memory – Will a 32GB RAM stick + 8GB RAM stick configuration worsen performance in a laptop?
11 months ago
I’ve bought a new laptop – MSI Pulse GL66 with 16 GB RAM (2 * 8GB sticks).
I’m looking to upgrade the RAM to a higher configuration, as I have to run multiple VMs on this machine. The laptop supports up to 64 GB of RAM as mentioned on the website. I’m a little short on budget as of now, so I thought to swap out one of the 8GB sticks with 32 GB and use it as of now, with other upgrades coming in later.
Would such an imbalanced configuration have any impact on performance? Should I wait and save up for upgrading to 64 GB directly, or should I do it in two steps? Are there any significant drop in performance in the ‘flex’ mode?
The concerned RAM I’m looking to buy is linked here
Probably not. As both sticks fill up, at some point, the 8GB stick willl be full, and it will start working on only continueing to fill up the 32GB stick. This means it will temporarly work in singe-channel mode, which decreases the performance by about 30%. Still, this is much faster than having not enough RAM, which means it will write the overflow to the SSD, which is much slower, even than singe channel RAM.
As far as I know, installing a second chip of a different size will not allow the ram to function in dual channel mode. So yes, the performance will be slower than if you had 2 chips the same size. But it will still be faster than reading from the page file (hard drive) if you are constantly maxing out your memory. With only 8 gb, that would happen fairly often depending on what you do.
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7 RAM Myths and Misconceptions That Really Aren’t True
RAM (Random Access Memory) is one of the basic components of a computer or a smartphone. But there are many misconceptions about RAM, like whether you can mix RAM size or brands.
RAM’s job is to remember computations for a limited amount of time so that your processor does not need to redo those computations each time. But there are misunderstandings about using different sizes of RAM together. For example, does RAM have to match? Should you use the same speed RAM?
In this article, we’ll attempt to answer them all. Let’s bust some myths about RAM.
1. “You Can’t Mix RAM Sizes,” or “You Can’t Mix RAM Brands”
Most laptops or computers come with at least two slots for RAM sticks, if not more. Most modern motherboards will provide four RAM slots. There’s a prevailing misconception you cannot use different RAM sizes together or that you cannot mix RAM brands.
Simply put, that’s not true. So, can you mix RAM brands or the size of your RAM sticks? The answer is Yes, you can mix RAM sticks and RAM sizes and even different RAM speeds—but mixing and matching RAM modules isn’t the best for system performance.
For the best system performance, it is advisable to use RAM sticks by the same manufacturer, of the same size, and of the same frequency. But there’s a simple reason behind why mixing RAM sizes is usually not the best option to maximize system performance. This is because RAM has several components that all come together to make it perform well.
Match Your RAM for the Best Performance
RAM works best when paired with matching hardware. For optimal performance, your RAM should use the same voltage, and their respective controllers should play well with each other and the motherboard. That’s why it’s best to use the same RAM model in all slots.
However, this doesn’t mean you can’t use different size RAM sticks together. For example, if your first stick is 4GB, you can still add a new 8GB stick. Once you switch on dual-channel mode (also called flex mode), it will perform as two 4GB sticks running side by side in optimal performance.
The remaining 4GB of the new stick will run in single-channel mode. Overall, it’s not as fast as using two sticks of the same size, but it’s still faster than what you had before.
It’s the same with frequency or speed. Your RAM sticks will work together at the frequency of the lower stick by default. So, do RAM sticks have to match? Must you use the brand of RAM in every slot? No, but it’s better if they do.
2. “I Don’t Need More RAM,” or “My System Has Enough RAM”
“This amount of RAM is enough to run the software. You don’t need extra,” is common advice you’ll find. Yes, it might be enough to run your apps, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be faster. More RAM helps, even if you use different sizes of RAM together. That’s because of how programs are made.
Most developers write their programs so that the app requests a certain percentage of the RAM available. If you have more RAM installed, the same requested percentage will mean more size for the program.
Just because you’re using only 60 percent (or any small percentage) of your total RAM capacity, it doesn’t mean you don’t need more RAM. Your regular tasks might only request 60 percent of RAM, saving the rest for other tasks you might start in the future.
As a general thumb rule for computers, 4GB is the minimum, and 8GB is the recommended size for best performance for regular users. Gamers, PC enthusiasts, and professionals who work with graphics, video, or sound should look for 16GB, while 32GB systems are becoming common. It all begs the question, how much RAM do you really need?
3. “RAM Size Is All That Matters”
You probably know how much RAM your phone or PC has. When someone says they have more RAM in their PC, you automatically assume their system runs faster. But that’s not necessarily true. The capacity or size of the RAM isn’t all that matters.
Among the determining factors of RAM performance are speed and frequency. Like with a CPU, RAM has clock speeds. The higher the clock speed, the more functions it can perform in a second. You’ll often find RAM sticks with 2400MHz or 3000MHz frequency, while 3200MHz and 3600MHz are now the norm for high-end systems.
One issue you can run into here is mismatched RAM speeds, affecting you in two ways.
First, if your RAM runs at 2000MHz but your motherboard only supports 1333MHz RAM, your system won’t use the 700MHz difference between the two speeds.
Second, if you mix RAM modules with different speeds, both sticks will run at the slowest module’s speed. So, if you had one stick of RAM running at 2400MHz and one running at 3600MHz, both sticks will run at the slower speed, wasting the faster RAM’s potential.
Generally speaking, the regular computer user won’t see much difference between 8GB and 16GB of RAM. However, changing it to a faster RAM of the same 8GB can lead to a significant boost. So, depending on how you use your machine, you should figure out which is more important for you: faster RAM or more RAM?
4. “Clear Your RAM to Boost Its Speed”
The adage that you should clear your RAM to make it faster is one of the most persistent RAM myths of all. The idea that clearing your RAM makes it faster came about at the same time as snake-oil software like “RAM boosters” and “memory optimizers.”
In short, don’t clear your RAM. You want your RAM full of useful data to help keep your system processes fast.
The job of RAM isn’t to sit empty. In fact, your operating system and your software should be using up every little bit of RAM available. Freeing up RAM with one of those booster programs does nothing. If anything, it might actually slow down your system since “freeing up” means you are removing certain computations from the RAM’s memory.
RAM isn’t the same as your hard drive. RAM auto-manages the data it holds, adjusting to hold frequently accessed data. If you have 4GB of RAM, your system constantly writes, erases, and rewrites frequently accessed data in those 4GB.
That’s not to say constantly filling your RAM is a good thing. If you constantly fill your RAM, it can lead to other speed issues. Most modern operating systems use what is known as a paging file, also referred to as virtual memory. Your computer will begin pushing some data from the super-fast RAM into the much slower regular memory.
Virtual memory is really useful as it stops your computer from slowing to a crawl. However, if you frequently run out of RAM, it’s usually a sign that it’s time to purchase some higher-capacity RAM modules.
Back to the RAM clearing speed-boost myth. Don’t use RAM boosting or memory cleaning software. They don’t work. At best, they’re just a nuisance and a time-waste. At worst, you could introduce adware or scamware to your computer.
5. “You Must Use an Equal Number of RAM Sticks”
The final myth is that you must always use an equal number of RAM sticks. Like the first section on different sizes, you don’t have to use two or four, or six RAM sticks. No, you can use one stick of RAM—hence why manufacturers make and retail single sticks of RAM.
You can also use three sticks of RAM if you want, but as above, it can come at the cost of overall performance. If you have two matching 8GB RAM sticks, they will run in dual-channel mode, providing the most efficient and effective system performance.
Now, say you have three sticks of 8GB DDR4 RAM, boosting your total memory to 24GB. Great, right? Depending on your system configuration, the type of RAM you’re using, and your motherboard, introducing the third stick of RAM could disable the dual-channel RAM support for the first two sticks of RAM. So, while you have a larger capacity, your overall performance may drop.
You’ll find a lot of debate online regarding using an equal number of RAM sticks. Of course, you don’t have to use an equal number, but it can harm your overall system performance if you decide not to.
6. “You Cannot Upgrade the RAM on a Laptop”
While upgrading the RAM on your laptop isn’t always as clear-cut as on your desktop, you absolutely can do it. However, this myth does come with some caveats, namely that your success depends on the type of laptop you have. To save costs, some manufacturers will solder the RAM into place, making it extremely difficult to replace, enough so that most people just don’t bother.
As with upgrading the RAM in your desktop, replacing the RAM in your laptop comes with similar restrictions. For example, the RAM in your laptop differs in shape, using the SO-DIMM form factor rather than the regular DIMM shape you’re likely accustomed to. The best way to figure out the RAM capabilities of your laptop is to complete an internet search for the laptop model and “RAM upgrade” and see what is recommended. Alternatively, search through your laptop’s specifications, as it may say something along the lines of “16GB RAM (Upgradable to 64GB). “
7. “More RAM Always Results In a Faster PC”
In general, yes, if you add more RAM to your machine, it should result in a faster experience. If your computer was running low on RAM or you were using old, slow RAM, expanding and upgrading your hardware will deliver better results.
But there are a couple of scenarios where expanding your RAM won’t deliver the blazing-fast speed upgrades you’re expecting.
First, if your computer is bottlenecked between the CPU and GPU, upgrading your RAM isn’t likely to resolve the issue. If either processing unit is significantly more powerful than the other, it’s unlikely that it’s your RAM that needs upgrading. At least, not first. For example, if you run an RTX 4080 with an aging Intel i5-3570K, the CPU just cannot keep up with the raw processing power of the behemoth GPU. In this case, it’s the CPU that needs upgrading, not your RAM.
It’s a similar story if you’re using an old hard disk drive as your main storage or boot drive. When the rest of your machine is high-specced, but your hard drive is old, it’s not a RAM upgrade you need; you should be buying a new SSD.
RAM Works Differently on Macs and iPhones
Apple has a different approach to RAM than PCs and Android phones, so many of the above rules go out the window. But don’t worry, we have excellent guides to explain the differences.
The iPhone’s base architecture is much different from Android. That’s why you won’t find Apple talking about how much RAM its iPhones have while they’re still as fast as the best Android phones.
Unfortunately, not all Mac models allow you to upgrade your system RAM. For many Mac users, this is never an issue, but it can become an issue for some. If you’re running out of RAM, check out our guide on how to upgrade the RAM on your Mac.
Busting RAM Myths One at a Time
These six myths are the most common ones you’ll read regarding RAM.
You can do a lot with RAM: mismatched sticks, different speeds, different sizes, and so on. For the most part, you’ll just end up with a slower computer. Still, it is always best to match your RAM sticks. That way, you’ll receive the best performance available, and there is less chance of corruption or other issues arising from mismatched memory modules.
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8 GB RAM stick
The issue of component compatibility is the main one when upgrading a computer, because while ignoring it, the effect of the increase in productivity, for the sake of which everything is usually started, you can not wait. In addition, a hardware conflict is likely and all the ensuing consequences in the form of failures and errors, which will not please the user who spent money on upgrading. The upgrade includes adding more RAM. The ideal solution when choosing RAM is to buy an identical module. In practice, this possibility is not often presented, especially in cases where there are rare modules “on board”, so the question of what will happen if you install RAM sticks that differ by manufacturer, different in volume or other parameters next to each other is relevant for users who decide replace or add RAM.
It goes without saying that the creation of hybrid bundles of RAM of different generations, for example, DDR3 and DDR4, is not allowed. The presence of slots for different types of memory on the motherboard was meant as a transitional solution, that is, you can install either DDR3 or DDR4, but you can’t combine them. The operation of the CPU simultaneously with two generations of RAM is not provided. In the article, we will consider whether it is possible to create bundles of modules from different manufacturers that differ in volume, frequency and timings, as well as voltage.
Will RAM from different manufacturers work on the same computer or laptop? When asked whether it is possible to install RAM from different manufacturers on a computer, we will answer that, if possible, it is still worth buying modules of the same brand, and even better, even immediately in a set. However, this is ideal.
Will RAM from different manufacturers work on the same computer? Yes, if all other parameters were taken into account when buying. Problems with the functioning of strips of different manufactures arose on old systems a couple of decades ago, but today modules from different brands can be combined, despite the fact that not many companies produce RAM chips. Usually, the modules coexist perfectly on one computer, demonstrating well-coordinated work, provided that they are compatible in terms of characteristics. At the same time, it is impossible to predict the absolute compatibility of RAM from different manufacturers, as well as to exclude the possibility of the absence of the desired effect from their joint work.
Different sizes of RAM sticks
A very common question that is asked when expanding RAM in order to increase performance is whether it is possible to put RAM elements that differ in volume. The answer is yes, it is important that the maximum total amount supported by the processor and motherboard is not exceeded. For example, if you add two 8 GB cards to a 4 GB stick in a board that works with a maximum of 16 GB, the CPU may not recognize them.
There is one more thing. RAM with dice of different sizes will not function in dual-channel mode, or some of the memory will still be, and the other part will not (sometimes the motherboard does not support operation in combined mode, and then only single-channel will turn on). The same rule applies to boards with the possibility of a four-channel operation mode. So, if there is a need to increase performance, a bunch of slats of the same volume will provide a greater increase in performance. For example, two 4GB modules provide better performance than one 8GB module. You also need to look at the number of connectors on the memory board, moreover, including taking into account the volume limit. For example, if there are 2 connectors, the memory is installed in both (2 elements of 4GB each). If there are 4 slots, the modules are placed in the 1st and 3rd or 2nd and 4th, and when there are 6 slots on the board, the multichannel mode can be organized using three brackets, setting them in the 1st, 3rd, 5th.
As for the maximum volume, the use of one bar, which gives the maximum allowed, is not allowed. You can reach the specified limit only by filling all the connectors of the laptop motherboard. For example, if there are two slots and a memory limit of 16 GB, we put two 8 GB sticks, and not one for 16 GB, if there are 4 slots and a maximum amount of 32 GB, we put 4 modules of 8 GB, and so on according to the same principle. If we talk about a PC, there are exceptions, so we recommend that you get to the bottom of the issue by reading the information on the motherboard in detail by looking at the specifications.
Is it possible to install memory with different frequencies and timings
To answer this question, let’s first consider what this RAM parameter is and what the frequency difference affects. It is more correct to call this characteristic the data transfer frequency, and the higher its value, the more operations per unit of time (in our case, this is a second) the device is able to perform, transmitting data through the selected channel, which directly affects the performance of the RAM. Timings – this is the amount of delay between the command and its execution, respectively, the smaller they are, the better. Thus, these bar parameters ensure the speed and stability of the RAM.
Almost always, the answer to the question of whether it is possible and worthwhile to install RAM of different frequencies, as well as with different timings, if we are talking about DDR3 or DDR4, is “yes”. This will not cause a conflict, and with the same volume of slats, it is also possible to work in Dual-channel mode. In this case, the memory will work at the frequencies and timings of the module that is less productive. Changing the settings for the operation of the RAM can be done differently – the installed strips operate at a frequency that is indicated in the parameters of the motherboard. If a more advanced bar does not support the parameters of the second one, the BIOS will select the appropriate mode in which both RAM modules are able to function.
Installing RAM with different voltages
When choosing a pair to an already standing module, one should also take into account the voltage, since a conflict will inevitably follow if the bundle is incorrectly compiled. DDR3 and DDR4 operate at 1.5 volts, while DDR3L and DDR4L operate at 1.35 volts. For example, you cannot put DDR3 next to DDR3L, the consequence of such a neighborhood will manifest itself in the malfunctioning of RAM, in addition, the die may simply not work. RAM with low voltage can also be adjacent to high voltage, that is, it is already allowed to put DDR3L next to the previously installed DDR3.
In this case, the motherboard can only support low-voltage strips, then this option of the bundle is not feasible. Usually we are talking about laptops, but they are often set to low voltage, while the motherboard is able to function with high voltage, therefore, when expanding memory, you should first clarify this issue in the documentation for the device or on the manufacturer’s web resource.