HomeHardwareCan You Mix RAM With Different Brand/ Size/ Speed/ Voltage
Can You Mix RAM With Different Brand/ Size/ Speed/ Voltage
October 1, 2021
Let’s say that you wanted to purchase new RAM, and the RAM modules that are identical to the ones you have in your system are not available for purchase anymore?
In most cases, as long as both RAM is of the same generation, such as DDR3 (Double Data Rate Gen 3) or DDR4 (Double Data Rate Gen 4) will work, but it will have some potential drawbacks, AKA compatibility issues.
Can You Mix RAM Brands?
It is possible to mix different RAM brands; however, motherboard manufacturers suggest using RAM that matches the model type, size, frequency, latency, and manufacturer to receive the best stability and performance.
Even if the specs do not match, you will still be able to utilize the RAM together. If the frequency and latency of the RAM modules differ, your system will default to the RAM settings of the lowest-performing module.
On the plus side of mixing the RAM (brands), you will still be able to enjoy an increase in speed when multitasking between different tasks and some memory-intensive programs such as Photoshop.
You may notice that apps open faster, and the overall speed of your PC has increased, at least due to the increase in RAM amount. The decrease in latency and speed would be difficult to notice unless you pushed your PC’s limits.
However, these benefits don’t outweigh the problems and risks that comes alongside them.
There have been many cases of reported issues experienced after mixing RAM modules of different timings, vendors, speed and sizes. Such issues, like BSOD, auto restarts, hard crashes etc., though are empirical by nature, will definitely be best to avoid.
This is why you are always recommended to buy RAM modules in kits(kits come in pairs or triplets, not as a single stick) and NOT mix with existing older RAM sticks, thereby completely replacing the older kit.
If you are unable to find a matching kit, or, buying a new set of sticks altogether, you will probably need to keep this instability in mind. Losing an hour or two’s worth of work at random, due to a hard reset, is very frustrating.
Is it OK to Mix RAM Speeds?
It is entirely possible to operate two or more RAM modules at different speeds. However, just like mixing brands, you will default to the lowest-performing RAM modules.
If installed in the same PC, both modules will be reduced to the lowest common denominator, i.e. (2666 MHz) speed and (19 CAS) latency to work together effectively.
Conversely, the CORSAIR DDR 3200MHz with a 16 CAS latency typically costs more and is crippled to a lower usable frequency and latency. In turn, you are not using your RAM to its fullest potential, preventing you from getting the most out of your RAM.
Simply put, you just paid a price premium for a performance boost you cannot use.
Can You Mix RAM Sticks of Different Sizes?
When upgrading RAM, it’s recommended that you upgrade in pairs of equal size, frequency, and manufacturer. Also, ensure that you verify your PC model to ensure that the RAM is compatible with your system using the manufacturer’s website or user manual of the motherboard.
If you install one single 16GB DDR4-3200MHz module in your system, it will only run at 1600MHz, known as (single-data rate). Also, if you install two or more RAM modules, such as one 16GB DDR4-3200 and one 8GB DDR4-3200, the dual-channel mode will be disabled, which can seriously reduce your PC’s performance.
On Intel motherboards, that support Intel Flex mode, however, the extra portion of the larger RAM module will run in single-channel mode, and the first chunk of matching 8GB on the mis-sized modules will run in dual channel mode. AMD motherboards are more sensitive to mismatched RAM sizes and usually throw instability issues.
Another issue with mixing RAM is latency. Latency is the number of clock cycles (measured in nanoseconds) it takes to access data in one of the RAM modules columns.
If you install an 8GB Module of RAM with an 18 CAS latency and one 8GB module with a 16 latency, the modules will operate at the slowest CAS latency. Meaning both modules installed will run at 18 CAS latency.
Although these methods have been tested, it serves to mention that there are reports of people receiving a BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death) on occasion due to incompatible RAM sizes in their PCs. Intel offers FlexMode that allows greater flexibility when installing different RAM varieties.
To enable a PC without Intel FlexMode, such as an AMD-powered machine to get the most out of your RAM, install two identical RAM modules (sold as kits in pairs) such as (2) 16 DDR-3200 into your motherboard in the correct slots.
Look to your motherboard’s manual or manufacturer’s website for more information.
Typically, the arrangement is properly drawn in the motherboard’s user guide or manual, and also found on the respective manufacturer’s website. This arrangement shows the sequence of filling multiple RAM slots, for the proper dual-channel mode, and is especially critical for boards with more than 2 RAM slots.
Mixing RAM can be accomplished albeit with some issues of their own. Intel makes this process slightly easier with its FlexMode. If you are not trying to get your system next-gen gaming ready and only need more RAM for basic use, extra memory can always help.
If you have the resources, and the products are still available firsthand, buy matching kits and replace old memory altogether.
Is There a Tremendous Difference Between 8GB and 16GB of RAM?
For general computer use such as email, web browsing, light multitasking, and low-end gaming, 8GB of RAM is the spot-on amount for most general computer users.
However, 16GB opens the door to so much more such as high-end gaming, running virtual machines, video editing, and much more.
Is 16GB RAM Future-proof?
According to PC Memory Trends, the average increase in RAM each year is about 2GB, the average use is 8GB. If this trend was to continue as it has in the past, you might future-proof your PC for about four more years with these calculations.
If I Am Running 70% of RAM Usage, Is That Bad?
If you utilize over 65-70% or more of your PC’s RAM, I would recommend upgrading the amount in your system. However, utilizing too many programs at once or too many open tabs can cause high memory usage.
Ensure that you are only using the programs you need, and if you’re still that high, purchase additional RAM.
Will I Notice a Difference Between 4GB and 8GB of RAM?
Your PC requires at least 4GB of RAM to run the OS and most programs. However, if you like to have several tabs open at once or do a lot of multitasking, you will notice that your system slows down or even hangs while the PC pages the information.
When you upgrade to 8GB, you will notice that these issues will begin to cease, and your computer will be moving much faster than it did before. So, in short, you will notice a difference between the two, and I always recommend a minimum of 8GB.
What Happens at 100% RAM Usage?
If you even notice your system is starting to stutter or freeze for a second or two here and there, it might be because you have reached 100% RAM usage. Once this happens, your system begins “paging.”
Paging is virtual memory stored on the hard drive that acts as RAM when there is no availability. It operates by making a temporary pagefile on your hard drive, constantly writing and rewrites information to the drive, and acts like RAM.
In time can even cause damage to your mechanical hard drive due to the moving parts. If you are using 100% RAM, it would be wise to upgrade your RAM as soon as possible.
How Does Intel’s FlexMode Work?
Using Intel’s FlexMode allows you to install (1) 8GB of RAM in slot 1, and (2) 4GB RAM modules in slots 3 and 4 so that you have 8GB in each channel.
This allows as much RAM as possible to operate in Dual-Channel leaving only (4GB) of the 8GB module running on single-channel mode.