DDR3 memory for laptops - quick tips for an easier upgrade

Might you be out searching for DDR3 memory for a laptop but somewhat dazzled by the display of information and misinformation out there making your laptop memory upgrade all the more tricky? If weíve guessed correctly then hereís a quick rundown on key facts of DDR3 laptop memory to get your on the right track.

Just what is DDR3 memory for a laptop?

DDR3 laptop memory is as of 2011 the latest memory technology to greet modern laptops. DDR3 is an evolution to its predecessor, DDR2 laptop memory, much in the same way as the latter was the successor to DDR and SDRAM laptop memory.

DDR3 laptop memory is faster than DDR2 due to doubling the data bus speed, an enhancement first introduced with DDR2. In DDR2 laptop memory the data bus speed ran at double the speed of the memory chips present on the DDR2 SODIMM memory module. DDR3 takes the same data bus, however runs it at twice its original frequency. Consequently, in DDR3 laptop memory, the data bus operates at four times the speed of the individual memory chips. In comparison to DDR2 laptop memory, DDR3 is capable of achieving the same memory bandwidth as DDR2 but in doing so only needs to run at half its frequency. This efficiency coupled with support for higher frequencies contribute to superior performance to that of DDR2 or older laptop memory.

Learn more about the different types of laptop memory.

Does my laptop really require DDR3 memory?

DDR3 memory started gaining popularity since its advent in late 2008. The type of memory for a laptop your own laptop requires primarily depends on the year it was manufactured. The build date (very often closely related to the purchase date and typically found on a sticker on its base or within its documentation) is a further indication.

Perhaps the best indicator for deducting the type of laptop RAM your system requires is to run some diagnostic software.

A non-problematic method to find this out is to download and run software such as CPU-Z - it's a free application, you can download CPU-Z here. Once downloaded and launched, click on its 'Memory' tab and subsequently also the 'SPD' tab. This will inform you whether your laptop uses DDR3 memory, its specification and timings. If you notice it stating DDR2 then write down the type of DDR3, examples include PC3-6400, PC2-4200, PC3-8500 and PC2-10600. Next, write down an indication that this is the type of DDR3 memory for a laptop you need to buy.

Great, I need DDR3 memory for a laptop, but how much can I install?

DDR3 laptops support between 4GB and 16GB of RAM. Some, usually older DDR3 laptops have the memory controller featured within whatís known as a northbridge chipset. Others, usually newer DDR3 laptops have a memory controller present within the CPU (Central Processing Unit) thus processor die. The exact amount supported by your laptop will depend on either - regardless whether the memory controller is external or internal to the processor.

If you would like to upgrade to the maximum supported amount and wish to find out whether this is 16GB then a quick way is to check how many SODIMM memory slots your laptop contains. If itís four (some may be located on the underneath side of your laptop, others under the keyboard) then the maximum will be 16GB. Similarly, if your laptop only supports two SODIMM memory slots then with a high degree of accuracy you can expect your laptop to support up to 8GB RAM maximum.

Also, take into account that in order to utilise more than 4GB or more of RAM, you need to be running a 64bit Operating System such as Windows XP Professional x64 (potentially problematic when running on laptops due to limited driver support), Windows Vista x64 (any edition), Windows 7 x64 (any edition) or any alternative such as a suitable release of Linux or MacOS.

Find out how much memory your laptop requires for different types of software.

Iím ready to buy, so itís i.e. PC3-8500 DDR2 I need and the rest will be problem free?

The specification of DDR3 memory for a laptop you need is whatever was reported by CPU-Z as noted above. If it stated PC3-8500 then yes, you will require DDR3 memory otherwise known as PC3-8500 DDR3. If it displayed PC3-6400 then you can still purchase PC3-8500 or PC3-10600 DDR3 in view of the fact that DDR3 computer memory is inherently backwards compatible. Meanwhile, if CPU-Z reported PC3-10600 then while you can buy and install a lower DDR3 specification (PC3-6400 or PC3-8500) this is not recommended. Doing so will cause your system to down clock the frequency at which it the memory runs, namely 400MHz for PC3-6400 or 533MHz for PC3-8500. A slower memory frequency will yield a lower memory bandwidth, which reduces computer performance.

As far as DDR3 memory for a laptop goes, you will need to buy 204pin SODIMM memory modules. A SODIMM (Small Outline Dual Inline Memory Module) is a mini type of a DIMM used in desktop computers. If youíve seen a DIMM before then a SODIMM will normally be about 50% of the length of a desktop DIMM module.

For DDR3 laptops you only need to install a single SODIMM memory module for your laptop to function, however it makes perfect sense to install pairs of DDR3 SODIMM memory modules. The reasoning is quite simple. Virtually all DDR3 memory laptops support whatís known as dual channel mode. In compliant laptops, dual channel mode effectively links the data paths of two memory modules (DDR3 in this case) to run them simultaneously. All read, write or copy operations performed on the memory are thus in effect run at double their original bandwidth. The net result of this is improved memory throughput - this in turn contributes to the overall performance of your laptop.

Read about the various types of laptop memory modules.

I just have to ask - can my DDR3 laptop memory upgrade go wrong?

DDR3 laptop memory upgrades are amongst the least prone to causing problems due to a straightforward trait of the industry. With the computer memory industry much settled and controlled by only a handful of big players, and thus airtight to smaller players at times all too willing to not always follow JEDEC (Joint Electron Devices Engineering Council) standards to the last ďTĒ, itís practically safe to say that all DDR3 SODIMM memory modules produced are compatible with each other.

Much the same is also true in terms of memory controllers that by the time that DDR3 appeared were tweaked to no longer cause issues when mixing single and double-sided SODIMM memory modules.

There is however one thing youíll want to keep in the back of your mind, namely for best performance always install identical DDR3 SODIMM memory modules. Via doing so youíll automatically enable whatís known as dual channel mode. What is meant by identical? By identical you need to install two likewise DDR3 SODIMM memory modules that are a) the same capacity and b) also the same specification. The brand of DDR3 laptop memory isnít as significant, nevertheless if you want things to be ideal then doing so will also work well.

Having doubts? Discover answers to your laptop memory questions by reading the laptop memory FAQ's.

Would you be interested in viewing other general laptop memory articles? If so simply click the button below and choose your desired topic by clicking its title.

Read the Laptop Memory Upgrades Guide to learn about all the aspects you should know when buying laptop memory...

...alternatively discover Where to buy 100% compatible SDRAM, DDR, DDR2 and DDR3 SODIMM memory.

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