RAM stands for Random Access Memory. It is a type of computer memory that allows data to be read and written in approximately the same amount of time. Also, this happens regardless of where the data is physically placed. RAM comes in a variety of brands, each with its own set of features.
This raises an interesting question: can we mix different RAM brands and what effect will this have?
This has been a popular question as computers and laptops are being constructed with more and more RAM slots.
Mixing RAM Brands can be done if a few factors are kept in mind. Use RAM sticks that are the same size, speed, and frequency for best results. However, when it comes to performance, same brand RAMs outperform different brand RAMs. It’s not recommended for taxing tasks like video game, and video editing.
If the computer is not going to be used heavily (for example, for gaming), mixing brands can work well but the PC performance adjusts to meet the capabilities of the lower grade RAM.
What you need to know about Mixing RAM brands
Although purchasing the same brand will simplify your life, it does not have to be your only option. Although there is some risk in doing so, it is critical to ensure that each stick has the same timings, voltage, and CAS latency as well as specifications.
However, this can be tiresome and exhausting. There is no assurance that it will work, so there is a disadvantage.
1. Using various RAM sizes in RAM Slots
This can be done with multiple brands of RAM, but it won’t give you the best system performance. As a result, it’s recommended to use RAM in slots that are the same size and brand.
If you mix RAM sizes, you’ll need to make sure they’re all running at the same voltage to get the best results. If they don’t, you’ll be forced to use the lowest voltage. Their individual controllers must be compatible with the motherboard as well.
If you’re going to combine RAM sizes, make sure you use them all at the same time. You could, for example, use a 3 GB RAM stick and a 6 GB RAM stick. In Flex Mode (or dual-channel mode), the RAM will behave as if it were two 3GB RAM sticks to maximize performance.
The remaining 3GB will run in single-channel mode after both sticks are loaded to that 3GB threshold. This implies you’ll see some slowed performance, but it’ll still be faster than before.
2. Mixing RAM speeds
You can blend RAM speeds, which is a popular option among users. All you have to do now is make sure that all of the critical elements, such as timings, voltage, and CAS latency, are in place.
Your motherboard will automatically underclock the faster RAM, so you’ll be performing at the slower RAM’s speed. Nonetheless, there should be no issues.
Mixing often results in more issues. There’s a considerable chance you’ll never encounter any of these issues. Even yet, if something goes wrong, you can get the Blue Screen of Death(BSoD). If you combine different RAM brands, RAM speeds, and RAM quantities, your computer is likely to work smoothly.
If you’re going to buy a new RAM stick, though, it’s best to go with something compatible.
This will not only help you avoid difficulties, but it will also help you enhance performance and make the most of all of your computer’s components.
So, in the end, yes, you can mix RAM brands as long as you’re careful. Though most PC building experts agree that it isn’t optimal for your computer or its performance. It does not create many issues. Your computer will always operate to the capabilities of the lesser quality RAM, no matter what you do.
3. Matching the hardware
You have to understand the working of your RAM before you try to mix it up. If not the details then at least the basics. You should know that the hardware you are mixing your RAM with matches your RAM. For best performance, the RAM and the hardware should be using the same voltage, and their controllers should work just well with each other and the motherboard.
This means that the best practice is to use the same kind of RAM in all the slots. But, you can still go for variations in sizes in different slots. This will speed up your work as compared to the speed you were having before.
For instance, you can add one 4GB and one 8GB RAM stick in two of your slots. In dual-channel mode they will act as two single 4GB sticks that run side by side with each other This will increase your speed.
In the single-channel mode, the 4GB stick that remained above will act as a single stick. Hence, you can mix and match the RAM sizes.
DRAM mixing and matching
Is it possible to mix and match DRAM from different generations? This refers to the DRAM chip’s version. DRAM improves in speed, latency, and voltage with each new iteration.
1. Different Generations of DRAM
Each generation of DRAM has a distinctive pin layout to ensure that the wrong module isn’t unintentionally installed in a computer.
2. Speed, Latency, & Voltage
While you can potentially mix speeds, one thing to keep in mind is that your DRAM will all run at the slowest module’s speed. The same phenomenon happens when different latencies are used in modules.
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The system will start with the module that has the slowest timings. Another consideration is the speed at which your motherboard can operate.
3. What about DRAM modules that operate at various voltages?
You guessed it: both modules would run at a greater voltage, resulting in the loss of the more efficient module’s benefits.
Mixing RAM brands is not a major issue provided the factors shared above are kept in mind and you’re careful in the process. The specs like the voltage, speed, etc are what matter at the core. As long as you are careful in that matter then the brands do not matter as much.
Risks of mixing RAMs
So we saw that this is something that we can do. We saw how to do it and what should we keep in mind while we are doing it. Now let’s see whether or not mixing RAMs is worth the entire effort. What are the risks and failures waiting for us if we fail to do it and what can we actually lose in the process.
If you do not consider the factors that have been described above, like voltage or brands of the RAM and eventually, the DIMMs fail to work with each other, the PC may face BSoD.
Blue Screen of Death is a state of the computer or evidently a state of error of the computer which has existed since Windows 1.0. When Windows faces this error, it means that the Windows have crashed due to a fatal system error. In this condition, it can not operate safely any longer.
This can happen if the motherboard of your computer is not very fond of one of the newly installed RAM disks on your system.
I would suggest that if you are bent on changing the RAM and mixing it for that matter, do not do it just because the computer guy next door made it look so cool.
It is not as easy as it sounds. Unless you are sure of matching the RAM brands, the voltage, the size, the CAS, and the other factors that I have discussed above, do not try this. If you blatantly go out and mix the RAMs then you will risk losing your entire system to the Blue Screen of Death error. Unless of course if you are sure you have all the details accurate.
Conclusion: Mix RAM Modules
Mixing the RAMs is a possible task that can be done if you are aware of the technical details of your computer and the RAM sticks that you wish to insert into your system. Mixing the RAMs comes with certain risks and essential know-how.
The RAM size, voltage, brand, CAS, speed, and latency of the RAM and the computer should be known to you. This is helpful when mixing them as they will work well together if these things are symmetrical.
If the process is not followed carefully there is a risk of losing the Windows to a fatal error of the Blue Screen of Death. So, it is better to be sure before taking this step and following all the precautions carefully.
Is it OK to mix and match RAM?
Yes, but with some precautions. You need to make sure that the RAMs are from the same form factor i.e., DDR2 or DDR4, etc, and they have the same voltage. If they have varying voltage then the system will run on the smaller voltage. Speed and brand can vary.
Do RAM brands matter?
If the RAMs have similar specifications then the brand matters little. For instance, if they have similar size, speed, and voltage, etc. then what remains is their quality. Since different brands use different materials the quality can somewhat differ but otherwise, the brands do not matter as much.
Is it better to have 2 RAM sticks or 4?
The general rule and my experience are that it is always a better option to have 2 sticks rather than 4 sticks on your system. It means that if you wish to get 32GB or overall RAM then you should get two sticks 16GBx2. Similarly, for 16GB get 8GBx2. With higher density in the routing, the signal integrity gets worsened so it is better to have fewer sticks.