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With standard PCs, does any modern RAM generally work with any modern motherboard, so long as they can physically interconnect?

If not, is there a table I can consult?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Not quite, and don't waste your time looking at manuals and such. Your head will explode.

Crucial has a Windows app you can just download and run on your PC so you buy the right kind of memory. Purchasing is then a one click operation. In my experience they are cheap and delivery is fast.

You can also run an app called CPU-Z which will tell you what kind of memory is in your motherboard, how many free slots you have etc.

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That Crucial app sounds cool -- except I don't yet have the motherboard I'll be plugging the RAM into, and even if I did, I wouldn't be able to run the app because... I don't have any RAM. :) –  raldi May 4 '09 at 1:25
    
In that case, grab the specs for the motherboard ram and then punch them into Crucial or Newegg's webiste and you should find plenty of results. –  Omar Shahine May 4 '09 at 1:45

Well generally things won't explode, you'll be safe there. However you'll need to consult the motherboard manual to find out the clock speeds it supports, only memory with a matching clock speed (or higher, it will just run at the speed of the motherboard) will work.

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No, just because the RAM fits in the slot doesn't mean it will work.

The best place to start is usually to check out the support web site, Manual or Specs sheet for the motherboard.

If you have a system from a one of the major manufactures (Dell, HP, etc) you can usually look up exactly what by using the search tools on a RAM manufactures site.

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Once I've installed 2 memory modules in the mainboard and all worked nice. After some hours using Windows, the computer shows the BSOD...

The reason was the 2nd memory module was problematic (each module have 2gb - just when Windows used more than 2Gb the computer crashed. I noticed that then I ever use a memory test program like MemTest.

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Despite the warnings above, most of the time, any memory of the proper type and speed will work. The people above are correct -- if you don't want to throw money away, consult the OEM, manufacturer, or use an application such as the one provided by Crucial.

Most of the RAM problems I've had were problems of mixing RAM purchased at different times. One machine I had would work with either 512 Meg stick of RAM that I had, but it just would not work with both at the same time. I never figured this out.

In my experience, you're much more likely to have a problem mixing RAM sticks purchased at different times than you are if you totally replace all of the RAM in the computer with matched memory sticks. So far, I've never bought memory and had it fail to work -- unless I was mixing memory sticks of different types.

I know that it is absolutely possible to buy memory and have it fail to work. This appears to be much more true (in what I have seen) for systems that take special memory, such as parity memory. If you want to ensure that you don't throw money away, consult the right experts. Otherwise you are taking a (usually small) chance that the memory will not work.

Note that at least in what I have seen, trying incompatible memory in a motherboard has never damaged anything. It just failed to POST or failed ot boot or failed to be reliable. In every case I have personally experienced, incompatible memory has not caused any damage to other hardware.

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