Can You Put RAM In The Wrong Way?

Insufficient RAM can slow your device down considerably, which may be a significant issue if you use your computer for multiple tasks. Thankfully, replacing or upgrading your RAM by adding more sticks to your motherboard is possible. Although it’s relatively easy, it’s still a delicate process, so you may be concerned about installing it correctly.

Can RAM Be Installed The Wrong Way?

It’s relatively hard to install the RAM incorrectly because the notch/notches in the RAM module indicate the correct orientation for the sticks, allowing you to see how the stick fits into the slot.

You won’t be able to slide the stick completely into the slot because the shapes will be incompatible. You may be able to slide it in forcefully, but you will likely damage both the stick and the slot.

If the shapes don’t match perfectly and you feel resistance when sliding the stick in, the orientation is wrong, and you shouldn’t go further. If you do, the RAM will not connect as it should, and your computer won’t boot. Additionally, you may bend the slot pins, damaging your motherboard permanently.

You can remove the stick again and place it in the right position to check if your stick can still work. If you initially force the sticks into place, the RAM and the slot will likely be damaged.

But in some cases, you may be able to use your RAM stick if you slide it again in the right orientation.

How To Properly Install RAM

To avoid any mistakes and anticipate potential difficulties, you should have an idea of the installation process before you attempt it.

Let’s review the correct way to install computer RAM.

1. Buying the Right RAM

You need to consider the type of RAM you need to buy. Be sure to check out different brands and choose one that’ll give you more speed and capacity for the best price.

You should also consider compatibility with your computer. The standard nowadays is the DDR4 (Double Data Rate 4 Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory) or DDR5 type, which is pretty fast and is supported by most modern computers. 

However, some older devices may only support earlier generations, like DDR2 or DDR3. To ensure you get the correct type of RAM, check your computer’s user manual for details on what your motherboard can support.

If you’re looking to use the dual-channel configuration, you must ensure that both of your RAM sticks are the same model and have the same speed and capacity.

If you’re adding a new RAM stick to the existing one in your computer, you also need to ensure you buy the exact same model. Otherwise, you may be unable to take advantage of the dual-channel mode.

2. Getting Ready

Having chosen the correct type of RAM for your computer, you should begin preparing for the process of replacing or upgrading your RAM sticks. Make sure you have the stick/s nearby, take them out of their packaging, and place them on an antistatic mat.

Read the instructions on the RAM packaging and the user manual for your device to ensure you know exactly what to do. Every computer may have specific instructions about installing and removing parts, so you should be fully prepared.

As for tools, you don’t need much for RAM stick installation. You may need a screwdriver to open your computer’s casing if screws are used to keep the lid secure. If yours is a screwless casing, you won’t need any tools. 

3. Turn Off Your Device and Open the Case

Once you’re ready, turn off your computer, then the power switch, and unplug it from the power outlet to ensure no power is left while you’re working.

Next, open the computer side panel to access the motherboard. There are different ways of opening the case, depending on your device. Some require using a screwdriver or unscrewing some bolts by hand, while others only need you to slide the panel off.

4. Access the Motherboard

After opening the computer case, locate the RAM slots on the motherboard. You can work inside the case if you want, but you can also remove the motherboard from the case to work more comfortably. Be careful when removing the motherboard. You don’t want to damage other parts accidentally.

If you’re working inside the case, you should ensure that no other components or cables are in your way. Remove them gently before you start on the motherboard to get a clear view of the RAM slots.

5. Find the RAM Slots and Remove the Old Sticks if Necessary

Next, you need to locate the RAM slots. This shouldn’t be too hard if you know what these slots look like. They’re usually located next to the CPU and are rectangular.

There are plastic clips next to them that make sure the RAM sticks are secure. You can always check your motherboard’s user manual if unsure.

To remove the old RAM, you should first open the slots. There are different ways of doing this, depending on the type of motherboard.

Some have plastic clips that you can toggle to release the stick, while others have levers that open all the slots simultaneously. Your motherboard manual should tell you what to do if you are unsure where the opening mechanism is. 

6. Install the New RAM

An illustration of the notches marked with arrows so it is impossible to install RAM the wrong way.

Once you remove the old RAM, you can install the new stick(s). The most crucial step in this process is aligning the stick correctly to fit into the slot. There is only one correct orientation: aligning the module by matching the notch at its edge with the corresponding space in the slot.

If you can’t see the notch or are still confused about the orientation of the stick, check the user manual of your motherboard or the RAM sticks for instructions. To find your motherboard’s manual, you need to identify it before looking it up online.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Press the Windows button and R at the same time to open Run.
  2. Type msinfo32 and then press Enter.
  3. The Windows System Information will appear, showing all the details you need to find your motherboard’s model and brand.
  4. Look for the information next to Baseboard Manufacturer.
  5. After you find the model, search for the name followed by the word manual. 

Slide it in carefully when the RAM is correctly aligned, using only a little push. You will hear a click when the RAM stick is locked into the slot. The orientation is wrong if you have to force the stick down the slot. 

Once you’ve heard the click, you can toggle the plastic clips or press the lever to close and secure the new RAM slots. You may need to put a little pressure on the lever to snap it back into place.

Installing Multiple RAM Sticks

If you’re installing more than one stick, ensure you put them in the correct slots to take advantage of dual-channel mode. There should be two or four slots on the motherboard positioned one after the other.

Here are tips on how to install different numbers of RAM sticks:

  • If you only have one RAM stick, the position doesn’t matter, so you can put it wherever you want.
  • If you have two sticks, they should be placed apart, with one empty slot in the middle so that you can enable dual channel mode. For instance, you can put the two sticks in slots 1 and 3.
  • If you have three sticks, you can place them one after the other in any slot you want.
  • If you have four sticks in two sets, you should separate each set. For instance, one would be in slots 1 and 3 and the other in slots 2 and 4. 

Generally, two or four sticks are better than three because they allow you to use dual channel mode, which increases the speed of communication between the RAM and the CPU. Adding a third stick could slow down the computer.

Some high-end computers have six or eight RAM slots, which allows them to use a triple-channel configuration. Three sticks will be better than two if you use such a computer. They can be placed one after the other into the slots farthest from the CPU.

7. Put Everything Back

After you’ve ensured that the RAM sticks are properly installed in the correct slots, you may begin reassembling your device.

If you’ve removed the motherboard, now would be the time to put it back inside the case, ensuring that everything inside is intact. Put back any parts or cables you have moved out of the way, too.

Check the rest of the components before you close the case. If there’s any dust, use a vacuum cleaner to remove it. You might also want to check if you need to put thermal paste on any part, like the CPU or the GPU.

8. Test Your Device

Once every part is inside the case, you should test your device before closing the case to make sure everything works well. The panel needs to stay open in case you notice any problems you might want to solve that come up. 

To test the computer, plug it back into the power outlet, turn on the power switch, and let your computer boot. Once the computer boots to the desktop, restart it to fix any issues that might arise after installation.

Follow these steps to restart:

  1. Open the search bar and key in windows memory diagnostic.
  2. Select the result your computer will provide.
  3. A new window will open, offering two options.
  4. Select Restart Now and Check for Problems.
  5. Click OK to confirm.
  6. Let the computer reboot.

After the first reboot, your device should recognize the new RAM. However, sometimes, the device may take longer after the first post.

Troubleshooting Your Device

If the diagnostic tool detects problems, you probably didn’t get the RAM installation right. Thankfully, the case is still open to allow you to attempt some fixes. Turn your device off, unplug it, and then check the RAM slots again.

They might need adjusting or repositioning, or you may not have slid them deep enough to click.

Ensure all the RAM sticks are secure, and plug the computer into the power outlet again. Boot the computer and run the diagnostic test once again. If you encounter the same problem, your RAM may be defective or damaged during handling, and you must replace it. 

9. Close the Case 

If the computer restarts and your device recognizes the new RAM, return the case lid the same way you removed it.