: Gently press new RAM in place.
Photograph: Robert Cardin

To remove an old RAM module, gently pull apart the metal clips securing each end. Once freed, it should pop up at an angle. Gently pull it straight out. Insert your new RAM in the same way, at an angle, until it is completely seated in the slot; then, again gently, press it down flat (see photo 2 at right). The holding clips will engage automatically.

Replace the panel and battery, and boot up. Your computer should automatically recognize the change in RAM.

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