This is article is in association with Dabs.com

A memory upgrade is the easiest and cheapest way to boost a computer's performance.

No matter if you're talking about a desktop PC, Apple Mac, laptop or netbook, dropping in extra memory will help it run more smoothly and even finish tasks faster.

If you're an expert you'll already know why. For the rest of us, the reason is that memory acts like your immediate desk space, storing everything you need to do a task quickly.

If you don't have enough memory, the PC has to wander across the office and fetch things off the hard drive. This can take hundreds of times longer and is the difference between you sitting around twiddling your thumbs and getting on with your work.

The good news also gets better when you know a memory upgrade could cost under £20, even better that it's easy to do yourself. So to help everyone make the most of this easy upgrade, we've a step-by-step guide to choosing and installing your own memory.

Before starting, one important thing to be aware of is if you plan to run 4GB or more of memory in a system, you will require a 64-bit installation of Windows. For more details read this from Microsoft.

1. Find what you want

Before you can buy a memory upgrade you need to know what type and how much memory you need. Thankfully the internet makes this an easy thing to find out, there are a host of memory selectors that enable you to enter information about what you want to upgrade, the manufacturer and model. You'll then be told what type of memory it takes and how much you can install.

How to install memory

2. Understand the jargon

The search will provide some valuable information, such as the maximum total memory supported, the number of memory slots your system has and the number of free slots available. Also important is the type of memory you need - called the Memory Specification.

How to install memory

3. Make your choice

To find out how much memory your PC currently has, open the Start Menu, right-click My Computer item and select Properties. The window that opens will tell you how much memory is installed. Take this amount away from the maximum memory supported figure and this is how much memory you can add, as long as the system supports that amount per memory slot.

How to install memory

4. Single vs dual

When choosing how much to add, it's worth keeping in mind that almost all desktop PCs and many newer laptops can use dual-channel memory. This means that adding 'matched-pairs' of memory sticks gains you extra performance, as they can work in tandem. For example, if a system has two free memory slots, instead of buying a single 2GB memory stick, you would buy two identical (matching-pairs) 1GB memory sticks, adding up for a total upgrade of 2GB.

How to install memory

5. Know your enemy

So you should now know what type and how much memory you need. If you have an unknown system you can always locate the existing installed memory. From that you should be able to work out what type it is and buy similar memory. The most common current memory technologies are DDR2 and DDR3, outdated types are DDR(1) and SDRAM. These are all incompatible both electrically and physically, take a look at the image and you'll see keyed notches that prevent the wrong type being installed. Desktop memory are the larger DIMM sticks, while laptops use the physically smaller SODIMM sticks.

How to install memory

6. Installing memory

To start, disconnect the PC from the mains and if it's a laptop remove the battery. Ideally you require an anti-static wristband. If you don't have one, touching a radiator or the metal case of the PC will discharge any static from your body. With a desktop PC you will need to locate the long DIMM slots. Consult your motherboard or PC manual as to which slots to use.

How to install memory

7. Desktop memory

Make sure the securing notches are pushed back. Line up the keyed notches of the memory and the slot, make sure the memory stick is at 90 degrees and gently push it downwards. The notches should start to engage, at this point you can click these into place and the memory is installed.

How to install memory

8. Laptop memory

Locate the memory cover at the base of your laptop, undo the screws and remove it. Match the notch on the memory stick with that of the slot. The SODIMM is gently inserted at around a 30 degree angle to the laptop's base and once in place can be gently pushed down. The two clips either side should pop into place to secure it.

How to install memory

9. Test it out

If everything has gone well your PC will happily reboot into Windows. To see if the memory has been detected and is working open the Start Menu, right-click My Computer and select Properties to check it has. If you are running a 32-bit OS with 4GB it's possible this will report around 3.5GB. In this case you need to upgrade to a 64-bit OS to get access to all of the available memory.

How to install memory

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