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I'm sure many people like me are aware and annoyed by the extremely limited amount of RAM in Nexus S (512MB but only 300+ is usable), I have searched all over google for a solution to increase the amount of RAM available and came up empty (I tried swap file applications but they just broke my system's SD card partitions causing a complete reset).

I wonder if there is any hardware solution to this problem. Is it possible to swap the chip out for a bigger capacity one? I realize that it is not as simple as swapping out PC RAM from a dimm but I haven't seen any schematics for the chip layout on the ARM boards in the smartphones so I really hope that it is somewhat possible to increase the amount of RAM on the board.

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migrated from superuser.com May 14 '12 at 7:53

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3  
The rest of your RAM is used by the OS, "not usable" isn't exactly true. –  Matthew Read May 14 '12 at 16:20
    
I can only wish :( –  Narayanan Nov 20 '12 at 8:47

9 Answers 9

up vote 15 down vote accepted

You can't. Most smart phones are designed as a System-on-Chip; which means that the CPU, RAM, GPU, device controllers, etc are all in a single chip. Updating RAM in such system means replacing a whole lot of other stuffs. Not to mention that you probably would have a hard time finding a chip with different specification which fits perfectly into the hole that was left behind after you dismounted the chip; due to size restrictions, the components around the chip are designed to fit tightly into the available space.

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In addition, having changed the hardware, it is highly unlikely that the existing drivers will work with that hardware. You would have to recompile Android with your new drivers! This is harder than it sounds. –  ChromoZoneX Apr 8 at 14:06
    
And, you may ask, "why don't the designers make it possible to perform upgrades?" It basically comes down to size. Supporting upgradable RAM greatly increases the amount of space the internals take up which increases the size of the phone, the weight, etc. –  JasCav Apr 8 at 15:30
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Project Ara from Google might be able to bring this concept to reality! –  ChromoZoneX Apr 8 at 20:04

It may be possible to add swap space, see Adding Swap Space Ram to G1 for example.

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No it isn't. At least if you have to ask about it. Replacing any chip would require several thousand dollars worth of equipment and experience. Not to mention obtaining the correct replacement.

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The actual hardware: No. It is System on Chip (SOC) and cannot be upgraded.

However:

You can use Swap for this purpose. However, the performace will take a large hit, even on a class 10 SD card.

Swap is, in short, virtual RAM. With swap, a small portion of the hard drive is set aside and used like RAM. The computer will attempt to keep as much information as possible in RAM until the RAM is full. At that point, the computer will begin moving inactive blocks of memory (called pages) to the hard disk, freeing up RAM for active processes. If one of the pages on the hard disk needs to be accessed again, it will be moved back into RAM, and a different inactive page in RAM will be moved onto the hard disk ('swapped'). The trade off is disks and SD cards are considerably slower than physical RAM, so when something needs to be swapped, there is a noticeable performance hit.

Unlike traditional swap, Android's Memory Manager kills inactive processes to free up memory. Android signals to the process, then the process will usually write out a small bit of specific information about its state (for example, Google Maps may write out the map view coordinates; Browser might write the URL of the page being viewed) and then the process exits. When you next access that application, it is restarted: the application is loaded from storage, and retrieves the state information that it saved when it last closed. In some applications, this makes it seem as if the application never closed at all. This is not much different from traditional swap, except that Android apps are specially programmed to write out very specific information, making Android's Memory Manager more efficient that swap.

There are also other pitfalls with this method:

You need to turn off swap before you mount SD via USB, if you don't you will not be able to mount sd as swapfile is active and set to read only which will deny request to mount USB Storage.

TL;DR: Yes in theory, in practice it's not good!

As an alternative KitKat has a smaller memory footprint and is supposed to be optimised for 512 RAM devices, look around XDA for a ROM for your device maybe and see if that would help!

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The place to go for PDA and smartphone memory upgrades has always been PPC Techs but they may not do them for your device.

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An Android device? Sure.
Hear me out.

Android is an operating system like any Linux distribution, or Windows.
Android can run on x86 hardware, or ARM boards too. (Well, usually it runs on ARM CPUs.)
You can put Android-x86 on your laptop/desktop. Or a virtual machine. Whatever.

The thing is, that you also mentioned that you want to upgrade a phone hardware.
That's a no go, since they use "SoC"s. (System-on-chip.)
Like a blackbox. Yeah, you can spot the components, disassemble it, but you cannot expand / repair it.

But for the original question... the main question, the answer is: Yes.

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The answer is 'NO' you cannot upgrade the RAM of a smartphone yourself! Probably you are comparing it to the computer, as we can change the RAM in a computer but you're stuck with the size shipped with your smart phone (:

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You can, use swap files and partitions on the external SD card to mimic RAM thus increasing what the device thinks it has as RAM. It won't be as fast, it's messy and inelegant though. "This kind of question made me laugh" is why I have downvoted this. Let's keep the tone polite. @Deepak.pm realistically you can swap, see the answer here: android.stackexchange.com/questions/22997/… –  RossC Aug 21 at 10:48
    
I wasn't being harsh by saying it made me laugh. –  Abdul Jabbar Aug 21 at 10:52
    
It looks rude to be honest, and it isn't fully correct either. You CAN upgrade the RAM on your device, just not in a way that would be of use to most people. Link2SD causes a big hit at times let alone using Swap for RAM usage. –  RossC Aug 21 at 10:54
    
Yea well you're right, i was thinking more as a lay person. –  Abdul Jabbar Aug 21 at 10:55

Use RAM Expander expanding to SD card

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4  
That doesn't add more RAM. Could you also provide a link? –  ce4 Jun 19 '13 at 4:43
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The OP already stated that they've tried swap file apps. –  Dan Hulme Jun 19 '13 at 10:15

This is possible but not even remotely easy to do by yourself (unless you are experienced repairman or electronics hobbyist). Unfortunately, device manufacturers are interested in quickest possible technical obsolescence of products so it's unlikely that they will agree to install some standard RAM slot so hardware solution to this problem requires soldering.

For example this site explains how to replace RAM chips on a HTC Universal which is Windows Mobile phone but it can be considered Android device too ;)

Basically it is enough replace RAM chips. To find compatible RAM chip you should first find out which chips are inside your device and teardown reports may help with that. Then you can try to find usual computer RAM modules with bigger compatible chips (datasheets about your RAM chip may help with that). If compatible RAM chips are accessible and you have good soldering skills you can replace them using rework station, heat gun, soldering iron or of course you may ask some repairman to do this for you.

If you have any questions about RAM replacement process you can ask them on electronics.stackexchange.com

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Even if you were to replace the RAM you'd also have to patch the BSP software to change the memory map visible to the CPU, so that it can use the extra RAM. Without access to the internal specifications that the manufacturer has, you'd probably brick the device trying to do that. The site that "explains how to replace RAM chips" is a dead link. –  Dan Hulme May 19 '13 at 13:47

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