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Can You Mix RAM Brands? Using Different Memory Modules in 2023!
Updated · Oct 25, 2023
“Can you mix RAM brands?” is one of the most common questions among PC enthusiasts, bound to cause confusion when choosing your system’s memory.
The answer is: in most cases, yes, you can! But should you? At best, your mismatched kit will be as slow as your slowest stick, and at worst, your system will crash.
We explore this issue below!
Can I Mix RAM Brands?
In theory, yes, you can mix and match memory modules of various brands. That said, you really shouldn’t since you may encounter the following system instabilities:
- RAM kits with sticks of dissimilar speeds will run at the frequency of the slowest memory module since the fastest sticks adapt to the slowest ones;
- Even if they feature the same clock frequency, they may be incompatible if they require a different amount of voltage to run at those speeds or utilize different latencies and/or timings that prevent them from syncing properly;
- When mixing modules of separate capacities, the smaller stick will run in dual-channel mode together with a portion of the second one (aka Flex Mode), but the excess capacity will work in single-channel mode at half the bandwidth;
- Even RAM sticks with the same specs (speed, latency, and timings) that were built by the same manufacturers may prove unstable if they belong to different revisions due to the unique chips they may be using.
Note: Modules of different RAM generations (e.g., DDR4 and DDR5 sticks) are physically incompatible and cannot function together under any circumstances.
What Can Happen if I Mix RAM Brands?
Predicting what happens if and when you mix RAM brands is difficult since the results vary greatly depending on how similar or dissimilar the individual sticks are in terms of size, speed, the materials they are made of, and the actual chip they are using.
In most cases (around 90%), your system will run just fine, albeit with affected performance, but there are some instances where you may encounter serious unreliabilities.
On the other hand, if things have to go wrong, the two worst outcomes are: your system won’t even boot, or it will boot but will often crash due to RAM errors.
In either case, you will not incur any hardware damage, and you will be able to resolve any issues you are having by replacing your mismatched sticks with a proper kit.
You might be interested in: What Does RAM Do for Gaming?
Things to Consider When Upgrading Your RAM
Considering the potential issues outlined above, we recommend following these guidelines when upgrading your memory modules:
- Purchase a single complete kit—sticks that are packaged together have been validated to deliver optimal performance out of the box;
- Check your system’s RAM support—your MB and your CPU determine the type of RAM you can use; that said, newer systems support up to 128GB of RAM in a dual-channel configuration and with several overclocking profiles;
- Consider your workload needs—while everyday browsing and media consumption can do with 8GB of RAM, modern gaming systems require between 32GB and 64GB, and certain workstations may even need 64GB or 128GB of RAM.
Note: Before spending money on a new kit, try freeing some RAM capacity by suspending your heavy background processes and overclocking your existing modules.
To sum up, it’s always better to purchase your RAM modules in a kit as they are compatible out of the box. If you purchase a single stick to add to your existing module(s), it may work on most occasions, but your faster module(s) will always adapt to match your slowest sticks. Be that as it may, specific brands and memory modules just don’t work well together.
Can you mix RAM sticks?
While possible in most cases, mixing RAM sticks isn’t advisable since you will see a decreased performance, and you may encounter system stability issues.
Can I use 8GB and 16GB RAM together?
Yes, but you may be unable to run your entire RAM capacity in dual-channel mode, which essentially doubles the throughput of your modules.
Can you mix RAM brands with the same speed?
Yes! In fact, if you are indeed planning to mix RAM brands, it’s best to choose modules with the same speeds and latencies to eliminate any potential issues.
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