Can You Mix RAM Speeds

There’s a lot of confusion about RAM and speeds, especially when it comes to figuring out what to do when you have one stick in a configuration go bad and need to replace it with another one.  The popular route here is to just replace the one bad stick with something you happen to have on hand, or whatever is cheapest but there is a right and a wrong way to do this, so you’re going to want to always make sure that you go about it the right way and follow best practices to make sure you set yourself up for success.

Image shows different RAM types with the text Mixing RAM Speeds

RAM (Random Access Memory) is a critical component of a computer, typically responsible for storing short term information that your computer will retrieve to run programs and load data for you, and if you wind up taking shortcuts when it comes to replacing server RAM, you’re going to notice it reflected in the overall performance of the computer.

Mixing RAM Speeds

If you do find yourself in a position where you need to replace one stick of memory in a group, it’s always going to be best practice to replace it with a match, rather than replacing it with something you happened to have lying around, or something else that may be cheaper. Always instead plan on just purchasing a new stick of RAM to match what you already have installed, or if your finances allow, upgrade all of the sticks at once to a new set that is as fast as your configuration will allow, this way you get all new RAM, all with the same end of life and all at the same speed.

If you do for some reason need to mix memory speeds, keep in mind that your systems will operate all of your memory at the speed of the slowest modules.  So for example, if you have one module with a speed of 1333MHz and another module with a speed of 1600MHz, both will run at 1333MHz, so as you can see there’s really no benefit to using a second module of a higher speed as it will be slowed down to match the slowest one regardless.

Apart from having the second module being run at the slower speed, one of the other downsides to this approach is that you are at a much higher percentage of risk for data loss and corruption as your computer tries to delegate memory.  It’s not a huge risk, however, there is still a risk with no benefit, so it winds up being one of those things where there is no upside and only downsides, making it something that really never makes sense to do.

There’s always going to be an exception to the rule, and you certainly may find yourself in a position where you absolutely have to do this, so know that it’s not necessarily going to cause any kind of damage, but it should be a last resort.  If you do wind up needing to add in mismatched RAM, always plan on replacing it as soon as possible with a matching item.