I’m sure we’ve all heard the joke about downloading extra RAM online. But what about unplugging your RAM and putting it in your pocket for later? Installing extra RAM can be quite the hassle, or even impossible depending on your computer.
So, is it possible to just purchase external RAM and use that instead?
Can You Use External RAM For A Computer?
You cannot add RAM externally to a computer. You can technically simulate extra RAM in Windows Computers by plugging in a USB and setting it up to be used as “ReadyBoost” in its property settings. However, this will show virtually no improvement at all in modern computers with more than 1GB of RAM.
The reason that you cannot just add RAM externally is because RAM needs a specific interface and power supply that is only available on the motherboard and not through any USB ports. On top of this, RAM data needs to be able to be accessed and used extremely fast by the CPU and there is no way that can be done externally.
As mentioned, Windows computers have a setting known as “ReadyBoost”, which can sort of turn USB sticks into RAM. However, the amount of RAM power this adds will not be noticeable in modern computers. If you need RAM for an old computer with very little available RAM, though, ReadyBoost may be the perfect option for you.
Can You Use External RAM For A Laptop?
You cannot use external RAM for a laptop, as external RAM is not a thing. Windows computers have an option in the property settings of USB sticks called “ReadyBoost”. This option will add a little bit extra simulated RAM power to the computer, but it won’t be noticeable in any modern laptop.
Back in the day, when people were using Windows Vista or Windows 7, ReadyBoost could be a lifesaver. Nowadays, though, ReadyBoost may even slow a computer down. The reason is because USB sticks are extremely slow compared to modern RAM, and just can’t match the performance.
However, if you need extra RAM on an old laptop or computer, then ReadyBoost may actually save the day. Generally speaking, if your computer is old enough to be running Windows Vista, Windows 7, or has very low RAM (1 – 4 GB), you may be able to see a performance boost from a ReadyBoost USB stick.
Can You Add RAM To A Laptop?
Whether you can add RAM to a laptop or not depends entirely on the manufacturer and the model of the laptop. The best way to check is to look up a video of someone opening up the same laptop. The 2nd best option is to open the computer up yourself and check for an extra RAM slot (may void the warranty).
Laptops are a bit tricky when it comes to RAM. Worse than that, they’re all built different. This makes it extremely hard to give a blanket statement when it comes to replacing or adding RAM to a laptop. If you’re not worried about your laptop’s warranty and are comfortable doing so, most of the time you can pop open the back of the laptop and see if there are any free RAM slots available.
If you can add extra RAM, you still have to be a little careful. Some laptops will not be happy with 3rd party RAM. On top of this, it’s not recommended to mix RAM sizes and manufacturers. So, if you want to upgrade to 8 GB of RAM, you should grab two new 4 GB sticks. Even then, there’s no guarantee that the laptop can handle that amount of RAM.
Can You Connect RAM Through USB?
You cannot connect RAM through USB, but Windows PCs do have a “ReadyBoost” option available for USB sticks that will treat them as virtual RAM. However, this option has not been useful since Windows Vista PCs, and will not improve the performance of any modern computers.
RAM is just such a picky piece of hardware, that there’s no way to make it work through a USB port. It requires a very specific interface and power supply that only the motherboard can supply. On top of this, the entire point of RAM is that it can be accessed and modified very fast. This means it should be somewhat close to the CPU which, again, is why it should be connected to the motherboard.
For old computers, you can use a literal USB stick for extra RAM. Plug it in, right click on it to see its properties, and turn on “ReadyBoost”. This will only work for very old computers running Windows Vista or Windows 7 at the latest. For modern computers there will be no performance boost, and it may even hurt performance a little.
Is Portable RAM A Thing?
Unfortunately, portable RAM is not a thing. RAM sticks need to be plugged into the motherboard for a variety of reasons. RAM requires a specific interface and the CPU needs to be able to interact with the RAM extremely fast. There’s no way to make modern RAM functional and portable at the same time.
It may have been possible to have portable RAM in the past, when CPUs were slower and we didn’t have so much going on at once in our computers. However, modern CPUs absolutely need the speed that motherboard mounted RAM provides, and there’s no way around that and probably never will be.
Can You Combine 4GB RAM With 8GB RAM?
You can combine 4GB RAM with 8GB RAM without any issues. Whether you have one 4GB stick that you want to add an 8GB stick to, or if you have two 2GB sticks and you want to add two 4GB sticks. If possible, it’s better to use RAM of the same size as this will perform better, but it’s not absolutely required.
Simply put, 12GB is going to be better than 8GB. You will definitely have better performance if your RAM sticks match (i.e. two 8GB sticks), but I know this isn’t an option for everyone. The technical aspects of your RAM usage will come down to your CPU, but most if not all will allow you to mix and match RAM sizes and even manufacturers if you need to.
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Eric streams 3 days a week on Twitch and uploads weekly to Youtube under the moniker, StreamersPlaybook. He loves gaming, PCs, and anything else related to tech. He’s the founder of the website StreamersPlaybook and loves helping people answer their streaming, gaming, and PC questions.