Dual channel RAM is better

Operating modes of the main memory explained

Friedrich Stiemer

If you want to upgrade your main memory, then more is always better - not only in terms of storage capacity, but also in terms of the number of modules, because parallel operation allows much higher data throughputs. We explain to you what, for example, the dual or quad-channel mode is all about.

EnlargeWhen connected together, memory modules offer extreme data throughputs, provided you have the compatible hardware.

There are a total of four operating modes for operating memory: single, dual, triple and quad-channel mode. This is the ability to operate RAM modules in parallel in order to achieve higher data rates and, in practice, to obtain faster performance. The main board must explicitly support the respective operating mode, more precisely the chipset or the memory controller. The latter is usually located in the processor itself. By the way, you do not have to explicitly activate the respective mode, the BIOS recognizes the operating mode itself.

An overview of four RAM operating modes: If the main memory is running in single-channel mode, then in plain language only a single module works on the motherboard.

The dual-channel mode, on the other hand, is of course only possible with a second memory module, while the memory throughput doubles in theory at the same time: from 8 GB / s to 16 GB / s, for example. However, it depends on the respective program and the rest of the hardware whether double the data rate is actually achieved. Prerequisite: In addition to a compatible memory controller, the memory modules for two-channel operation must have the same memory capacity.

In the triple-channel mode, three modules work in parallel with each other, which ultimately results in a theoretical tripling of the data throughput. Here, however, it is also possible to operate modules of different sizes side by side. For example, a module with 2 GB and two modules with 1 GB each would be conceivable for 4 GB. However, it is still advisable to use identical memory modules for proper operation. PCs with triple-channel RAM are less of a rule, since comparatively few CPUs are capable of this operating mode.

Finally, the quad-channel mode represents the current maximum performance, in which four memory modules are plugged in parallel in the mainboard and offer a data rate four times higher than a module in single-channel. Above all, upper-class processors such as the Intel Core i7-4960X allow operation in quad-channel mode.

For this you need high data throughput: You benefit from a high data rate especially in memory-hungry applications such as image or video editing. CAD tools, for example, also prove to be memory hogs in the industrial sector. A large and fast main memory also has a positive effect on multi-tasking and when using virtual machines. In games, the higher data rate has not yet made itself too noticeable.