Nowadays, almost all notebook computers allow you to expand their RAM memory capacity. This is possible because they use memory modules just like desktops, but in a different form factor, called SO-DIMM (Small Outline Dual in Line Memory Module). The memory modules used on desktops cannot be used in notebooks and vice-versa.

The first thing you need to know is the memory type (SDRAM or DDR-SDRAM) and the speed your notebook needs. In addition, it is good to know how many memory modules your notebook currently has in order to correctly plan the capacity of the module you need to buy. Other information that you will need to know is the maximum capacity per module your notebook accepts. This information is found in its manual.

You can do this in two ways: by either opening your notebook and taking a look at the memory modules already installed (we will explain more about this later), or running a program such as Sandra or Hwinfo. We ran Everest (which has been discontinued since we posted this tutorial) on our notebook and found that it was using two 256 MB DDR-SDRAM PC2700 (“DDR333”) modules, for a total of 512 MB.

How to Upgrade Your Notebook MemoryFigure 1: Checking your current memory configuration with Everest

If your notebook has an empty memory slot, just go to the computer store and buy a new SO-DIMM module with the same technology (SDRAM or DDR-SDRAM) and speed of any capacity you want. Of course, you need to know the capacity limit of your notebook. You cannot install a 1 GB module in a notebook that only accepts modules up to 512 MB, for example. Our notebook, a Sony Vaio PCG-V505ECP, accepts modules up to 1 GB, for a total of 2 GB RAM since it has two memory slots.

For example, if your notebook has one 256 MB module and an empty memory slot, if you buy and install another 256 MB module, it will have 512 MB RAM. If you buy and install a 512 MB module, your notebook will have 768 MB.

If your notebook already has two memory modules, you will need to remove one of the installed modules in order to install the new one. If the two modules have the same capacity, it doesn’t matter which one you will take away, but if they have different capacities, remove the one with smaller capacity. The new RAM capacity of your notebook will be of the capacity of the remaining module plus the capacity of the new module.

In our case, our notebook has two 256 MB modules. We will remove one of these modules and install a new one in its place. We bought a 1 GB-module, so after installing it, our notebook will have 1,280 MB RAM installed (memory math is tricky, since 1 GB equals to 1,024 MB not 1,000; so 1,024 MB + 256 MB = 1,280 MB).

Let’s now see a step-by-step guide on how to install your new memory module.


Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.