How to Find Out the Maximum RAM Capacity for Your Computer

By Techwalla Computers Editor

Random Access Memory (RAM) is an important component of your computer just like the hard drive. RAM controls the speed and memory in your computer. Different types of RAM are available for different machines. Here's how to determine your computer's maximum RAM capacity.

Determining RAM Capacity

Step 1

Inspect your computer's configuration. Determine the year and make of your computer.

Step 2

Find out the type of RAM your computer uses. Go to "Start" and select "Settings." This will lead you to the Control Panel. Here click on "System" and select "General." The number at the right hand bottom corner of the screen is the amount of RAM in your computer.

Step 3

Verify the current RAM usage. If you have Windows OS, open the Taskbar or press "Ctrl + Alt + Del." This will lead you to Task Manager. Click on it first and then press the "Performance" button. You can view the amount of memory currently used by each program running on your PC. If you have Mac OS X, choose "About this Mac" from the menu located on the top left corner of the screen. Open "Activity Monitor" from the Utilities folder. Click on the System Memory button located at the bottom of the window and you'll see how much RAM is installed and its current usage.

Step 4

Remember that RAM sizes come in multiples of two, such as 32, 64, 128 and so on. In most computers, you'll find 256 MB of RAM. For graphics and video applications, RAM size of up to 2 GB is required.

Step 5

Check the RAM speed, which is indicated on the side of the RAM chip. It should be 266 or 333. The higher the speed, the greater amount of RAM you can install.

Step 6

Find out the number of sockets or slots provided and the size of the memory sticks by opening the computer case. Sockets are easy to identify. You can also find some empty slots provided by the manufacturer that are useful when you want to upgrade your computer. Look closely at your motherboard. Your computer will have one of the three socket types. The first, SIMM (single in-line memory module), is 30-pin and about 3 inches long. The SIMM 72-pin is usually 4 inches long and the DIMM (dual in-line memory module) 168-pin is about 5 inches long. Newer computers mostly come with a 168-pin socket.

Step 7

View the number of empty sockets. This will help you estimate the your computer's maximum RAM capacity. For example, if you have 4 slots, 2 of which have 256 MB RAM, this totals 512 MB. If you want to increase to 1 GB or more, add two more 256 MB modules or one 512 MB module. Remember that RAM comes in sizes of 256 MB, 512 MB, 1 GB, 2 GB and 4 GB. You can determine the maximum RAM capacity based on the number of empty sockets.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you cannot upgrade your RAM to a desirable size, consider getting a new motherboard.
  • Visit Microsoft or Apple Web sites (see Resources below) for more information.