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Learn about the Memory Capacity of a Motherboard

written by: John Garger•edited by: M.S. Smith•updated: 12/26/2010

There’s more to adding memory to your computer than just the number of free memory slots you have on your motherboard. Learn about your motherboard’s memory capacity limits and other factors affecting the upgrade of your computer’s RAM.

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    Adding memory to a computer is one of the cheapest, fastest, and easiest ways to boost your PC’s performance. However, the memory capacity of your motherboard has to do with more than just the number of available slots.

    The maximum memory you can add to your computer is a combination of three things. First, you must have at least one free memory slot on your computer. Second, your motherboard must support more RAM than you currently have installed. Third, your operating system has a maximum amount of memory that it can address. Adding more memory over this limit won’t help you speed up your PC. Read on to learn more about the memory capacity of your motherboard.

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    Memory Slots

    Motherboard Memory Capacity The modern motherboard uses memory slots into which you insert memory for use by the operating system. Most motherboards have about 4 to 6 slots available. Once these slots are filled to capacity, you must remove at least one memory module and replace it with a module that has more RAM on it.

    For example, if you have four memory slots on your computer and each one is filled with a 1GB memory module, you have a total of 4GB of memory in your PC. To add more memory, you would have to remove at least one memory module and replace it with one that has, say, 2GB of memory. This is the only way to add memory to a computer that has no free memory slots on its motherboard.

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    Motherboard Memory Capacity Limits

    Having free memory slots on your motherboard is not the only indication that you can add memory to your computer. All motherboards have a limit as to how much memory they can address.

    The memory capacity of a motherboard is dependent on the manufacturer’s specifications. Typically, as the price of a motherboard increases, so does its features. One of these features is the maximum amount of memory it can handle. Before you upgrade your RAM, check with the manufacturer to determine how much memory your motherboard can recognize.

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    Operating System Memory Limits

    32-bit operating systems such as Windows XP, Windows Vista 32-bit, and Windows 7 32-bit can address up to 4GB of memory. However, this figure includes all of the memory in the computer such as video memory, cache memory, and others. This is why these versions of windows always report less than 4GB of RAM when that amount is installed.

    Other operating systems such as Windows XP x64, Windows Vista 64-bit, and Windows 7 64-bit can address far more memory. However, these operating systems usually have a memory capacity of 128GB. Before you upgrade your RAM, make sure both your motherboard and operating system can address the memory you plan to install.

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    Conclusion

    Three things determine the memory capacity of a motherboard. First, the motherboard only has so many free memory slots into which you can insert memory modules. Second, all motherboards have a limit as to how much memory they can address. Third, your operating system has limits as to its memory capacity determined by the version of Windows you have installed on your PC. Before you upgrade your RAM, check these three things to determine the memory capacity of your computer.