The Do's and Don'ts of Buying Memory (RAM)

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The Do's and Don'ts of Buying Memory (RAM)

A sluggish computer can be a great source of annoyance, especially a recently purchased, cleaned or serviced one. The things that can cause a computer to run slowly include a lack of memory, an underpowered CPU, registry problems, or too many intensive programs loading at start-up. If inadequate random access memory (RAM) is the culprit, a memory upgrade is now an inexpensive and straightforward procedure, usually.

Buying new RAM for a desktop computer or laptop is a problem-free exercise, provided the customer carefully observes a few points about their current RAM and motherboard. Memory cards are sold in several different shapes and sizes, and is generally only compatible with the specific memory card slots on a given motherboard, but there are several other considerations that make it essential that a motherboard's qualified vendors list (QVL) is consulted to avoid purchasing incompatible RAM. There are several do's and don'ts that a customer must observe so that a RAM upgrade does not prove a waste of time and money.

Types of RAM

There are essentially two types of RAM : volatile and non-volatile. Volatile RAM, used in domestic and commercial computer applications, is available in either static or dynamic format although dynamic is the most commonly used. Both static and dynamic volatile RAM runs from the power supply on the motherboard. Non-volatile RAM is most commonly used in specialist applications for scientific and military operations and runs with its own power supply.

Within the dynamic volatile RAM category, there are several RAM configurations. These include SDRAM , DDR , DDR2,,DDR3,, and So Dimm.. Each type of RAM is designed for specific motherboards, and so upgrading is usually limited to replacing a higher performing version of the same RAM. It is, therefore, essential that a person wishing to upgrade their RAM first take note of the RAM they already have.

Before Choosing New RAM

It is possible to choose the wrong RAM even if it does fit into the existing memory card slot on the motherboard because there is more to compatibility than having the same connection. Buying incompatible RAM often results in the motherboard not recognising the new memory card. If the customer's motherboard has a dual channel platform, then it must also have two very similar RAM segments set up.

Before purchasing new RAM, a customer must check the guide that came with their computer's motherboard to see which types of RAM are compatible. This is the QVL that names the upgrades that can safely be made to that particular motherboard. RAM is most upgradeable when it is replaced with a more highly efficient version of the same RAM that is currently being used. For instance, a computer with a low memory of 256MB DDR2 RAM is perfectly suited to being upgraded to a 512MB DDR2 RAM. Not that one would make this transition today with the general minimum of RAM for most applications now sitting at 4 Gigabytes, but the principal is the same.

The Don'ts of Buying Memory

A buyer must avoid the many assumptions that threaten to turn a computer upgrade into a very frustrating and expensive exercise. Choosing RAM does not have to be difficult, but it does require technical knowledge. Below are a few examples of what a buyer should not do.

Don't Listen to Unqualified Advice

Anyone who wishes to purchase new RAM or any other computer hardware independently of an authorised dealer should only do so if they have adequate knowledge and or technical experience. The one thing a buyer must never do is choose a memory card based on the advice given by a person with inadequate technical knowledge.

Don't Simply Find a Card That Fits

Purchasing new RAM involves choosing a memory card that fits into an existing motherboard. It is essential, however, that a buyer does not simply imagine that any card that fits is compatible. Doing so could compromise the rest of the system.

Don't Mix RAM

Whilst it is almost permissible to mix certain types of RAM on occasions, it is not recommended as it can cause problems with program stability later on. Some types can never be mixed, such as DDR with DDR2 or DDR3.

The Do's of Buying Memory

A buyer must ensure they purchase RAM that is fully supported by their motherboard and does not cause instability in certain programs. The following steps offer some guidelines that help ensure full compatibility between RAM and motherboard.

Do Check Form Factor

Probably the most basic of all initial assessments to make is the form factor test. Unless upgrading the motherboard along with the RAM, always check the existing memory card and motherboard connection type and only purchase new RAM that fits the motherboard's form factor. This process of elimination, however, does not determine the correct RAM on its own.

Do Check Model Specifications

If a buyer purchased their computer from a manufacturer, they should, if possible, consult the computer's manufacturing website and enter their model number. The size of RAM quoted in the manufacturer's specifications for their model is the maximum memory size and speed that their motherboard can process.

If the customer did not buy their system from a manufacturer and no longer has the manual that came with the motherboard, they may examine their motherboard for any relevant information and conduct a web search on it. Failing that, a computer technician should be able to give advice on compatible RAM options.

Do Use System Information for Windows

The system information for windows website is a good place to gather the necessary data for all sorts of computer components on their system. The user downloads and installs the SIW file and selects the memory section of the software. This informs the user of their computer's memory specifications and recommends the best type of RAM upgrade for that motherboard.

Do Consider Operating System Compatibility

An obvious although fundamental point to consider is whether the RAM to be upgraded is running on a 32- or 64-bit operating system. If a buyer has a 64-bit operating system, they may potentially upgrade their RAM to 4 or 8GB memory, but if their computer is a 32-bit system, their upgrade is limited to under 4GB. To upgrade beyond this entails replacing their 32-bit operating system with a 64-bit.

Do Take into Account Voltage Compatibility

Some memory cards require a higher voltage than what can be supported by the motherboard. A buyer must ensure their own motherboard supports the voltage of the new RAM.

D Factor in Latency

A buyer should choose lower latency RAM to maximise the bandwidth potential of a given memory card. This increases efficiency, performance, and speeds up the system. Additionally, RAM may be overclocked from the Bios settings to get the most out of its capabilities.

Points to Consider

The following chart summarises the most essential points previously discussed. These must always be assessed before purchasing new RAM.



Motherboard QVL

Choose the highest performing QVL recommended memory card

Operating System

Check whether the operating system is 32- or 64-bit

Form Factor

Assess the motherboard's memory card slots

Understanding the basic requirements in upgrading RAM can save time, expense, and a great deal of frustration, but making the necessary checks may not be something that every buyer is confident with. Under these circumstances, a buyer should seek professional consultation.

How to Buy RAM on eBay

eBay has a large selection of the many different types of RAM. Not only does purchasing RAM from here expand your buying power and choice, it can also save you considerable money. Search for your memory card by model number and other specifications, such as So Dimm 204 pin . By fine tuning your searches with specific details, you can speed up your selection process.

Select several memory cards that match your needed criteria and go through each listing carefully, taking note of photographs and specification details. Make comparisons between the listed items, comparing also any possible differences in returns policies and postage options. It is also wise to check your designated seller's reputation. Although most eBay sellers are honest professionals, it is nevertheless worthwhile to check the positive feedback score of your designated seller and to read the feedback from previous customers.

If you find that the information offered on your preferred listed item is inadequate, contact the seller and request further clarification. It is not unreasonable for potential buyers to ask questions about a listed item. Being adequately informed does not disentitle you from requesting a refund, but most sellers would certainly prefer to answer your questions than accept your returns.


A RAM upgrade is a simple and economical way to speed up a lagging computer, and buying hardware online is now a popular option to enhance a computer system for considerably less than it costs through a dealer. That does not, however, leave the dealer out of the equation. The non-tech savvy buyer may choose to purchase their own RAM and have a dealer install it. Buying RAM this way may simply be a cost cutting measure, but it is absolutely essential that the right kind is purchased and that it is installed correctly.

The selection of computer memory cards on eBay is extensive, which reflects the market saturation for this and many other hardware components that are being traded constantly. There is nothing the technician cannot find on eBay to assemble a new system or bring their existing rig up to speed with the best. The choice of upgrades for fully upgradeable systems may now be virtually unlimited via the eBay listings.

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