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RAM Terminology – Part 1. How to Identify Laptop & Desktop RAM Specs by the Description on the Module

RAM Terminology – Part 1.  How to Identify Laptop & Desktop RAM Specs by the Description on the Module


In a previous post, we shared how to find compatible RAM for your computer by looking at the system specs.  In this post, we’ll cover how to find compatible RAM in your system – but here we’ll take a different tact – we’ll show you how to determine what type of RAM you have by breaking down the specifications that are listed on the installed RAM modules for both laptops and desktops.

We’ll focus on laptop and desktop RAM; the following post will focus on high-end workstations and servers (since those devices usually have additional features due to their performance requirements). Before you know it, you’ll be a RAM tech wiz!

First, a quick primer/refresher on the key components when it comes to laptop & desktop RAM:

  • SODIMM – This is a type of RAM module exclusive to laptops (and some mini/small form factor desktops). The main take-away is SODIMM has fewer pins – fewer pins means a smaller module – which is why it is seen in compact devices. 
  • DDR3 vs. DDR4 – This refers to the generation of RAM. The main take-away is DDR4, and DDR3 RAM is not backward compatible.  In other words, you CANNOT install DDR4 RAM into a system board that takes DDR3 (and vice-versa).  You can determine what generation the RAM is by the ‘PC3’ vs. ‘PC4’ on the module (as you’ll see later).
  • Ranking – in a nutshell, Memory Rank refers to how many blocks of data are on a memory module. You can have Single Rank, Dual Rank, or Quad Rank.  For laptops and desktops, the Memory Rank doesn’t matter as much as it does with server and workstation RAM – it is usually a consideration when dealing with very high amounts of RAM.  That said, if you are maxing the RAM in your laptop or desktop, you may want to confirm that the new module you are installing is the same Rank as the existing system module.  Crucial has an in-depth article on Memory Rank here.

 THE MORE YOU KNOW.  Some RAM also has these features:

  • ECC (Error Correction Code) is a type of RAM with an additional chip for limiting data corruption.
  • Registered – Registered RAM has an additional circuit on the RAM stick to place less electrical load on the memory controller. 

**ECC and Registered RAM are almost always found in RAM designed for servers and high-end workstations.  We’ll cover these more in-depth when we focus on selecting RAM for a Server or Workstation.

  • Low Voltage (LV) RAM. Low Voltage RAM is energy efficient RAM.  You can mix LV and non-LV RAM modules, but the system will no longer utilize the Low Voltage features of the LV RAM if it is combined with non-LV RAM. 

Now let’s take a look at some specific desktop RAM sticks and breakdown the specs:

4GB Desktop RAM

Below is a laptop RAM module – note the smaller size (SODIMM).  

8GB Laptop RAM

Hot Tip!  We suggest matching RAM specs as much as possible.  While theoretically, you can mismatch certain specifications of RAM modules in the same system, doing so could impact system performance by putting added stress on your system to reconcile the differences. 

Our Techs are on always standby to help you with any questions you have on upgrading or system’s Memory – or any other questions you may have!


  • Simple and crisp article

    Harendra Tiwari
  • Site was very helpful thank you


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