How does dual channel work when you have 4 RAM slots?

internetswag

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Do you need 4 sticks of RAM to 'activate/utilize' it? Or does dual channel literally only apply to 'two channels' and only two sticks out of the four will be benefiting from dual channel?
 
Dual channel works in pairs. Your board manual will tell which pairs to use for dual channel; on many boards, simply match the sticks to two slots with the same color. Using two or four sticks, doesn't matter if they're in the right slots.
 

vh1atomicpunk

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Dual channel works just the way you would think it would - it provides dual channels (access paths) to RAM.

What this means is that - in modern CPUs, a memory path is 64-bits wide. Dual channel generally requires two RAM modules or more, and usually channels are color coded on the Motherboard. This means that you can install two DDR/DDR2/DDR3 RAM modules (or 'sticks) that are identical in the opposite colored slots and achieve dual channel (or 128-bit) mode. This is mode (two modules) provides the best throughput performance for the machine, although not necessarily the best performance altogether. For example, let's say you had two DDR3-1600 modules of 1GB each installed in dual-channel mode, you would get great throughput (bandwidth/transfer speed), but might suffer from a lack of total available RAM. Best option available on modern Motherboards? 2x2GB (4GB) or 2x4GB (8GB) with lowest latency for that Motherboard. Usually more RAM is better as a rule, but above more than 4GB latency becomes an issue and is only necessary if the additional RAM can be used.

Hope this helps, hit me back at vh1atomicpunk@yahoo.com if you have other questions.
 

internetswag

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Thank you man! And thanks for the email.
 

billmoy

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I have a question: with 4 slots with 3 1gb matching ram chips and 1 512k ram chip, do I achieve 'dual channel' processing for the pair of 1gb chips in matching color coded slots while the remaining 2 slots operate in 'single channel' mode --or--
does any unmatched configuration switch everything to 'single channel' mode?

--Bill
 

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