Question DDR3 RAM: 2 sticks vs. 4 sticks (no overclocking)

Turbonium

Golden Member
Mar 15, 2003
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Is using 2 sticks of RAM inherently more stable/reliable than using 4 sticks of RAM?

Specifics:
- 2 sticks would be 8 GB each (16 GB DDR3 total) (each stick: 8GB 2Rx8 1Gx64-Bit)
- 4 sticks would be 4 GB each (16 GB DDR3 total) (each stick: 4GB 1Rx8 512Mx64-Bit)

I'm upgrading the RAM in my Ivy Bridge rig from 8 GB to 16 GB. While it would be cheaper to simply add two more 4 GB sticks of identical RAM to the system, would it be better, in any way, to replace the two sticks entirely (with 8 GB sticks)?

I'm thinking in terms of load on the memory controller, timings, and overall stability (even if negligible in difference).
 
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thigobr

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Sep 4, 2016
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It will depend on yours chip memory controller. But in general it's easier to drive 2 modules than 4 modules.
I used 4x4GB Samsung green DDR3L 1600MHz/1.35V along a 3570K for years. My board was a Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H. The memory controller on my CPU wasn't the best and I think that board was just ok. End result: 4x DIMMs would only run stable at 1866MHz. 2 DIMMs would work at 2133MHz... I was able to boot with a single DIMM up to 2400MHz but it wasn't stable.
 
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igor_kavinski

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Shmee

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It depends on the board and memory speed/latency for the most part. Keep in mind if you do not have a Z series board, you may not have much luck with running higher speed RAM. Though this likely won't make much difference in most applications, the amount is the most important. What are the full system specs?
 
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Turbonium

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4x2R seems to be best, at least in CP2077. So based on that, go with 4x8GB dimms.
Point taken, but I don't play newer games, just older MP ones, such as CS:GO and Dota 2. Otherwise, I'd build a new system entirely rather than upgrade this one.

Also: I'm not looking to spend the money on 32 GB (16 GB is good enough for this rig and what I do with it).

It depends on the board and memory speed/latency for the most part. Keep in mind if you do not have a Z series board, you may not have much luck with running higher speed RAM. Though this likely won't make much difference in most applications, the amount is the most important. What are the full system specs?
Intel DH77KC motherboard
Intel H77 Express chipset
RAM (2 sticks, planned)
RAM (4 sticks, being considered)

If you need more specs, let me know.

And again, everything will be run at default speeds. I won't be overclocking at all.
 
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mastertech01

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Make sure your board supports 4 sticks of what ever size you decide on. My daughters Dell running a I5 10th gen wouldnt allow 4 sticks of 8GB. It runs fine on two but you have to use larger sticks to run 4. Kinda crazy but that was in the specs for that computer.
 

Shmee

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Point taken, but I don't play newer games, just older MP ones, such as CS:GO and Dota 2. Otherwise, I'd build a new system entirely rather than upgrade this one.

Also: I'm not looking to spend the money on 32 GB (16 GB is good enough for this rig and what I do with it).


Intel DH77KC motherboard
Intel H77 Express chipset
RAM (2 sticks, planned)
RAM (4 sticks, being considered)

If you need more specs, let me know.

And again, everything will be run at default speeds. I won't be overclocking at all.
What are the CPU and GPU? I assume an SSD is already present? Also, how much would the different RAM options be for you? (there may be a better option)
 

mikeymikec

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May 19, 2011
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4x2R seems to be best, at least in CP2077. So based on that, go with 4x8GB dimms.
That article is about DDR4. Topic is DDR3.

@Turbonium

4 modules compared to two isn't "more stable / reliable", but bear in mind if your system has four memory modules then it relies on all four to be reliable, there's more points of failure than if it had just two. My DDR3 system has four modules in it.

The only thing I'd be wary of is too much mix-n-matching memory modules, just keep it simple at each of each pair of modules being identical or ideally four identical modules. My system is doing just fine though even though one HyperX pair says it was 1.65v and the other pair says 1.5v, they've all been happily going along for about 5 years ago at 1.5v.

Personally I'd just buy a single pair, assuming the first set runs at an acceptable speed... I suppose they must do considering you've had them nearly ten years without watching to change them! :) If the first set are working fine then the only other reason I can think of to replace them would be if I planned to put them in another computer.

I think getting overly 'ideal' for an old computer and replacing RAM that you have no other use for is a bit wasteful in a perfectly stable system. If I was starting with a clean slate build I'd be thinking more about the ideal scenario, long-term planning RAM capacity/speed etc.

It depends on the board and memory speed/latency for the most part. Keep in mind if you do not have a Z series board, you may not have much luck with running higher speed RAM.
Yeah, this really threw me recently, sticking in DDR3-1600 RAM into a Sandy Bridge system and it only went at 1333. I've been so used to doing upgrades on AM3 and being used to it accepting 1600 :)
 
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Turbonium

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Mar 15, 2003
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What are the CPU and GPU? I assume an SSD is already present? Also, how much would the different RAM options be for you? (there may be a better option)
i5 3570
670 GTX 2 GB
2 x WD 10,000 rpm HDDs in RAID-0

I'm not sure why these specs matter though. I mean, all I'm looking for is less paging and faster alt-tabbing when a game is running (and I refuse to get an SSD for this old rig, as the RAID-0 setup is fun to me).

And honestly, I'm thinking of getting the same brand/model RAM as I have currently (as specified/linked in my earlier post - Kingston sticks), given I've had no issues for all these years (I value stability above all else).

(I may not even bother with the upgrade in the end, but I'm definitely considering it.)

Personally I'd just buy a single pair, assuming the first set runs at an acceptable speed... I suppose they must do considering you've had them nearly ten years without watching to change them! :) If the first set are working fine then the only other reason I can think of to replace them would be if I planned to put them in I think getting overly 'ideal' for an old computer and replacing RAM that you have no other use for is a bit wasteful in a perfectly stable system. If I was starting with a clean slate build I'd be thinking more about the ideal scenario, long-term planning RAM capacity/speed etc.
I feel I may not upgrade out of risk alone (if it's already working fine, why risk new, defective RAM, etc.?).
 
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igor_kavinski

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I'm not sure why these specs matter though. I mean, all I'm looking for is less paging and faster alt-tabbing when a game is running (and I refuse to get an SSD for this old rig, as the RAID-0 setup is fun to me).
If paging was annoying me, I would get 32GB and run with paging disabled. Now I know some people will come out with pitch forks and attack me for even suggesting this, but for most workloads including gaming, running with paging disabled does not impact system performance. I know because I've run like that for years on my old i3-2100 with 32 GB RAM. Never once did I receive an error from Windows saying that the system is low on RAM and applications may need to be closed to free RAM. I never essentially ran out of RAM back then (this was before I got into the habit of opening tons of browser tabs. Now I think I might need 128GB minimum with paging enabled on a fast NVMe SSD or Optane drive to be perfectly happy with system performance).
 

Shmee

Memory and Storage, Graphics Cards
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i5 3570
670 GTX 2 GB
2 x WD 10,000 rpm HDDs in RAID-0

I'm not sure why these specs matter though. I mean, all I'm looking for is less paging and faster alt-tabbing when a game is running (and I refuse to get an SSD for this old rig, as the RAID-0 setup is fun to me).

And honestly, I'm thinking of getting the same brand/model RAM as I have currently (as specified/linked in my earlier post - Kingston sticks), given I've had no issues for all these years (I value stability above all else).

(I may not even bother with the upgrade in the end, but I'm definitely considering it.)


I feel I may not upgrade out of risk alone (if it's already working fine, why risk new, defective RAM, etc.?).
The full specs matter quite a bit, as all the parts are important for a good experience. First, every fairly modern computer should have an SSD. They are pretty inexpensive. Assuming those WD drives are 150GB or under, you could get a good 500GB SSD for around $60 and still improve both speed and capacity. Even if they are 300GB Velociraptors, you could get a good 1TB SSD for under $100 and still improve both speed and capacity.

Your CPU should be fine for that system, but the GPU could certainly be upgraded. May not be necessary depending on the game, but the system could certainly do better.

As for the RAM, you still haven't told us what the different options would cost you. I was able to get 8GB crucial/micron DDR3L 1600 DIMMs for under $20 a piece recently for my X58 based NAS. I ordered 6 of them.
 

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