The Laptop Repair Workbook
Copyright 2012 by Morris Rosenthal
All Rights Reserved
Before you start taking your laptop apart looking for a place to stick some
more memory, read the manual. If your laptop didn't come with a paper manual
or you can't find it, most notebooks are shipped with a PDF of the manual
pre-installed of the hard drive. The manual should describe the maximum memory
capacity of the laptop, and you can easily determine how much is currently
installed by checking the Windows system information (last screen in this
example) or buy watching the memory report when you power the notebook up.
Once you ascertain that your laptop will accept a memory upgrade, the next
stop for consumer and pc technician alike is Crucial (www.crucial.com).
Crucial's trademarked Memory Advisor walks you step-by-step through selecting
the correct memory upgrade for you computer, whether it's a laptop or a desktop.
The first choice is manufacturer (Toshiba in this case), the next choice
is model (we selected our Satellite) and the final choice is the model number,
an old 1625CDT in our case. Crucial then presents the information shown at
the right, along with a part selection and price. Our 144pin SODIMM comes
with a limited lifetime warrantee, a compatibility guarantee and free tech
support for $44.61.
The first step I take when working on any laptop is to remove the battery.
Even though the on/off button is protected under the lid of the screen, I
don't want the power coming on due to a short or a mechanical jolt when I'm
working inside, so I just take the battery out. Many laptop batteries employ
a double lock, with a witch to prevent the slider from accidentally opening.
On our Satellite, the switch is bushed back, then the slider is pushed in
so the batter can be pulled out.
Once the battery is out, we remove the two screws that secure the memory
cavity cover. There's a scary warrantee sticker right on the cover, scary
because this notebook went out of warranty 4 years ago and I'm still using
it. I never buy the extended warranty on anything, including laptops, and
it drives me a little nuts when friends and family members tell me, "and
I bought the extended warranty you suggested." People hear what they want
The lid lifts away exposing the SODIMM socket, which is mounted parallel
to the motherboard. There's only one expansion memory socket in this laptop,
so upgrading from 64MB to 192MB with a 128MB SODIMM was pretty much the only
option. But it makes a big difference running Windows 98, where the 1 GB
to 4Gb upgrade on the XP laptop was barely noticeable. Going from 1 GB to
2GB for Windows Vista on the Acer made a huge difference.
Static electricity can kill computer parts. In over 20 years of working with
computers I've only ever blown up one component with a static discharge,
a hard drive, and I felt it when it happened. Lots of experts will tell you
that parts are always accumulating micro-damage from imperceptible static
electricity shocks from handling. Frankly, while I understand the theory,
I don't see it in practice, and the anecdotes I've been told about mysterious
component failure usually have far more practical explanations. I keep the
memory in it's static bag right up until I'm ready to install it in the laptop
and I ground myself on a metal lamp that first, and that's good enough for
Unlike regular PC DIMMs, SODIMMs for laptops are installed on an angle and
then leaned down into the latches. The picture above shows the SODIMM being
inserted with the notch in the contact edge matching the key in the laptop
memory socket. The picture to the upper right shows the inserted SODIMM sitting
at its insertion angle, about 30 degrees over the horizontal. The final picture
in the sequence to the right illustrates pushing the SODIMM down against
the latches on the laptop motherboard, which engage in the notches. You can
also see the white plastic key coming through the contact edge of the SODIMM,
right below the corner of the second memory chip from the left.
Once the SODIMM is snapped into place, we reinstall the cover, secure it
with two screws, and reinstall the battery. When I'm working on desktops,
I usually test upgrades and repair before closing up the case, but I don't
like firing up a laptop without fully assembling it first if I don't have
to. Either the laptop will register the memory or it wont, but the way the
sockets are designed, a SODIMM that snaps into place is installed correctly
and should work. The Windows System Properties screen below provides a simple
check that not only does laptop recognize the new memory, but Windows sees
is as well. Memory upgrades are about the easiest laptop upgrade you can
do, because if the memory is upgradeable, you can usually get at the socket
without taking the whole laptop apart.
Upgrading or replacing laptop memory is one of the easier repairs for most
beginners, but the memory isn't free, so there's no point in doing the job
if the laptop doesn't need it. I discuss how memory fits into the larger
picture in The Laptop Repair Workbook, and include a detailed flowchart for
troubleshooting problems related to the motherboard, CPU and RAM. You can
instantly download the printable 191 page eBook
version anywhere in the world for $13.95.
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