Is it possible to add RAM to laptops externally? – External RAM

External RAM

Is it possible to add RAM to laptops externally? – External Ram

External RAM is RAM memory that resides off-chip. This is often in the form of standard static RAM or flash RAM.

The RAM needs to be physically as close as possible to the processor to have the best advantage. To add RAM externally, you either need a connector or an expansion cable. .RAM cannot be added externally. You cannot simulate some space on your hard disk to act as RAM and you cannot use your USB device as RAM.

Is it possible to add RAM to laptops externally?

No. Definitely not. RAM has a purpose. It needs to feed in data to the processor as fast as possible. The RAM needs to be physically as close as possible to the processor to have the best advantage.

To add RAM externally, you either need a connector or an expansion cable. We are not creating a bottleneck and the RAM is now nothing better than your SSD.

RAM cannot be added externally. You cannot simulate some space on your hard disk to act as RAM and you cannot use your USB device as RAM. None of this work.

Is it possible to add external processors and/or RAM to a computer through the USB port?

Yes, you could use Windows ReadyBoost, but it is under no circumstances a substitute to upgrading you physical RAM.

  • USB 2 is limited to 480Megabits/second a theoretical max data transfer rate of 60 MegaBytes/second.
  • USB 3 is limited to 5Gigabits/second a theoretical max data transfer rate of about 620 MegaBytes/second.

For actual RAM:

  • The slightly older DDR2 RAM even the slowest flavour DDR400 (also known as PC2-3200) has a peak data transfer rate of 3200MegaBytes a second. which as you can see is still massivley faster.
  • The slowest DDR3 RAM PC3-6400 is still 6400MegaBytes peak transfer rate per second.

There is a difference between Mb/s and MB/s, a small ‘b’ means Bits and since there are 8 bits to a byte you have to divide the number by 8 to get theoretical maximum data transfer rates in Bytes (capital ‘B’).

What is the best way of speeding up an old laptop? Buying more RAM, or buying a new processor (CPU/GPU)?

The best way to speed up an old laptop isn’t to buy more RAM, or even to replace a hard disk drive with an SSD.

No, the single best upgrade you can do to an old computer doesn’t involve new hardware at all. Just a $5 tube of grease:

This is called thermal paste. Its job is to fill the microscopic gaps between your CPU and the heatsink that cools it off, so that heat gets out of the CPU as fast as it can. When the thermal paste isn’t working right, your laptop has to kill performance to keep from overheating.

The problem is, manufacturers almost always use low-quality paste to save money. That doesn’t really hurt things when the computer is new, but over time that crappy thermal paste will dry out and stop working. This is part of why old laptops can get mysteriously hotter and slower with age.

So, pretty much the single best upgrade you can do – both in terms of performance-per-dollar and overall system stability – is to just pull off your heatsink and replace the old thermal paste with some better stuff.

If the old paste was fine, you haven’t wasted much money and still get a small benefit – but if it was a problem, the difference will be absolute night and day.

This is what the thermal paste on my 6-year-old laptop looked like when I took its heatsink off – less of a paste and more of a powder:

With $2 of new paste, an hour of disassembly, and a little bit of cleaning, this computer runs faster, quieter, and 15 degrees cooler at idle.

Can’t beat that.

Edit for all the SSD comments:

Just because someone suggests one upgrade doesn’t mean something else is worthless, and upgrading to an SSD is still a great choice. “Best upgrade” doesn’t mean “only thing you should do”

But you have to know why you’re doing things, and what problems they solve. People often blindly swap to an SSD because it gets oversold, and they might see better results from something more specific. An SSD is good for faster disk reads – like when starting up a computer and launching programs.

If your SSD gives you better response everywhere, the computer is probably using the disk as extra memory (paging). That’s a sign that what you really needed was more RAM, and bridging that gap with an SSD won’t work as well.

Also, doing a lot of paging on an SSD can make it fail a lot faster.

Do external RAM slots exist?

The closest thing to external ram at least on the consumer market would be to connect an SSD in one of these newer Thunderbolt/USB 4.0 slots (asuming the housing is directly the same). It’s feasible for just about any game cartridge to contain RAM though.

Could you connect external RAM with a thunderbolt 3 connection?

It’s a good idea, but no adapter will make this work.

The reason for this comes down to the most basic parts of a computer’s mother board. The different parts of a computer are connected by buses. You have a data bus, control bus, address bus, SATA bus, etc…

Each bus is, at it’s most basic level, a bunch of wires connecting hardware components on the motherboard.

The CPU uses the address bus, control bus, and data bus to;

  • address RAM blocks
  • Send the read / write / fetch commands to ram
  • And send the data back to the CPU or CPU to RAM, respectively.

These buses are hard, physical “wires” in the board that allow this communication.

Thunderbolt has a bus too. The PCIe bus. Here is a good picture of this.

Those two grey rectangular blocks connecting the CPU to the RAM are the 3 buses talked about before.

The green one with 4 arrows is the PCIe bus. It goes to the PCH, which is the chipset. That kinda acts like a upper and lower bridge between the CPU and other stuff on the board, but that’s beyond the scope of this question.

The tl;dr is, the wires don’t match up. You would have to completely reinvent computer architecture to do this.

But there is something called a page file. People abuse these as a sort of pseudo RAM, but they have their uses. I’ll leave that as homework for whoever wants to know.

Must Read:


RAM is a crucial piece of hardware. It is used by the processor and other components to store their processes, and vital data.

Now, contrary to what others have written, it does not need to be ‘physically’ close to the processor. The electrical signals, that carry your data travel fast enough that you won’t notice the difference.

To understand why you can’t or don’t plug in your RAM, just like you plug in your USB devices is that RAM is a bit choosy when it comes to interfaces, and power supply.

Interfaces, like USB, have varying supply across different ports, which enables you to share power supply among multiple connected devices. This will be a major issue, since RAM is volatile and an undermined supply will affect the operations, and ultimately your crucial data, which your processor needs.

Moreover, interfaces like USB offer very low data rates as compared to the interface which the RAM uses. ASB3 offers 640MB/s data rate, and a low-end DDR3 RAM, with a clock frequency of 100MHz, offers 6400MB/s. This will be a major bottleneck for the performance.


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1 thought on “Is it possible to add RAM to laptops externally? – External RAM”

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