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Is it better to have four times 2 GB or two times 4 GB of RAM?

If I had two different RAM setups... both from the same company, same cas latency, same motherboards, etc... what benefits would I reap from using four 4GB ram sticks as opposed to a single 16GB ram stick?

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marked as duplicate by Dave Rook, akira, Sathya Dec 14 '12 at 9:48

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Have a bit of greater security that although one 4Gb may die on you, you'll still have 3 left in comparison to 1 16Gb board? –  ldigas Dec 14 '12 at 7:09

3 Answers 3

The advantage is if the chipset supports dual channel / is a dual channel platform.

From Crucial FAQ:

What is dual-channel memory?

The terminology "dual-channel memory" is being misused by some in the memory industry, which can mislead the consumer. The fact is there's no such thing as dual-channel memory. There are, however, dual-channel platforms.

When properly used, the term "dual channel" refers to the DDR or DDR2 chipset on certain motherboards designed with two memory channels instead of one. The two channels handle memory-processing more efficiently by utilizing the theoretical bandwidth of the two modules, thus reducing system latencies, the timing delays that inherently occur with one memory module. For example, one controller reads and writes data while the second controller prepares for the next access, hence, eliminating the reset and setup delays that occur before one memory module can begin the read/write process all over again. Think of it like two relay runners. The first runner runs one leg while the second runner sets up and prepares to receive the baton smoothly and carry on the task at hand without delay. While performance gains from dual-channel chipsets aren't huge, they can increase bandwidth by as much as 10 percent. To those seeking to push the performance envelope, that 10 percent can be very important.

If you have a dual-channel platform and you want to take advantage of the performance gain it offers, our advice is to simply purchase your DDR or DDR2 memory in pairs. However, be very careful to order two modules with the exact same specifications; the modules must be identical to each other to perform correctly.

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Both setups have their advantages:

The single 16GB stick:

  • Only uses a single DIMM socket. This allows you to expand the memory later. (e.g. if you have two machines with 16GB, put both original DIMMs in the upgraded server, add new RAM to the server you just raided for supplies).
  • It is also quite possible that the single DIMM uses less power.

The four DIMM setup on the other hand:

  • Allows more RAM to be accessed simultaneous. If your motherboard supports it (e.g. dual channel, triple channel on older Nehalems. Quad on a few Xeons).
  • Might be needed on a multi socket motherboard with multiple CPUs.
  • Right now I expect 4x4GB to be cheaper than 1x16GB.
  • On many motherboards using more than one set of DIMMs slows down memory access. Check the manual, or search for memory ranks
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more than one DIMM Has another advantage. That if a DIMM is suspected to be bad, then as an alternative to a software test running memtest86 , you can remove the dimm and see if the problem persists. –  barlop Dec 14 '12 at 12:12
    
Aye, but you can always swap the DIMM with another to do the same. –  Hennes Dec 14 '12 at 12:21
    
Much easier when the other module in the machine itself. Even if you're a techie with everything organised well, good use of space, great shelving and the right RAM on your shelf, even then, it's more convenient when the RAM you can use for troubleshooting, is in the machine. –  barlop Dec 14 '12 at 14:49

It is more preferable to have 4 * 4 instead of 1 * 16 from hardware issue point of view in case one stick is damaged.

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yes so you can swap one out. not so you can run with a damaged stick. I think somebody downvoted you because they thought the latter! was worth you elaborating. –  barlop Dec 14 '12 at 12:13

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