Last Updated on November 6, 2020
Choosing RAM is not as straightforward as settling for a certain amount of memory, the brand and then getting it and sticking it into your computer. Modern computers are built to be modular, but this does not mean that you can use just any type of RAM with your motherboard.
So How to Tell If RAM Will Work With Your Motherboard? There are a lot of things to consider before you get RAM for your PC, and in this article, we will let you in on some of the more common things you need to know.
Compatibility is an important thing to consider first before getting RAM for your computer as you may end up with a component that you won’t be able to use if you’re not careful.
Basically, if you are a consumer, the first thing you need to check for is what type of DDR version of the RAM your motherboard supports. Secondly, you need to check the frequency whether it is compatible or not.
Also Read: Best Motherboards with M.2 slots
How to Tell If RAM Will Work With Your Motherboard?
There are three things to consider when checking RAM compatilibyt
- RAM Type and Version
- Maximum Amount of RAM supported by the Motherboard
- RAM Frequency and Backward Compatibility
1. RAM Type and Version
To find out whether your motherboard will support a certain kind of RAM, you will need to first take a look at the technical specifications of the board.
Manufacturers of the motherboard will give you details about what kind RAM is supported on it.
Most boards will support a certain generation of memory. These generations include:
Common RAM Versions
This can only be found on older generation computers as it is now obsolete. It was released about two decades ago and served as the stepping stone for DDR2 – DDR4 memory.
As an upgrade to DDR1, this module supports up to 4 data transfers in a single clock cycle. At this rate, it is twice as fast as DDR1 SDRAM.
This offers better performance than the previous generation DDR2 chips. In addition to that, you also get less power consumption from the lower operating voltages.
DDR3 was released in 2007.
This upgrade over DDR3 offers even lower power consumption levels and much faster data transfer rates.
It was released in 2014 and has since then been adopted into many modern computers.
If you recently bought a new computer, then there are high chances that it supports DDR4. However, consulting the specification is always the best way to go.
Obsolete RAMs are More Expensive
Common logic will entail that a RAM that is slower would cost you less. However, that is hardly the case.
This has more to do with they supply and demand factor. Older RAMs are harder to find. As such, they are also more expensive.
If you have an older motherboard, say a motherboard that is compatible with DDR2, procuring a DDR2 stick would be quite expensive.
Identifying RAM Type
You will notice that each of these types is significantly different from the previous one. This is not only in performance, pin count and the physical profile also differs as you move across the board.
If your motherboard is reported to use a DDR3 or DDR2 module then you will realize that no DDR4 stick will fit on the board. As a result, the only way to enjoy the performance of a higher generation stick would be to upgrade to a compatible motherboard.
You can physically identify the RAM you’re using by looking at the notch that’s at the base of the stick. On DDR1 sticks, the notch is just above the IC (Integrated Circuit) while for DDR2 the notch is a small distance away from the IC. On DDR3 sticks, the notch is somewhere near the middle. The exact physical appearance may vary between different models.
Incompatible RAM Issues
When your RAM and board are incompatible, chances are that you won’t get as far as installing it on the board as the slot will have different configurations.
Just don’t try and force it even if the slot and the module are of the same size. Doing so could permanently damage the board or the RAM module. If you find yourself in this situation, check if you can exchange the module for an appropriate one.
2. Maximum Amount of RAM Supported by the Motherboard
Each Motherboard has a maximum amount of RAM that it can support.
There are two things to consider here.
Maximum Total RAM
The maximum total RAM is the total amount of RAM your motherboard can support.
So for example if your motherboard an support a maximum of 64 GB of DDR 4 RAM, adding anymore will not work.
Maximum RAM per Slot
This is the maximum amount of RAM a single RAM slot can be occupied with.
For example if the maximum amount a single RAM slot on your motherboard supports 16 GB of DDR 4 RAM, you cannot install a 32 GB DDR4 stick on it.
3. RAM Frequency and Backward Compatibility
RAMs have a speed at which they work called RAM frequency. While a DDR 4 RAM has a higher frequency than a DDR 3 RAM, even DDR 4 RAMs come in different speeds.
Faster DDR 4 are more expensive naturally and generally found on high end machines.
So if you have a DDR 4 motherboard but it only supports 2666 MHz sticks at max, your system will not benefit from the faster more expensive RAM. Read below:
What If You Have a Higher Frequency Stick?
If you have a higher frequency version RAM, you can still install it in the motherboard, but the max speed at which it will operate will be the maximum speed of the motherboard’s limit.
So for example if your motherboard only supports 2666 MHz, you can still install a 2800 MHz RAM in it, but that RAM will be clocked down to the motherboard’s limit i.e 2666 MHz.
As such you will wasted the potential of the faster RAM.
Can DDR 3 work with DDR 4?
No, while frequencies of the RAM is backward compatible, the RAM version is not.
Therefore, you cannot install a DDR 3 RAM in a DDR 4 motherboard or vice versa.
Why is RAM Important Anyways?
Just as your computer needs a CPU, it also needs storage for the apps you’re running and their data. You may argue that there’s a hard disk for that, but the thing is, RAM helps the CPU work much faster.
As opposed to fetching programs and data from the hard drive, these are first loaded into RAM for faster access.
Typically, hard drives are slow and even compared to your fastest SSDs, RAM will be a couple of times faster.
For this reason, it makes sense to copy all the necessary files to the RAM first and fetch them from there during operation. This helps get rid of storage bottlenecks.
An increase in RAM could result in better performance up to a certain point as the computer will be able to run more processes and equally much faster.
Types of RAM
Mixing RAM sticks is made impossible by the pin configurations. This not only helps you know the kind of RAM your board can use but also prevents you from using an incompatible module.
Double Data Rate (DDR) SDRAM
This kind is commonly used with user-grade computers. There are several generations for SDRAM chips and each one is an upgrade from the previous one.
These chips typically allow greater bandwidths for data transfer, resulting in twice the transfer amount, thus the name DDR.
This is known as Dynamic RAM. It is dynamic in that it has to be constantly refreshed in order to retain the data it is storing. This is the more commonly used RAM technology as it’s cheaper to manufacture.
With Static RAM, data is kept in the memory as long as power is supplied. Once power is cut off then all the information is lost. SRAM is more expensive than DRAM.
Since they are more common, well look closely at DRAM types.
These are known as synchronous DRAM because they’re able to synchronize their memory speed with the CPU’s clock cycle for better performance.
Rambus DRAM is made by the Rambus Company.
Hopefully, this has given you some insight into memory and motherboard compatibility. Here we looked in depth into a common question asked “How to tell if RAM will work with your motherboard.
Basically, if you have a board and are wondering whether it will work with a certain type of RAM, take a step back and get information about your board first.
You will get great insights about the kind of slot the board has for memory, the number of slots, the maximum memory it can support and the type of RAM that is compatible.