Generally speaking, pre-built NAS such as Synology have a reputation of being underpowered. At least out of the box. That’s changing a bit with the newer Synology boxes. One potential benefit that’s discussed a lot is to upgrade the RAM in the Synology unit.
This article will cover my thoughts on upgrading the factory installed RAM and how to determine if a RAM upgrade is needed.
Let’s start with the latter, do you need to upgrade RAM?
Is a RAM Upgrade Needed?
If I’m buying a new Synology NAS and it has a user accessible RAM slot then I automatically buy a module and upgrade the RAM during the initial setup. RAM is cheap these days and if I’m buying a model that can be upgraded it’s one of the higher priced, higher-end models so the usage will almost certainly grow to benefit from the RAM.
If you’ve been using the NAS awhile you can check your memory usage using the Resource Monitor. Like most modern operating systems Disk Station Manager (DSM) will maximize memory performance so the amount of “free memory” may seem small. This is because DSM will keep old information in memory for faster access if it’s needed again. It will free up the memory if needed.
Use your Synology NAS for a while and look at the Memory Monitor during a time of heavy usage. Make sure all the apps are running and run as many video streams as you normally would. Look at the utilization percentage, not the free memory. The monitor excludes buffers and caches that DSM knows it can free up. If the percentage is near 100% you’ll benefit from more memory.
You should also change the “Type” to Swap at look at it’s utilization. If it’s not 0 then you are running out of physical memory at times and DSM is swapping to disk which hurts performance. Adding more memory will avoid this and improve performance.
Upgrading Factory RAM
First off, replacing the factory RAM will probably void the warranty. So if you’re buying a new Synology with the intent to upgrade the factory RAM run it for a week or so first to burn it in and make sure there are no manufacturing problems.
Hit the internet and search for anyone who’s tried to upgrade the RAM in the same unit you have (or will have). Search for “model RAM Upgrade” where model is the specific Synology model such as “DS212J RAM upgrade.
Some Synology units have the RAM soldered in so upgrading these will be impossible unless you like building electronics yourself. No doubt about it, the warranty will be void in this case.
Some Synology units, especially among newer models, just use a RAM socket and use what is typically considered laptop RAM. The laptop analogy is appropriate because they will require require you to take apart the NAS much like you would a laptop. The factory RAM is not easily accessible and you’ll have to search around to find it. You may also have to remove some additional parts to get access. If you’ve taken apart a laptop then most models shouldn’t be a problem for you.
One last caveat is that the CPU or internal architecture of the Synology will limit the maximum amount of memory. If you can’t find examples of people upgrading your specific NAS you’ll need to research the CPU to see how much memory it can address. Other architectural limits will be nearly impossible to find without actually trying the upgrade.
User Upgradable RAM
You’ll still need to open up the Synology NAS to install the new memory. This is much easier than the factory installed RAM since once the cover is off the RAM socket will be easily accessible. You can just pop in the new RAM and close up the NAS.
Synology lists the RAM compatible with each user upgradeable model on their website here. You can use this information to get the RAM specifications for your model Synology and then shop around for your preferred memory brand or a good price.
Crucial Memory also lists Synology Disk Stations in their Memory Advisor and will show you their compatible RAM.
You can also search the internet for memory others have found compatible. You do need to be cautious with the random internet recommendation, because some memory incompatibilities make take time to show themselves.
I generally avoid updating factory RAM while the NAS is still under warranty. I do wish some lower capacity NASs were able to have upgraded RAM. There are cases where two drive bays are enough, especially as drives get larger, but it will be running a lot of applications. A five bay model is the least expensive that also has upgradeable RAM. So I can certainly see why warranty-voiding factory upgrades are done.
Don’t buy a new NAS, intending to do a factory upgrade, unless you already know it’s been done successfully and are already comfortable working on computer hardware.
If your getting a Synology NAS that supports a user memory upgrade there’s almost no reason not to do the upgrade. About the only time I don’t automatically install an upgrade with a new Synology NAS is when I know it will be used exclusively for file storage and have only a few connections at any one time.
This assumes there’s no memory leak in a package you’re running. If so then adding memory will only delay the inevitable. ↩
In some units you may be able to replace the original factory RAM if the unit needs service. But you’ll need to be extra careful opening the NAS and removing the RAM. ↩
Models that use ECC memory do use the larger 240 pin memory chips. ↩