A really common question asked by new system builders, and one that can be found on many forums, is ‘What ram is compatible with my motherboard?’ More often than not, this question comes when someone wants to upgrade the ram, and they don’t know the type that is used already. Finding out what RAM is compatible with your motherboard comes down to some simple things: the type of memory DIMM slots of your motherboard, the total number of sticks already in use, the amount of RAM you want to install, and the speed of your memory.
After you know these specs, you should compare them to whatever ram you want to buy and make sure it is compatible with your motherboard. But let’s analyze these specs a little bit and explain what they mean.
What are the RAM specs of my motherboard?
In order to find the RAM specs of your motherboard, you should go to the manufacturer’s website, find the specs section and look for the memory specifications of your motherboard. The specs page should tell you everything about it, including what kinds of RAM modules your motherboard supports, how many slots are available for use, and how much ram can be installed on each slot. The specs page will look something like the screenshot above.
The second way to find out about your ram specs is to take a look at the manual. If you have the manual of your motherboard, it will be there.
Finally, you can also use a third-party app like CPU-Z. After you download and install the app, you will be able to see the RAM and other specs of your motherboard.
Now that you know where to find the RAM specs of your motherboard, let’s analyze each of these specs individually and see what you should pay attention to:
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1. RAM Type
The RAM type is the first thing you should look for. This tells you the type of memory your motherboard supports. The different RAM types are actually the different generations of RAM. Just like PCIe has different generations, so does RAM, and their names are DDR1, DDR2, DDR3, DDR4, and DDR5. If you have a relatively new motherboard, you should look for DDR4. DDR4 was introduced in 2014 and has been the standard RAM type since 2016.
The RAM module type is the first thing I am talking about because it’s the most important factor as RAM types are not cross-compatible.
This means that if your motherboard has DDR4 slots, then it won’t accept other types of RAM modules because they are not physically compatible. Different RAM generations have different notch positions, pin count, and voltage requirements.
2. Maximum RAM Capacity Of Your Motherboard
The next thing you should look for is the total amount of RAM your motherboard can support. Depending on your motherboard’s age, this could be anywhere from 4GB (lol) to 128GB.
This is another important spec, as the total RAM capacity of your motherboard limits how many sticks of RAM you can plug in. If your motherboard’s maximum RAM capacity is 4GB, then you can install 4GB of ram totally regardless of whether there are more slots available.
3. Amount of RAM per slot
The next thing you should look for is the amount of RAM that can be installed per slot. This depends on the maximum RAM capacity and how many RAM slots your motherboard has. For example, if you have a 128Gb motherboard that has 4 slots, then you can install up to 32GB of RAM on each slot for a total of 128 GB.
Most of the time, you won’t use all the RAM amount your motherboard supports, and this is why it is more important to know how much you can install on each slot per RAM stick.
4. The frequency of your memory
The next thing is the frequency. The frequency tells you how fast your memory is running, measured in MHZ. For example, DDR4-2133 has a clock speed of 2133 MegaHertz. This means that it runs at 2133 MHz or 2133 million cycles per second.
When you look at the specs, the frequency of the RAM won’t be an absolute number but a range.
For example, the frequency can range from 2133 MHz to 5100 MHz. RAM modules can be overclocked, and this is what this range really means. It means that this motherboard supports overclocking your RAM module, and you can go as high as 5000+ MHz (usually labeled as O.C.). As you can understand, high-end motherboards support higher frequencies compared to low-end motherboards.
At this point, it is worth mentioning that RAM frequencies are backward compatible. This means that a motherboard with DDR4-2133 RAM frequency can also run RAM sticks of a higher speed, such as DDR4-3200. However, the speed will be limited to the motherboard’s maximum frequency, leading to a performance decrease.
5. Number of RAM sticks supported by the motherboard
The next thing you should look for is how many RAM sticks can be installed on your motherboard. For example, if you have 4 RAM slots on your motherboard and you already have 4 sticks installed, you will need to get rid of some of those before being able to install any additional memory.
Every motherboard has a certain number of RAM slots, which means that you won’t be able to install an infinite number of sticks.
6. ECC compatibility
This is something that won’t be an issue for most of the people reading this guide, but it is worth mentioning.
ECC or Error Checking and Correction Memory is a type of RAM that can automatically detect and fix the errors in your RAM. This is used mostly on servers and business computers as a way to fix any data corruption or missing data.
You should only pay attention to ECC support if you are building a server, so I won’t go into much detail about it.
The bottom line is that not all motherboards support ECC RAM, and your motherboard should have support for ECC if you want to use it.
Most mid to high-end AMD motherboards support ECC, but you can always check if your motherboard of choice supports it by checking the specifications. Finally, if you plan to use ECC memory, you should know that your CPU should also support this feature.
Related Article: What CPU Is Compatible With My Motherboard?
Choosing The Correct RAM
Now that you know what RAM is compatible with your motherboard, it is time to choose the correct RAM.
So when looking around for RAM, all you need to do is look at your motherboard specs, then look at the RAM’s specs and see if they match.
To learn about your RAM specs, first, you need to find its model number. RAM sticks come with a model number, just like the photo below.
So, visit your RAM’s manufacturer website and find the specs for the specific model you are looking at.
The specs page will look something like this.
So let’s say the specs of my motherboard are like the screenshot below.
As you can see, the RAM type is DDR4, just like my motherboard’s; the frequency is 2666MHz, which makes it compatible with my motherboard’s maximum frequency of 4866 MHz. Finally, the RAM stick is 16Gb, and my motherboard has 4 slots with a total capacity of 128GB, so it will be fine. But there are a couple of RAM specs we haven’t covered yet, namely the Voltage, the number of pins, and the latency.
RAM Voltage shouldn’t be too much of a concern as almost all DDR4 RAM sticks are powered by 1.2 volts, so it doesn’t matter which RAM stick you get. The only scenario this actually matters is when you plan on overclocking your RAM stick which would require higher voltage, but we are going to talk about it in another article.
CAS latency is the time the RAM needs to get ready for another command.
When you read around about CAS latency, you will see that it is written in numbers like CL15-17-17-35 or CL14-16-16-31. This means that the RAM needs 15 RAM clock cycles to output the data asked by the processor.
The lower the numbers, the better, but this is most noticeable with high-end RAMs and is usually not something to worry about on most builds.
The CAS latency isn’t a compatibility factor but will determine how well your system performs when the RAM is overclocked.
Number of pins
The number of pins on a stick of RAM is decided by the RAM type. DDR 4 and DDR 5 have 288 pins, while DDR 3 sticks have 240 pins.
Now, this won’t be an issue if you already know that DDR4 RAM is the only type supported by your motherboard.
If you see DDR4 RAM with less than 288 pins, you can safely assume it is a laptop stick, as all DDR4 Desktop RAM sticks have 288 pins.
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Can I add more memory to my old PC?
Adding extra RAM to your PC is one of the easiest and best upgrades you can make. But to do it successfully is not such a simple task.
Now things like clock speed and CAS latency become really important because if the two RAM modules are not similar, they can cause synchronization problems and do more bad than good to your computer’s performance.
If you want to safely upgrade your RAM, I strongly advise you to either buy the exact same RAM stick or discard the old RAM and get a new one.
How to Install the RAM?
Installing the RAM is pretty straightforward. First, find the RAM slots on your motherboard.
If you are going to install only one RAM stick, then install it to the closest slot to the CPU.
But if you are going to install a dual channel RAM module on a four-slot motherboard, then you should install one RAM stick in slot number 4, which is usually the one furthest away from the CPU, and the second stick in slot number 2, which is not the one next to slot number 4. There should be one empty slot between two RAM sticks. You can see the video below for more details, or read our article “Which RAM slot to use?“.
Will any RAM fit my motherboard?
No, any RAM will not fit your motherboard. Different generations of RAM have different physical dimensions, so you need to make sure that the RAM you buy is compatible with your motherboard.
How do I know what RAM to buy for my PC?
Depending on what you are using your PC for, you will need different amounts of RAM.
For everyday use, I would recommend 8GB of RAM as this will give you a good amount of multitasking power and won’t require too much money. But if you are into gaming or video editing, you should look at 16GB or even 32GB of RAM.
This is all you have to know about choosing a compatible RAM for your motherboard. You should make sure that the RAM type, amount of RAM, and frequency, are compatible. Just check all the specs on your motherboard, and choose a RAM stick that has similar specs.
Please leave a comment below if you liked this article or have questions about choosing compatible RAM for your PC.
Nick Ryley is a computer architect and the owner of The Pc Geekz.
His love for playing games got him interested in computers in the first place. He wanted to be able to build a gaming PC that could run all the latest games at max settings, and this has him pursuing a major in computer architecture!
He started this blog to help people out and answer some of the most common questions about computer building