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I just upgraded from two 2GB RAM cards to two 8GB ram cards.

I've read that my laptop (T420) officially supports 8GB but can work with up to 16GB.

I'm running free -mh which returns:

              total        used        free      shared  buff/cache   available
Mem:           7.7G        1.0G        5.3G        143M        1.4G        6.2G
Swap:          3.9G          0B        3.9G

I want to figure out if I installed them wrong or if it's a software configuration problem.

Is there a series of commands I could run to check that both ram cards are seen?

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    Looks like it is not connected based on the size reported by free. Look at the dmidecode command to tell you what is installed - this reads the description provided by the bios. Also bios setup screens will frequently tell you about memory installed in addition to hard drives, floppies etc – icarus Jul 27 '17 at 1:55
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    Depends on what you mean by more than the system can handle. Post the dmidecode output showing the memory that the bios detects. I strongly suspect that it is only detecting one module. If so then try removing one, see if you can detect the remaining one in both slots. Then try swapping the two modules and seeing if you can detect it in both slots. – icarus Jul 27 '17 at 2:09
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sudo dmidecode --type 17

would returns physical RAM info.

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