Updating ram & troubleshooting

By Tedster · 71 replies
Mar 30, 2006
  1. In the past few days I have noticed many questions from people with memory (RAM) issues. Being that I have ran into similar problems in the past, I am posting this sticky so that FAQs can be answered quickly.

    First: Know the types of RAM that your motherboard can take. If not sure Read The F***ing Manual (RTFM), or contact the manufacturer (go to the website or call.). 80% of installation RAM problems are caused by incompatibility. Some motherboards are very picky about what types or brands of RAM they'll take. Asus is one of the motherboards, Dell is another – in addition, Dell uses proprietary architecture in many of their systems so generic RAM or third party RAM will not work in many cases. It PAYS to build your own computer.

    Be aware that identifying programs and/or websites are NOT 100% reliable indicators of what type of RAM you can use. When all else fails RTFM.

    NEVER MIX SPEED, TYPES, SIZE, OR BRANDS OF RAM. At best it might work, at worst it won't and you might permanently do some damage. Faster memory mixed with slower will always result in the slowest speed available if it does work (and you're wasting the faster memory speed for nothing.)

    DO NOT OVERCLOCK memory. This means do not adjust voltage settings, latencies, or other settings in your BIOS before installation. Increasing voltage is a sure way to burn out your memory early. Leave this stuff for experimenters and those that can afford toasted and burned out components. If you're a newbie or an average joe/jane – LEAVE IT ALONE.

    Step 2:

    When installing, GROUND YOURSELF and the Computer. Use an anti-static mat and/or wrist strap – available at Radio shack and most electronics stores. Some recommend keeping your computer plugged in the wall for grounding reasons, I do not. Accidentally turning on your computer is a sure way to damage something as well as to shock yourself- so leave it unplugged. You may want to run a thin wire from the case of the computer to a common ground like a cold water pipe. Do not work on a computer in a carpeted room if possible. Turn OFF the computer. I have seen stupid people plug components in when the system was still on. If you're that dumb, don't bother upgrading the system yourself. Read a book about basic computing before attempting operation.

    Touch the computer frame and if you can, keep a part of your body in contact with the frame at all times to ensure no static buildup.

    Step 3:

    Locate your memory slots. Motherboards vary in the number of slots available. Some motherboards, particularly Pentium, require memory upgrades in pairs. Always try to match memory sticks when upgrading for enhanced performance, particularly with DDR RAM.

    Step 4:
    There are 3 basic types of installation depending on your type of RAM:

    When installing SIMMs, most manufacturers require the module to be inserted at a 45 degree angle, then snapped forward to the correct position. Most Pentium systems require matched pairs.

    Unlike SIMM, DIMMs may be snapped directly into the socket. Note: Some DIMM sockets have different physical characteristics. If your module doesn't seem to fit, do not force it. You probably have an incompatible type.

    SODIMM: (Commonly found in laptops)
    Insert the module and snap down into position. Some laptops require a single SODIMM module while others require matched pairs.

    Put your case back together, and replug everything. Turn on your computer and boot up as normal. Your BIOS should automatically recognize the added memory. If you did it right, you shouldn't have any issues, however.......

    if you did it wrong:

    1.If you receive an error message or hear a series of beeps when booting, your system may not be recognizing the new memory. Remove and reinstall the modules to make sure they are seated securely in their sockets.

    2.Make sure that your new memory is the same type as your old memory. (i.e. FPM,EDO,SDRAM,parity/non-parity/ECC). Using EDO or SDRAM in a system that does not support it will not work, often resulting in a blank screen or no POST (Power On Self Test), or a BIOS/CMOS setup error.

    3.Fill your slots with the largest density (put the largest module in blank 0), the second largest in bank 1, and so on. Remember, it is always advisable to have all modules the same size.

    4.If your module will not fit, it may be incompatible. There are different notches for for 3.3V, 5V, buffered, and unbuffered memory modules. Make sure your module is oriented in the right direction also.

    5.If your system still won't boot up, check your other computer connections internally with the power off. You may have bumped or jostled another component accidentally.

    6.If you can boot up and get other errors, run MEMTEST86+ from a DOS bootable floppy disk. It is not advisable to run a computer without a floppy drive. Floppy drives are still required for hardware diagnosis and BIOS updates, this is a leftover architecture requirement from the early days of computing. All Intel based computers (to include AMD) have 8088 architecture at their core for basic operation. IF you are using DOS 6.22 and earlier and are getting memory errors, consider running memmaker to re-configure your memory settings.

    7.If you get a memory mixmatch error, follow the prompts to enter setup, then select save and exit. (This is not an error – some systems must do this to update their CMOS settings.)

    8.If your system is only recognizing half of a new module's memory, contact the module manufacturer tech support.

    9.Recognize that adding TOO much memory (rare) may not be recognized by your operating system. Every operating system has an upper limit. Windows XP has an upper limit of 4 Megabytes. Older versions of Windows are less.

    10.When all else fails, RTFM.
  2. DonNagual

    DonNagual TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 2,406

    Wow. It's people like you that make this place what it is.

    Amazing post Tedster.

    [DonNagual bows down before him]

    .... and a sticky it shall be.
  3. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Topic Starter Posts: 6,002   +15

    um, can I get some cheesypoofs?
  4. AtK SpAdE

    AtK SpAdE TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,495

    bravo on the sticky!

    And yes, you can have some cheesy poofs

  5. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Topic Starter Posts: 6,002   +15

    some off us just have WAY too much free time! ;)
  6. Mirob

    Mirob TechSpot Paladin Posts: 478

    Lol...me bad. :chef:

    Many times SPD or auto will not set the specified timings and voltage. Granted, you need to know a little but manually is the best way.
  7. skay

    skay TS Rookie Posts: 16

    Ok, Tedster, here's the problem I've run into. I'm in the process of building a system (1st timer) and I'm not sure what memory to get. Here are the components I have so far:

    MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum
    AMD Opteron 146 (CAB2E 0607GPMW)
    Zalman 7000AlCu
    Matrox Parhelia 128MB
    Antec True Power 430W PSU (left over from old system)
    WD 200GB IDE 7200 HDD (left over from old system)

    I RTFM, and there weren't any specific memory brands listed. (It talked a lot about placement of the memory, but that was about it). So I went to MSI's site. I'm mainly interested in adding 2GB of dual channel memory (standard or performance), but would also consider 1GB of dual channel performance memory. The PDF of recommended brands doesn't include 2GB kits at all; it only goes up to individual 1GB modules, and even then, it only lists 4 compatible brands: Hynix, Infineon, Micron, and Swissbit. I emailed MSI tech support and got back a link to the same PDF I'd just been looking at. (Talk about "Catch-22's". LOL).
    (Here's the link to that PDF): http://www.msi.com.tw/html/products/mainboard/testreport_pdf/7025/memory.pdf

    I've read about some real horror stories in which systems won't even boot up because of the incompatibility between memory and mobo. I definitely want to avoid that. I don't have a problem with getting standard Micron/Crucial if that's what it'll take to help insure a stable working setup. So I went to Crucial's site, and got the list of what they say is compatible with my mobo. But here is what's confusing to me: From the compatible list it gives the voltage for the 2GB DDR PC3200 CT2KIT12864Z40B as 2.6v. It also gives the voltage for the 2GB DDR PC2700 CT2KIT12864Z335 as 2.5v. Additionally, it gives the voltage for their performance Ballistix 1GB kit (it doesn't come in a 2GB kit) DDR PC3200 BL2KIT6464Z402 as 2.8v.


    However, the official spec for memory for the MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum lists the voltage as 2.5v. I'm having a very difficult time trying to sort all of this out. (i.e. How important it is to match the 2.5v of the mobo spec with the voltage specs of the memory itself, etc.) It is my intention to use this computer to experiment with/learn about overclocking -- moderate, not gonzo -- so I do want to get the proper components from the outset to be able to do that. I believe I am on the right track as far as the mobo, CPU, and fan are concerned. I thought the memory would be easy, but I've kind of hit the wall with that right now. The only thing I've heard so far is that some people have found major incompatibility issues with Corsair TwinX PC3200.


    Aside from that, it seems as if Micron/Crucial is the safest way to go, while still keeping the option to overclock open.


    But even there, I'm not sure if it makes more sense to go with 2GB of the standard memory, or go with 1GB of the high performance Ballistix. (Newegg has 1GB dual channel Ballistix for $89.99, which seems pretty decent, considering it's $147.99 at Crucial's site.). I do know that if I choose to add the 2x512 Ballistix, I'm pretty much stuck with 1GB for my system, since adding two more modules automatically cuts the speed of the memory for the system -- it's just how the mobo is set up. So I'm not sure whether it's better to go with 1GB performance memory, or 2GB standard. And I'm also unclear as far as what role the voltage plays in the decision. (2.6 for standard vs. 2.8 for performance).
  8. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Topic Starter Posts: 6,002   +15

    MSI boards automate the voltage. However, somewhere in the manual there should be a section telling you what voltages and what specific types it takes. I have an MSI board and it came with 2 books. One for general info, and one for RAM compatibility.

    If not, I am sure the MSI website has a PDF file.

    I am 99% positive your system will take crucial/Micron PC3200 RAM. more than likely at 2.6 volts.

    The better quality ram you get, the longer it will last.

    Don't play with the voltages in BIOS, just set it for automatic. You should be ok.
  9. skay

    skay TS Rookie Posts: 16

    Thanks for your quick response, Tedster. And you were right -- there was a second manual, called "Test Report", but the problem is it doesn't list the more recent dual channel kits, and neither does their site. (The link I posted above is to the same "Test Report" except it doesn't list the 4 slots the way the book does.) So I'm still left with the choice between the Crucial Micron (2GB dual channel kit) & the Crucial Ballistix (1GB dual channel kit). I don't know if "performance" memory necessarily equates with "better quality", when comparing the standard micron to the Ballistix. Any thoughts as far as choosing between those two in terms of real world performance differences and/or compatibility issues? (i.e. 1GB "faster/performance" ram vs. 2GB "standard" ram).
  10. larrybody

    larrybody TS Rookie Posts: 17

    I have the same question as Skay. I have recentely built a new Athalon XP 2600 machine that I plan on using to play around with overclocking options. I currently have one 256MB stick of PC3200 (value ram). I want to upgrade the memory. My board has two slots (single channel) and can support up to 2GB. Can I use a dual channel kit, like the Crucial Balistix 1 Gig kit? The crucial website list the 512MB stick as compatable. It has the same part numbers as the dual channel kit, except for the words KIT. Should this be a problem? It is a better value to get the dual channel kit than to purchase them seperately.
  11. larrybody

    larrybody TS Rookie Posts: 17

    More thoughts

    Here is the thing. I would like to max this board out with 2 Gigs of memory. My board is a ASRock K7S41GX. The specs don't list PC 3200 as being supported, but it is (option in the BIOS), and it works. My board is not listed by Corsair, Kingston, and OCZ, but the K7S41 version is listed in the Corsair Memory finder. They list TwinX2048-3200c2pt as being compatable with the K7S41 board. Newegg has some good values on 2GB kits right now. Am I right in guessing that this memory would work?

    I had some problems with a TwinX2048c2 kit in a DIF lanparty Ultra board I built last month. Had to reduce the CAS to 2.5 instead of the listed CAS2 to make it work. If this is the only problem I would encounter, that would be acceptable. I just want to avoid the hassle of incompatability, but also want to max out the memory at a good price.
  12. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Topic Starter Posts: 6,002   +15

    I'm not sure about asrock, but msi boards accept all major brands.

    THERAP1ST TS Rookie Posts: 57

    Hello I'm new these forums and I'm building a computer for the first time. My question is what is Pin. The mobo I'm looking at says 184-pin but the RAM I'm looking at says 240-pin, what does this mean?
  14. wolfram

    wolfram TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,967   +9

    Well, the 240 pin is DDR2 RAM, it´s the fastest RAM out there, also the newest. The 184 pin is DDR RAM, it´s the most usual out there.

    For your mobo, look for the 184 pin DDR RAM, and quality RAM from well-known manufacturers like Corsair, Kingston etc.
  15. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Topic Starter Posts: 6,002   +15

    RAM comes in in different flavors with different pin-outs on the sticks. You apparantly do not have the correct type for your motherboard. 240 is DDR2. 184 is DDR (1).

    THERAP1ST TS Rookie Posts: 57

    So if I changed my RAM to this I should be good?
  17. wolfram

    wolfram TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,967   +9

    You should, but make sure your mobo supports XMS RAM...

    THERAP1ST TS Rookie Posts: 57

    How do I do that? I haven't bought anything yet btw.
  19. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Topic Starter Posts: 6,002   +15

    read the motherboard manual or contact the manufactuer (or website) to determine what ram sticks your system will accept. Please re-read the sticky. It will answer most of your questions.
  20. Sparky Joe

    Sparky Joe TS Rookie Posts: 18

    Thanks for the lengthy post Ted, but I have a diff problem I was hoping to find answers to.

    New ASUS P5WD2 prem board w/ new dual channel DDR2 Kingston hyper X PC2-6400, 1GB total.

    Question; at post RAM test says I'm running at PC2-5300. Manufacturer says the the freq should be 800, but SiSoftware Sandra 2007 says it's running at 668Mhz.

    I can change all these settings in the BIOS to the manufacturers advertised values (frequency and latencies), but as I read above, this is not a good idea. Although my intention is not to overclock, but simply to get what I paid for, Is this a good idea or not?

    Thanks -Joe
  21. Mirob

    Mirob TechSpot Paladin Posts: 478

    High performance RAM will do that. You have to set the speed, timings and voltage manual.
  22. Sparky Joe

    Sparky Joe TS Rookie Posts: 18

    Thanks MiRob, I'm gonna adjust it now and let you all know the outcome later.

    When I RTFM it said different speeds than mine will have this issue, though it didn't go into much detail, and I'm always weary about breaking something that is brand new.
  23. Sparky Joe

    Sparky Joe TS Rookie Posts: 18

    Well I adjusted all items manually like you said, and it wouldn't boot, said "overclock attempt failed", so I went back in the BIOS and left latency's and voltage SPD and changed the frequency to 800, worked great, ran SiSandra again, scored double what I was before(over 10,000).
    Thanks for the help
  24. Mirob

    Mirob TechSpot Paladin Posts: 478

    Thats why SPD is not the rated specs. The DDR2-800 I'm useing needs 2 volts for 4-4-4-12, 400mhz that their rated. SPD is 5-5-5-15 at 400mhz. They also booted in this mobos first POST at DDR2-667 speed.


    I have had them to 480mhz 5-5-5-15 with 2.25 volts. This is my first time playing with DDR2.

    Attached are the BIOS screens for my G.Skills rated specs. I think the P5WD2 looks about the same.

    Attached Files:

  25. Sparky Joe

    Sparky Joe TS Rookie Posts: 18

    Thaks for the pics, I appreciate the effort, I have the 0606 BIOS, but it does look exactly the same, and I set everything the same as you have. But it would only boot. Only as, 1,8v, 800mhz. I didn't mess with it too much, just because I was able to get the 800 out of it. I'm sure I'll mess with it a little more later, when I'm little more patient with it.

    One more thing though; do you or have you used 'AI Booster'? I knda like the utitlity and being able to OC within windows, but when I turn on the "N.O.S" it will automatically put me back at the 667 ram freq. And while it's enabled the DRAM frequency setting is not available like you have in your jumperfree picture. Is there any way around this, because I like it to overclock when I need it and not always run hot?

    And what is that CPU-Z program you have up there? I s that just to view what you have?
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