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Single Channel, Dual Channel, and Flex Channel RAM

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MattSlagle
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2008/04/21 11:23:53 (permalink)

Single Channel, Dual Channel, and Flex Channel RAM

Overview

 

There is quite a bit of confusion about how dual channel memory works and what kind of ram is needed to operate in this mode.  This article is based on one found on the Intel website.

 

What is Dual Channel

 

Dual channel architecture describes a technology that doubles data throughput from RAM to the memory controller. Dual-channel-enabled memory controllers utilize two 64-bit data channels, resulting in a total bandwidth of 128-bits, to move data from Ram to the CPU.

 


What is Flex Mode

 

Flex Mode describes a technology that enables dual channel operation in two differently sized ram modules running at different speeds.  It enables this by matching the higher spec memory to the settings of the lower spec memory.  It uses the leftover ram memory in the higher spec unit in single channel mode.

 

There are several types of memory configurations available for Intel chipset motherboards.


  • Dual Channel
  • Single Channel
  • Flex Mode

There are several types of memory configurations available for other chipset motherboards.


  • Dual Channel
  • Single Channel

Dual channel (Interleaved) mode
This mode offers the highest throughput for real world applications. Dual channel mode is enabled when the installed memory capacities of both DIMM channels are equal. Technology and device width can vary from one channel to the other but the installed memory capacity for each channel must be equal. If different speed DIMMs are used between channels, the slowest memory timing will be used.


Memory Configuration for Dual Channel Mode
Dual channel mode can be achieved with two, three or four DIMMs.

Dual Channel (Interleaved) Mode Configuration with Two DIMMs


Dual Channel (Interleaved) Mode Configuration with Three DIMMs



Dual Channel (Interleaved) Mode Configuration with Four DIMMs


Rules to Enable Dual Channel Mode
To achieve Dual Channel mode, the following conditions must be met:


  • Matched DIMM configuration in each channel
  • Same Density (128MB, 256MB, 512MB, etc.)
  • Matched in both Channel A and Channel B memory channels
  • Populate symmetrical memory slots (Slot 0 or Slot 1)

Note: Configurations that do not match the above conditions will revert to Single Channel mode.

The following conditions do not need to be met:



  • Same brand
  • Same timing specifications
  • Same DDR speed

Note: Memory channel speed is determined by the slowest DIMM module populated in the system.


The following image shows the BIOS Main menu with Dual Channel configuration information:



Single channel (Asymmetric) mode

This mode is equivalent to single channel bandwidth operation for real world applications. This mode is used when only a single DIMM is installed or the memory capacities are unequal. Technology and device width can vary from one channel to the other. If different speed DIMMs are used between channels, the slowest memory timing will be used.

Memory Configuration for Single Channel Mode

Single Channel (Asymmetric) Mode Configuration with One DIMM




Single Channel (Asymmetric) Mode Configuration with Three DIMMs




At boot, the memory configuration is detected and you may see this alert message:


Maximum memory performance is achieved with equal amounts of memory installed in each channel.
Press Any Key To Continue...


This means that with the DIMMs that are currently installed, the computer is set to single channel mode but, in fact, is capable of dual channel mode.  If you shut down and rearrange the DIMMs properly, you'll achieve dual channel mode.


Note: Memory channel speed is determined by the slowest DIMM module populated in the system.
 


The following image shows the BIOS Main menu with Single Channel configuration information:



Flex mode
This mode provides the most flexible performance characteristics. The bottommost DRAM memory (the memory that is lowest within the system memory map) is mapped to dual channel operation; the topmost DRAM memory (the memory that is nearest to the 8 GB address space limit), if any, is mapped to single channel operation. Flex mode results in multiple zones of dual and single channel operation across the whole of DRAM memory. To use flex mode, it is necessary to populate both channels.

Intel Desktop Boards based on the following chipsets support Flex Mode:



  • X48
  • X38
  • Q35
  • P35
  • G35
  • G33
  • P965
  • G965
  • Q965
  • Q963

Memory Configuration for Flex Mode

NOTE: The use of flex mode requires DIMMs to be installed in both channels.

The figure below shows a flex mode configuration using two DIMMs. The operation is as follows:



  • The 512 MB DIMM in the Channel A, DIMM 0 socket and the lower 512 MB of the DIMM in the Channel B, DIMM 0 socket operate together in dual channel mode. 
  • The remaining (upper) 512 MB of the DIMM in Channel B operates in single channel mode.


The following image shows the BIOS Main menu with Flex Mode configuration information:

avadmin2008-06-13 19:58:15

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