Installing RAM can be a challenge of its own. The difficulty increases when you've got two different modules with varying specifications.
The following guide will answer, "Can I use different RAM sticks together?"
Keep reading below as we discuss these RAM precautions and how to keep your computer as stable as possible.
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Can You Use Two Different RAM Sticks Together?
RAM or "Random Access Memory" is your computer's short-term memory.
Instead of searching your entire hard drive for information that you accessed a few minutes ago, RAM holds the data you are currently using, so it is available immediately.
RAM, therefore, stores all the information stemming from applications, documents, folders, and video games, so you can open them without delay.
The more RAM you have, the more commands you can execute on your computer without the fear of crashing or slowing down.
So, is it as easy as putting in any stick of RAM? Will the second stick of RAM improve system performance instantaneously?
Well, in short, yes, you can mix and match two different RAM sticks together, but there are some limitations you should be aware of.
The following questions outline to what extent you can interchange brands, size, and speed:
Can you use different RAM brands together?
RAM brands are usually the easiest component to mix and match. The size, speed, and voltage of RAM sticks may produce varying results, but different brands will not.
As long as the different branded RAM sticks share the same technical specifications, there shouldn't be any problems.
To put this into perspective, you could have an 8GB (gigabyte) Kingston RAM stick, and later pair it with an 8GB Corsair Vengeance Pro RAM stick.
These values should combine, and when opening the Windows operating system Task Manager, you will see a total of 16GB of RAM.
As far as we know, performance should be perfectly fine without any conflicts.
In terms of cosmetics, you can also mix and match RGB and non-RGB RAM.
Once again, a famous RAM series such as the Corsair Vengeance PRO (RGB) will be compatible with a standard stick of G.Skill RAM (non-RGB).
The lighting software for the RGB RAM should also work without any issues, in addition to not having any impact on the non-RGB branded RAM stick.
Can you use different RAM sizes together?
Different RAM sizes can be used together. In fact, you could pair them asynchronously, leading to dual-channeling.
You won't reap the entire benefit of dual-channeling two 8GB RAM sticks, for example, but there will be a performance increase nonetheless.
In a nutshell, dual-channel memory configurations allow the memory controller on the CPU to read both sticks of RAM in parallel.
This essentially doubles bandwidth and gives your system more speed and reduced latency.
Now, let's say you recently bought 4GBs (gigabytes) of Corsair RAM and want to pair it with your current 8GB stick of Kingston RAM.
You can insert the 4GB Corsair RAM into your motherboard, and your computer will enter a dual-channel configuration (also known as Flex Mode).
But wait, this does not mean the 4GBs of Corsair RAM is working concurrently with the 8GB stick of Kingston RAM.
To optimize performance and stability, the system will put a limit on the bigger 8GB Kingston RAM stick.
Only 4GBs out of the 8GBs will be dual-channeled with the 4GB Corsair RAM.
The remaining 4GBs of RAM on the Kingston unit will be in a single channel. This means a total of 8GBs of RAM in dual-channel and 4GBs of RAM in single-channel.
Dual-channel RAM usually performs up to 15% better when fully optimized.
Therefore, you'll see a performance boost using two sticks of different RAM sizes, but not as much if they had been the same size.
Can you use different RAM speeds together?
RAM speed is measured in Megahertz (MHz) and is usually sold in frequencies of 2133 MHz to 4266 Mhz.
The faster your RAM, the more data it can send back and forth from your CPU (processor) and SSD (storage).
In other words, your processor, with the assistance of faster RAM, will be able to communicate quickly with your other components leading to better system performance overall.
If you had 8GBs of 3600 MHz RAM and another 8GBs of 3000 MHz RAM, would you be able to use them together?
As a general rule, yes. However, the RAM will only run as fast as the slowest stick.
Therefore, both sticks of 8GB RAM will run in dual-channel but will be limited to 3000 MHz each.
You could try overclocking the slower 3000 MHz stick to 3600 MHz, but this may cause stability issues.
Factors To Consider Before Putting Different RAM Sticks Together
You cannot combine DDR3 and DDR4 RAM
Before inserting different sticks of RAM into your motherboard, you should find out what generation of RAM is supported.
Most modern motherboards switched over to DDR4 in 2017, which has become the most popular generation of RAM to date.
If you find an additional stick of DDR3 RAM, we strongly advise that you do not attempt to add it to your DDR4 motherboard.
The layout pins on DDR3 RAM are completely different from DDR4, making it physically impossible to install onto your motherboard.
Be careful when mixing RAM voltages
Mixing RAM voltages is possible, but it isn't recommended.
Depending on your motherboard, you could pair an 8GB 3200MHz stick of RAM @1.5v, with another 8GB 3200MHz stick of RAM @1.35v.
To do this, you will need to access your motherboard's BIOS and either over-volt the 1.35v to 1.5v or under-volt the 1.5v to 1.35v.
With that said, adjusting the voltage of your RAM can cause the speed of the RAM to fluctuate, which might impact performance.
Furthermore, if you were to get the voltages wrong entirely, you could risk the PC crashing, failing to boot, or the actual RAM overheating.
If you plan to mix and match different voltages, proceed with caution and know the limitations of your motherboard.
How To Add & Install RAM Sticks In Your Computer?
Follow the steps below to safely install RAM within minutes:
- 1Shut down your computer, and unplug the power cable.
- 2Hold down the power button for 5 seconds so that any additional electricity in the system is discharged.
- 3Open your computer case.
- 4Ground yourself by touching an unpainted metal surface. This protects your computer components from static damage during the installation process.
- 5Find the RAM slots on your motherboard. There should be 2 to 4 open slots next to your CPU.
- 6If you have 1 stick of RAM already in the motherboard, make sure it is in the second slot before you install the next RAM stick. This will help with dual-channeling, as mentioned above.
- 7To remove RAM, you’ll need to push down on the clips on the sides of each module. Some force may be required, but the RAM should pop out eventually.
- 8Now, to install the RAM, you will need to hold the module along its edges. Align the notches of the RAM with the ridge in each slot, and push down.
- 9Once inserted correctly, you will see that the clips on the side of the RAM are now also secure.
- 10Close the computer case, and turn on the system.
Frequently Asked RAM Stick Questions
Does adding RAM make the laptop faster?
Yes, upgrading from 4GBs to 8GBs of RAM can increase the performance of a laptop.
As the processing speed is assisted by the addition of extra RAM, your laptop will be more responsive, and applications will appear faster.
Related: How Long Does RAM Typically Last?
Will laptop RAM work inside a desktop?
No, you cannot install laptop RAM inside a desktop, and vice versa. Laptop RAM will not fit inside a desktop motherboard because of its physical dimensions.
Similar to different generations of RAM, desktop and laptop RAM will not have the same pin configuration.
Is more RAM better for gaming?
Yes, adding more RAM can improve gaming performance. 16GBs of RAM is usually the sweet spot for streaming and gaming, but anything over can be considered overkill.
CPU-intensive games, in particular, benefit greatly from a RAM upgrade. This is because RAM does affect FPS, and the faster your processing speed, the more frames your CPU and GPU will therefore push out.
In summary, you can use different RAM sticks together.
Different brands, sizes, and speeds are more than often compatible and should fit into your current system with ease.
Having said that, you should still proceed with caution when mixing RAM. Conflicting voltages can bring instability, while different generations are not compatible at all.
Therefore, always check the technical specifications beforehand!
Andrew White is the founder of TechGearoid, a leading technology review & information website that is designed to help consumers make better decisions when it comes to their IT purchases. As a specialist tech writer (nerd) with over 10 years of experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern technology & the newest market innovations. When he isn’t providing value for his readers, he’s usually drinking coffee or at the beach. Andrew lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife and family.