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Be aware of the following when selecting memory to install in your system.

  • The best way to get compatible memory is to check the motherboard compatibility information, read the motherboard documentation, or use an online tool that scans your computer for compatible memory modules.
  • Memory packaging and capacity must match what is supported by the motherboard.
  • You can add single memory modules to computers that use SDRAM and DDR (including 2 and 3). Most computers that use Rambus memory require that you add modules in pairs.
  • The total capacity of memory that you can install in your system is limited by:
    • The number of memory slots on the motherboard.
    • The maximum total capacity that can be installed. For example, most systems will have a maximum of between 3 and 16 GB of RAM.
    • The maximum module capacity. For example, the motherboard might only be able to accept up to 2 GB or 4 GB modules.
    • The maximum amount of memory that can be addressed (used) by the operating system. A 32-bit operating system can use between 3-4 GB of memory, while a 64-bit operating system can use more. Note: You can install more than 4 GB of memory in a system that uses a 32-bit operating system; however, the operating system will only be able to use between 3-4 GB of that memory.
  • Be aware of the following regarding the memory speed:
    • Most memory modules include an SPD (Serial Presence Detect) chip that identifies its frequency. The BIOS uses the information in this chip to set the frequency automatically.
    • You can install slower memory in the motherboard, but this will degrade performance. If you mix faster and slower modules, all memory will operate at the slowest module installed.
    • You can install faster memory in the motherboard, but it will only operate up to the maximum supported by the motherboard.
    • If the BIOS does not configure memory to run at its highest rated speed:
      • Verify that the motherboard supports that speed. You might be able to update the BIOS to support faster memory.
      • The SPD on the memory is often set below the maximum rating for the memory. To use the maximum speed settings, you might need to manually configure the speed and timing settings for the memory (if the motherboard allows you to do this).
  • Most desktop motherboards do not support ECC or buffered memory. Some motherboards require ECC or buffered memory.
    • Memory modules with ECC have extra memory chips on the module (typically 9 modules instead of 8). If the number of chips is divisible by 3 or 5, the module is likely ECC memory.
    • Do not mix ECC and non-ECC memory in a system.
  • Most newer motherboards support both single- and double-sided memory (referring to how memory is grouped into a single or two banks). However, verify compatibility before purchasing.

Be aware of the following when installing memory:

  • Memory modules are very sensitive to ESD. Be sure to take proper steps to prevent ESD.
  • Install memory in the correct slot. Although several memory slots might be open, some system boards require that you use specific slots. Check the system board documentation for more details.
    • For many systems, start with the first bank. The first memory bank is often closest to the processor.
    • On some systems you should fill each bank in order.
  • Align the memory before inserting, and do not force the module in place. Most memory is keyed to prevent it from being installed backwards or in incompatible slots.
  • Most RAM is held in place with small tabs on either end. To remove RAM from a motherboard, push the tabs down to rotate them back, then pull the RAM straight up.
  • For Rambus memory (RIMMs), add a continuity module in all empty RIMM slots. Most Rambus memory must be installed in pairs.
  • For a dual (or triple) channel configuration:
    • Modules must be installed in matching sets (capacity and speed), preferably of the same manufacturer and model.
    • You can typically use different capacity modules between sets. For example, you can use two 1 GB modules as one set, and two 512 MB modules in the second set.
    • Install modules in the slots specified in the motherboard documentation. Many motherboards color the slots, with slots used within a set having the same color.
    If you install single memory modules, the system will continue to use the memory, but cannot use the memory in dual-channel mode.
  • Following installation, power on the system and check for errors. Most BIOS programs include a memory count that displays the total amount of system memory. If it does not count the proper amount of memory, you might have installed the memory incorrectly or you may have a faulty memory module. Also, if the BIOS generates an error between 200 and 299, the error is a memory error.
  • Most systems will configure memory settings (frequency, voltage, and timing including latency) automatically based on information in the SPD chip. If necessary, edit the BIOS to manually configure memory settings.