Know the Secret to Replacing Your Own Laptop Memory: How I Found Out the Hard Way

by on March 8th, 2015
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When my computer began running so slowly it was hampering my productivity, I finally decided it was time to upgrade. At first, I was just going to throw in the towel and buy a whole new laptop. After all, mine is 6 years old, and that’s usually accepted as the useful life for a typical laptop. The only problem is that I’m chronically broke, and I didn’t even have $500 for a low-end model. So I steeled myself to the reality that I would have to open up the laptop and install some more memory instead, which would at least speed up the rate at which it boots, starts programs and surfs the internet. Believe me, it is totally worth it. Everything runs faster, and I haven’t had a single Firefox script error since I upgraded. This one-time operation has saved me from hours of frustration!

Find Out What Kind of Memory You Need and Where It Is Located

My laptop is a Toshiba Satellite M50, a dinosaur with an 80 GB hard drive and a creaky 512 MB of RAM memory. I found out the exact kind of memory my laptop has by using this handy tool at crucial.com. I found that I had two slots, each with a 256 MB memory stick. I could upgrade to as much as 2 GB of RAM, so I decided that’s what I wanted. I bought 2 sticks of the proper type of Corsair 1 GB RAM and set about learning how I could install them myself.

Important: be sure to purchase the exact kind of memory specified for your laptop, or else you could have some serious compatibility problems. That’s why the tool at crucial.com is so useful!

I found a technical manual for my model of computer at this site. You might be able to find your brand and model there as well, since there was a long list of manuals offered. Anyway, I was very thankful to have this document later, but not for the reasons I expected. Neither this document nor my original Toshiba manual told me I’d have to remove the keyboard to get at the second memory module in my laptop, but thankfully the pdf manual did tell me how to remove the keyboard, which helped once I reasoned the extra memory must be there. Most notebook computers keep their memory either on the underside or under the keyboard (or in my case, both). With some knowledge of where your laptop RAM is located, you should be able to manage your own memory module replacement as well.

Part 1: Removing and Replacing the Memory Module on the Underside of the Laptop

To remove and replace the memory module, make sure the computer is in boot-up mode and turned off before removing the memory module. Remove the battery pack, cables and any peripheral devices before you start and then follow these steps:

1. Unscrew the embedded safety screw securing the memory module socket cover. (Mine required a small Philips head screwdriver).

2. Slide your fingernail or a thin object under the cover and lift it off.

3. Push the latches on either side of the memory stick outward to release the memory module. A spring will force one end of the module up.

4. Grasp the old module and pull it out.

5. Fit the new module’s connectors into the computer’s connectors at about a 45-degree angle and press the module carefully to ensure a firm connection.

6. Push the module down so it lies flat. The latches on either side will click into place to secure the module. This should not be forced. If it doesn’t go easily, try re-seating it until it does.

Important: Be sure to wear rubber-soled shoes and ground yourself by touching an unpainted metal object to discharge any static electricity you may carry before you touch a memory stick. Static can ruin a module. Also don’t touch the connectors or allow debris to collect on them, as this can cause memory access problems.


Part 2: Replacing the Second Memory Module Under the Keyboard

Instructions for Removing Keyboard

1. As above, turn off computer and remove all peripherals. 2. Take a thin object and insert it under the strip cover above the keyboard. You’ll have to work it in several places, but eventually, the cover will come up and away from the keyboard. It includes the plastic pieces that cover the hinges next to the built-in speaker, leading to the screen. Carefully remove this piece entirely.
3. Removing the strip cover will expose the screws that secure the keyboard. In my Satellite M50, there are two small screws that take a medium small Philips head screwdriver to remove. Be careful not to let them fall inside the unit and set the screws aside. This should free the keyboard unit so that it may be lifted out.
4. Fold the keyboard unit towards you (over the touchpad) and you can allow the large data cable that connects it to the rest of the unit to stay plugged in and intact.

Instructions for Removing and Replacing Second Memory Module

1. Removing the keyboard will expose a square piece of tape-down metal foil. Un-tape this and fold it back to reveal the memory compartment.
2. This compartment is covered by a vented thin metal piece that is screwed in beside the compartment. Unscrew this and carefully work it out of the compartment. It bends very easily, so try to keep it from deforming.
3. Once the cover is removed, the memory is clearly visible. Like the one on the underside of the computer, this one is held in with two latches on the sides. Pull these carefully back, and the memory stick will pop up, allowing easy removal.
4. Insert the new RAM as before. It will click into place just as the other stick did.
5. Carefully re-fit the thin metal piece over the memory module. There are a few small “tongues” of metal that extend from it, and these should be tucked under adjacent structures if possible, although the real goal is just to get it to lie flat and secure. Do not forget to screw it back in!
6. Pull the foil back over the compartment and tape it down. Before you replace the keyboard, you might want to gently blow out this area of the laptop, as mine had some collected dust on certain surfaces from its 6 years of hard work.
7. Replace the keyboard in reverse of how it was removed, being sure to securely screw it back down with those tiny screws you removed earlier. Replace the strip cover, and you’re ready to go!
8. Boot up your computer and give it a test run! Remember to replace the battery and other peripherals you regularly use with your laptop.

The whole operation took me about an hour and a half, but that was only because I had to pause and reason out where that pesky other memory module could be. Many laptops have this configuration, and some even keep their memory modules exclusively underneath the keyboard. It is a little more work than simply removing a panel cover on the underside, but it is equally doable with a little patience and perseverance.


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