Laptop vs. Desktop RAM


RAM, which stands for random access memory, is found in all computers whether they are laptops or desktop computers. RAM is the memory used to access and read and write files stored on the hard drive. Rather than going to the hard drive to access a file multiple times during use, the computer places it in the RAM, which reduces the time it takes to access the file. The more RAM a computer has, the faster the speed of accessing files.


  • Desktop RAM commonly comes in DIMM (dual in-line memory module) format. Laptop RAM comes in SO DIMM (small outline DIMM), which is designed to fit into a laptop's smaller case. Both types of RAM commonly come in SDRAM, DDR SDRAM, DDR2 SDRAM and DDR3 SDRAM.

    SDRAM is one of the original RAM technologies, with DDR2 RAM being the most common computer RAM in use.

    There is also a type of RAM known as RIMM and SO RIMM. The different between DIMM and RIMM is the pin count; RIMM is made by a company called Rambus Inc.


  • This is one area in which laptop and desktop RAM differ. Due to the smaller size of a laptop computer, all of the components must be smaller. SO DIMM RAM is designed with this in mind. Laptop RAM is shorter in length than desktop RAM. Average RAM for a desktop computer is about 4.5 to 5 inches in length while laptop RAM is 2.5 to 3 inches in length.


  • Another area in which these two types of RAM differ is in the number of connector pins on the piece of RAM. Pins are the gold or silver colored lines imprinted on one side of the RAM that connect to the computer's RAM slots. Depending on the type of RAM standard desktop RAM can have between 100 and 240 pins while laptop RAM has between 72 and 200 pins.


  • Different types of RAM may not fit in different RAM slots on computers. Laptop RAM is too small to properly fit into desktop RAM slots. Also, different formats may not be compatible with RAM slots. For example DDR2 and DDR3 RAM will not work in older DDR or SDRAM slots. However, most DDR3 RAM will replace DDR3 RAM.


  • To ensure that you have the correct RAM to install in a computer, have your computer brand and maximum RAM amount number on hand when ordering RAM. This will help determine which RAM type (such as number of pins and DDR type) fits in your computer. Look for SO DIMM RAM when shopping for laptop RAM.

    Also you should install matching RAM into the computer if the computer has two or more slots. For example if you are upgrading a laptop that uses SO DIMM DDR3 RAM and has two slots that can handle a maximum of 8 GB of RAM, purchase two 4 GB sticks of SO DIMM DDR3 RAM.

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  • Photo Credit Gyga, Public Domain.
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