Five things to consider when purchasing RAM upgrades

Michael Flanagan, 05/18/2007
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Upgrading RAM is the easiest and most cost-effective option available when upgrading systems, and it provides an immediate improvement in performance. Installation only takes minutes, and in virtually every case the computer's BIOS recognizes the memory upgrade and begins using it seamlessly and immediately.

More and more IT professionals recognize that in order to save money they must approach each system as a series of components that can be upgraded in stages as they need to extend their IT investment. Upgrading RAM can stop the hands of time with regards to computer system depreciation and replacement. An older machine with upgraded RAM will often outperform a new system.

When upgrading RAM, the five main things to consider are compatibility, service, quality, support, and value.

Compatibility should be the main concern when upgrading the memory in your system. Systems from manufacturers such as Dell, HP, and Apple can require a very specific type of memory. The main factors are matching the technology and speed requirements, but other factors such as size and number of memory chips can have a big effect on whether a memory stick will work properly in your system. Since system manufacturers often don't provide detailed information about the memory required, it can be difficult to tell if you're getting the right memory.

Use one of the simple and powerful online memory search tools available from memory vendors such as Crucial, Kingston, and Silicon Mountain Memory. With thousands of systems researched and catalogued, these tools can ensure that the memory you order will be the memory you need. Be prepared to provide the brand, family, and model of the system to be upgraded.

If shopping at "big box" computer stores, keep in mind their RAM selections will be limited to recent technologies and they will most likely not offer a tool to determine what kind of memory your system requires.

Service. Look for free technical support, a compatibility guarantee, multiple shipping options, and a no-hassle return policy that allows enough time for you to make sure the memory is right for your needs and your computer systems.

Quality should be another key factor in your purchase. Even though most memory looks alike, the differences in quality can be huge. The memory should be covered by a lifetime warranty to ensure that your system will be running great both now and years down the road.

Support can be the difference between a frustrating and a satisfying upgrade experience. Your memory vendor should provide an easy-to-follow installation guide (online or included in your shipment). Although memory is the easiest and quickest upgrade you can perform, you may still have questions about installation, troubleshooting, or memory in general. Choose a vendor who offers phone, e-mail, and live chat to help answer your questions as quickly and easily as possible.

Value. Don't confuse value with price when purchasing computer upgrades. Your memory upgrade is an investment in your computer's future. Find several vendors who satisfy the above categories of compatibility, service, quality, and support - then compare prices.

If you keep these five things in mind when you perform your next memory upgrade, you'll get the best price possible while still enjoying top-notch compatibility, service, quality, and support.

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Michael Flanagan is a Customer and Competitive Intelligence Specialist for Silicon Mountain Memory in Boulder, Colorado.

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