1. QVL – Qualified Vendors List:
    In short, this is a list offered on the manufacturer motherboard page which states which RAM was tested and is guaranteed to be compatible with said motherboard. Make sure to buy RAM that is on your motherboard’s QVL to ensure maximum compatibility.

    Picture by erikthenorsk.

  2. Type of RAM:
    There are many types of RAM, such as SDRAM, DDR, DDR2, DDR3, So-Dimm, etc. Pick the right one.
  3. Frequency:
    Your motherboard will only accept certain frequency of RAM, such as up to DDR3 1600MHz for example. Pick faster memory and you’ll be forced to run it at a slower pace or it might not work at all. Pick slower memory and you will limit your system performance. As a general rule of thumb, higher frequency means higher performance, but other factors such as timings weight in too.
  4. Voltage:
    Some RAM will require voltage that is above the regular standard. Make sure that your motherboard can supply that much voltage if required. Voltage increases are also commonplace with overclocking. Note that it is not recommended to use more than 1.65V on the RAM with Core i7 processors or you risk damaging your processor.
  5. Timings:
    Timings or latencies, refer to the delay between certain commands executed by your computer memory sub-system. To keep this simple, all you need to know is that lower timings are better as they will reduce latency and increase bandwidth.
  6. How much RAM do you need?
    That really depends on your needs, although I tend to recommend at least 2GB for any system, 4GB for a high performance system. 4GB to 6GB is a must for a gaming system if you want to run modern games. The more the better, especially considering the current low prices of RAM.
  7. 32 or 64 bit?
    32 bit operating systems can only address up to 4GB of memory in total, including the memory on your video card and within your CPU. If you plan on using 4GB of RAM or more, you’ll have to use a 64-bit OS in order to be able to take advantage of all your RAM.
  8. 4 x 1GB or 2 x 2GB?
    2 x 2GB in this case. Two sticks are preferable to four, as it’s easier for your motherboard or cpu memory controller to handle only two sticks. Four sticks can be a nightmare when it comes to compatibility and will also limit your RAM frequency and/or timings when it comes to overclocking
  9. Warranty
    Some manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty. Some let you increase your voltage under warranty. RAM tend more to be faulty when you receive it/buy it then after several years, so it’s a good idea to buy it from a vendor who allows for easy and painless RMA process.
  10. Research
    This single word resumes it all: Research. Take some time to correctly do your research before buying your next stick(s) of RAM and things will go smoothly.

Tell us about your experiences buying RAM, how did it go? Do you have any personal tips to share with others? Drop off a line below in the comments.