It can be tempting to use laptop RAM for your desktop if you have them at your disposal. But is it even possible to do so? Can laptop RAM be used in a desktop?
The answer isn’t straightforward. While you technically can use them instead of desktop RAM, you would need a RAM adapter that can convert SO-DIMM to DIMM to do so.
The processor and motherboard of your PC also dictate if you can use the laptop memory in it. For example, laptop RAM is compatible with Intel motherboards but not AMD motherboards.
- What Does RAM Do?
- Differences Between Laptop RAM and Desktop RAM
- Can You Use Laptop RAM On A Desktop?
- How to Install Laptop RAM on a Desktop?
- Should You Use Laptop RAM On A Desktop?
- Can You Use Desktop RAM on a Laptop?
- Final Words
What Does RAM Do?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how laptop RAM and Desktop RAM work, let’s understand what RAM is first. You’ll learn what RAM is and how it functions in this section.
RAM means Random Access Memory, and the main function of RAM is to act as a temporary hard drive for the CPU. RAM stores the temporary or unsaved files that you’re working with on your computer. It’s basically a temporary computer memory.
The CPU needs RAM for its normal operation and for performing some basic tasks. There are pins, chips, and electrical circuits in the RAM that send signals to the CPU and help the operation by storing the computer memory. RAM is also known as the main memory of the computer system.
The information stored on the RAM will be erased when your PC loses power. Having more RAM space means that your computer will have to process less often as it can utilize the extra space. That’s why a 16GB RAM will perform a lot better than an 8GB RAM.
Related article: 2 or 4 sticks of Ram? Which one should you use?
In simple words, RAM contains chips, and they temporarily store computer data while your PC is working. Laptop computers and desktop systems have different types of RAM with different memory chips.
Differences Between Laptop RAM and Desktop RAM
We’ll take a look at the major differences between laptop RAM and desktop computer RAM in this section. It’s important to know the differences and set your performance expectations when you install it on desktop computers.
Memory Types – DIMM and SO-DIMM
Both laptop systems and desktops use system memory modules. Examples of such system memory modules are SIMM, DIMM, and SO-DIMM. SIMM was one of the first system memory modules. Later, advanced system memory modules like DIMM and SO-DIMM were introduced.
DIMM stands for Dual Inline Memory Module. As the name indicates, there are electrical circuits and pins connected on both sides of a single circuit board in its memory stick. It constituted an upgrade from the SIMM memory type, which had pins and connectors only on one side of the memory stick. DIMM modules are commonly called Dynamic RAM (DRAM). DRAM is cheaper than static memory, and it works much faster than the SIMM memory modules.
The fast data transfer speed made DIMM the ideal choice for maximizing performance. DIMM also has more memory chips than the SIMM module.
DIMM sticks are available in two sizes: DIMM and SO-DIMM. The standard DIMM memory sticks are used for a desktop, and the smaller SO-DIMM sticks are used for a laptop computer. They work function similarly, but they differ with respect to their size.
The size difference is a function of the fact that DIMM sticks contain a greater number of electrical pins and circuits than SO-DIMM sticks. A subtype of DRAM is SDRAM (Synchronous Dynamic RAM). Here again, the difference between them is in the number of pins.
The number of pins for the larger DIMM sticks is:
DIMM DDR 1: Around 184 Pins
DIMM DDR 2 & DDR3: Around 240 Pins
DIMM DDR 4: Around 288 Pins
DIMM DDR 5: Around 288 Pins
On the other hand, the pin count for SO-DIMM is:
SO-DIMM DDR 1 & DDR2: Around 200 Pins
SO-DIMM DDR 3: Around 204 Pins
SO-DIMM DDR 4: Around 260 Pins
BIOS support for any RAM is essential if your PC is to run smoothly. If you’re using a 64-bit system as opposed to a 32-bit system, that means you’re using DIMM. It’s evident that except for DDR1 RAM, desktop computer RAM has a higher pin-count than that laptop RAM.
The older versions of laptop and desktop RAM used to be of the same size. Compared to present-day versions, they performed poorly.
Both PCs and laptops used RAM with the SIMM module. However, PCs started using the DIMM module since it doubled the data transfer compared to SIMM modules. Since laptops were required to be highly portable, they used the SO-DIMM module.
The physical dimensions of the desktop and laptop memory sticks became extremely different. Desktop computers were built to maximize performance and required more space, as they need large memory chips and larger RAM modules.
By contrast, being easily moveable was the focus of laptops; they were meant for people who wanted to carry the computer outdoors. Since they were intended to be portable, producers sought to make them more and more compact.
As a consequence, the size of laptop RAM changed fairly quickly. They used shorter RAM modules even if it meant losing performance. The SO-DIMM RAMs were the perfect solution for laptop computers. They are roughly half the size of the DIMM RAMs as they use integrated circuits that can save space. That makes the laptop much easier to access and carry.
The length of a Desktop RAM is typically around 4.5 inches, whereas that of a laptop RAM is only 3 inches. It’s normal to question if you can switch one in place of the other. A desktop ram slot is much bigger than a laptop.
Because of the size difference between the two, it’s obvious that the SO-DIMM sticks will not fit into a PC’s motherboard. That’s where the RAM adapter comes in and converts the SO-DIMM RAM into a DIMM RAM.
However, the opposite of this is not possible. You can never use desktop RAM in a laptop. The RAM slots in modern laptops are smaller, and they won’t be able to fit a desktop memory RAM.
Desktop RAM is installed on the motherboard of the desktop. Most modern computers have motherboards with at least four or more slots for RAM. Since they come with these usable slots, it’s easy to upgrade RAM.
You can use all four slots of the motherboard—assuming, of course, your motherboard is compatible with the RAM that you have. For example, you must use a DDR4 RAM in a motherboard that supports DDR4 RAM.
Compared to PCs, laptop RAM is easier to access; however, they usually don’t have more than two slots, and one or both of those contain the original manufacturer’s RAM. So, if you want to increase your RAM beyond what is possible by simply adding a second stick, you’ll have to replace the original RAM as well.
Let’s say you want to increase your RAM from 16GB to 32GB. For a desktop, you can get two new 8GB RAMs that are compatible with your motherboard and install them. By contrast, for most laptops, you’d have to discard the two old 8GB RAM sticks and replace them with two new 16GB RAM sticks. That means the first two 8GB sticks of RAM you had are no longer of any use to you.
Unfortunately, some manufacturers are soldering RAM directly to the laptop. If that is the case with your laptop, you won’t be able to upgrade it at all.
The price of a desktop RAM is generally much less than laptop RAM. It’s also easier to find and install desktop RAM in most cases.
Can You Use Laptop RAM On A Desktop?
As you’ll know now from the differences we talked about, the main difference between laptop RAM and desktop RAM is in their size and number of pins. If you have something to bridge this gap, then can laptop RAM be used in desktop computers.
A RAM adapter provides such a bridge. It converts the SO-DIMM module that laptop RAM uses into a DIMM module for desktops. These adapters are usually inexpensive, so they are worth a try if you have laptop RAMs already available.
Another thing to keep in mind is the performance you can expect from laptop RAM when you use them on a desktop computer. You won’t be able to get the same performance from adapted laptop RAM as you would with desktop RAM.
If you’re looking to do heavy gaming or high-end tasks that require your PC to run at full operational efficiency, it’s better to stick with a desktop RAM. But if you want to do simple tasks and you’re not expecting much from your computer, laptop RAM is good enough to do the trick.
How to Install Laptop RAM on a Desktop?
There are a few differences between laptop RAM and desktop RAM, but they’re both still RAM (Random Access Memory) at the end of the day, and you can use laptop RAM on a desktop—assuming the desktop’s operating system supports laptop RAM.
The laptop RAM modules must match the requirements of the motherboard for your PC to run properly. Once you make sure that they do so, you can get started and install it on your computer.
Follow these steps to install laptop RAM on your desktop computer:
Turn Off the Power
You don’t want to electrocute yourself, so the first thing to do is to make sure that the power is off when you’re installing a new RAM to your PC. Unplug it from its power resource and press the power button a few times to get rid of any charge that’s stored in the PC.
Open The CPU
The next thing to do is open up the CPU and access the motherboard. Most modern CPUs are very easy to open up. You’ll need a screwdriver to open the casing, and once you do, you’ll see the motherboard.
It’s a good idea to ground yourself before you open up your computer. You can wear a static wristband for this purpose. It’ll help prevent the hard drive from crashing and losing data. These grounding devices work by converting the voltage of your body into the voltage of the computer. They are safe to use, and you won’t feel any electricity passing through your body.
Prepare The RAM stick
Take the RAM adapter and the laptop RAM out of their packaging. Place the RAM stick in the RAM adapter. After making sure it is fully inserted, you’re ready to place it on the motherboard.
Install The RAM
Now, all there’s left to do is to install the RAM and put the PC back together. Locate the RAM slots on your desktop motherboard and slide the RAM adapter into it. Once that’s done, put your desktop system back together and test it to see if it runs properly.
Should You Use Laptop RAM On A Desktop?
Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should do it. That’s true in this case. You shouldn’t go out of your way to use laptop RAM on a desktop.
Laptop RAM is more expensive than desktop RAM, so buying a new stick to use on a PC makes no sense. You also need an adapter, which will add up to more money wasted.
That is having been said, and there’s a case in which it is a reasonable option. If you have a laptop, particularly an old one that you are no longer using—that has RAM and you want to upgrade your PC, you can consider using the laptop RAM on your desktop. However, you need to ensure that a number of factors are in place.
The first thing is the compatibility of the RAM. If your motherboard supports DDR4 RAM, but your laptop has DDR3 RAM, then it won’t work. You also need to get the right RAM adapter, make sure the number of pins matches, and so on.
RAM adapters are generally inexpensive, and that’s the main advantage of using them. You get to save money by using the older laptop RAMs. They won’t deliver their maximum speed, but you can surely increase the functionality and performance of your PC by using the right RAM.
However, RAM adapters are relatively new, and they don’t have any logic controllers to help them process data accurately. There’s no telling how long they’ll be stable, and this shouldn’t be a long-term solution for your PC.
Even if you elect to supplement your desktop system’s memory using laptop RAM, you shouldn’t use it as the primary memory, particularly if you are looking to maintain or improve your system’s performance. It is best to think of it as only a temporary solution. Your system’s processor, motherboard, and DIMM modules all impact the performance of RAM, and in light of the intricate and dynamic relationship between these components, it is sort of a gamble to use laptop RAM on a desktop.
Can You Use Desktop RAM on a Laptop?
While you can use laptop RAM on a desktop, you can’t do it the other way around. It’s quite obvious why, if you think about it.
A desktop computer system uses DIMM memory sticks that are bigger than the SO-DIMM slots in the laptop. You can’t expand the size of the slots or shrink down the size of your desktop RAM to fit the motherboard of your laptop.
Now, can laptop RAM be used on a desktop? Well, yes, you can use a laptop RAM on a desktop. But whether you should do so or not is something that you have to figure out.
We hope that our explanation of what RAM is, how it works, and the differences between desktop RAM and laptop RAM have been useful to you.
Before you head off to add laptop RAM to your desktop, keep in mind that you might need the help of an expert. If you don’t have a deep understanding of computer systems, it’ll be hard for you to identify the underlying reasons if anything goes wrong.
With all that said, using laptop RAM on a desktop may be worth it if you have a spare laptop and if your desktop’s motherboard is compatible with it.