Are paired RAM sticks necessary?

GameHat

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Jan 21, 2007
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Wow, it feels strange to post here...

I was fairly active on the THG forums from about 2000-2003 under the user name "BunnyStroker"; I stopped checking it shortly near the site redesign.

Anyways.

For Christmas, I told my brother I would build him a computer (the alternative was him buying another Dell, which both offended me personally AND he'd had bad experiences trying to perform even simple upgrades (Video Card) due to Dell cutting all sorts of corners - on PSUs, for example.

So I put together for him the following system:

COOLER MASTER Centurion 5 CAC-T05-UW
ASUS EN7900GS TOP/2DHT/256M GeForce 7900GS GDDR3 PCI Express x16 Video Card - Retail
Antec SmartPower 2.0 SP-500 ATX12V 500W Power Supply - Retail
Track 1 Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD3200KS 320GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
LINKSYS WMP54G 32bit PCI2.2 Wireless-G Adapter - Retail
Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Conroe 2.4GHz LGA 775 Processor Model BX80557E6600 - Retail
Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2b w/Upgrade Coupon for Vista - OEM
MSI P965 Platinum LGA 775 Intel P965 Express ATX Intel Motherboard -
CORSAIR XMS2 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model TWIN2X2048-6400 - Retail
SONY 16X DVD±R DVD Burner With 5X DVD-RAM Write Black IDE Model
Subtotal: $1,358.92

...all from Newegg. About half the price of a comparable Dell system, which is no surprise.

Anyways, I assembled the system at my place. Booted it once, no errors, everything seemed fine. Didn't install any OS/Software.

Sent it to him - he gets WinXP loaded, then calls me to say it keeps shutting down, sometimes refusing to turn back on for hours, and when it does, the BIOS posts a warning about a failed overclock.

I get it back from him, and find that at some point the CPU heatsink/fan has come loose. Well, that's the smoking gun for the shutdowns/overclock failure warnings - big heat problems for the CPU. I remount the heatsink, but I still get random lockups (Even in the BIOS setup screen).

After a fair amount of experimentation, I run memtest86+ and see massive RAM failure.

I isolate the problem to ONE of the 1gb RAM sticks. With the bad stick, nothing will load, and there are frequent lockups. With only the good stick, the system runs properly.

My questions:

1) Is it feasible that a malfunctioning CPU heatsink could somehow indirectly result in burning a RAM stick? I'm still torn about trying to return the two.

2) He COULD run ok with 1gb RAM (the one stick passes memtest just fine, and I have his box running stable now for at least 24 hours). But I comitted to building him a system with 2gb, so I'd like to replace it. I could buy him a new pair of 2x1gb sticks, or I could just buy a single 1gb stick. Is it that important to have paired memory sticks? Can I save myself ~$130 and just get another 1gb stick to install?

Thanks for any advice,

-GameHat
 

yipsl

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Jul 8, 2006
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After a fair amount of experimentation, I run memtest86+ and see massive RAM failure.

I isolate the problem to ONE of the 1gb RAM sticks. With the bad stick, nothing will load, and there are frequent lockups. With only the good stick, the system runs properly.

My questions:

1) Is it feasible that a malfunctioning CPU heatsink could somehow indirectly result in burning a RAM stick? I'm still torn about trying to return the two.

2) He COULD run ok with 1gb RAM (the one stick passes memtest just fine, and I have his box running stable now for at least 24 hours). But I comitted to building him a system with 2gb, so I'd like to replace it. I could buy him a new pair of 2x1gb sticks, or I could just buy a single 1gb stick. Is it that important to have paired memory sticks? Can I save myself ~$130 and just get another 1gb stick to install?

Thanks for any advice,

-GameHat

I do not think the loose heatsink has anything to do with the RAM issue. It seems to me that there's just one bad stick of RAM. That happens on occasion. Also, I usually go by the motherboard manufacturer's list of supported RAM, sometimes using a nonsupported brand works, sometimes not.

I've had one Mushkin SDRAM fail on me in the i845 days and one Corsair VS DDR-333 cause problems, but it passed memtest, go figure. It worked fine on a different motherboard.

Just return the one stick of bad RAM for replacement. Check with the manufacturer to see if you have to return both, but I don't expect you will have to, usually returning just for replacement will do, and the turnaround time's not going to be impossibly long.

It's probably good to buy matched sticks for a dual channel motherboard, but I didn't do that with my i865PERL and it's running fine. I don't think it matters as much if the board doesn't support dual channel operation, but you should also check the timings in the bios. I'm not an expert on this, but I always like to make sure the RAM is operating at it's normal timings.

I use Lavalys Everest Home to check everything out, but it's not freeware anymore. Next time, the commercial product might be necessary. Try to find a copy of the Home edition and see what it says about the RAM timings.

edited to clarify the comment on returning the RAM and to add that it's the overclocking section, not the memory section of Everest Home that gives the RAM timings. For example, it gives my DDR 400 as:

Memory Timings 2.5-3-3-7 (CL-RCD-RP-RAS)

The memory section just gives the physical memory, virtual memory and swap space.
 

sirheck

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Feb 24, 2006
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welcome back man.

it is better to have matching sticks.

i have used mismatched in the past with no problems.
but it is better to run matching ones.

i would say use the good 1 gig of ram for now and add another one later.
 

Mondoman

Splendid
...
Just return the one stick of bad RAM for replacement. Check with the manufacturer to see if you have to return both, but I don't expect you will have to, usually returning just for replacement will do, and the turnaround time's not going to be impossibly long.
Unfortunately, since he bought them as a matched pair, Corsair will require that he return *both* in exchange for a replacement matched pair. I agree that the RAM should be covered under warranty.

You might also check the PS. There have been reports in recent months of higher-than-expected failure rates on the Antec Smartpowers.