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Server vs. PC Memory: How Do You Know What's What?

Posted by Integrity Global on Jan 19th 2017

Server vs PC Memory: How Do You Know What's What?

Have you found yourself struggling to try and find the right memory upgrade for your server or computer? Even for industry professionals, these seemingly simple activities can end up being an arduous task.

We often get requests from computer users looking for inexpensive memory solutions asking if they can use some of our server memory in their PCs or laptops. Sadly, the answer is no and the main reason for that is server memory is registered while computer memory is not. What exactly does that mean?

Registered (buffered) memory, which is most often found in servers, has basic storage capabilities and instructions on how information is processed. This buffer reduces the electrical load on a motherboard resulting in more stability and because of that, it is also more expensive. Registered (buffered) memory also often gets confused with Error Correcting Code (ECC) memory which differs even more through its use of an extra parity bit in binary code.

Unregistered (unbuffered) memory, which is most often found in computers, has no buffers therefore it streams directly and usually at higher rates of speed. With this lack of regulation you don’t typically see the same chip sizes and densities because the bigger sizes require a larger electrical load.

As a general rule of thumb, the motherboard must match the memory type (registered or unregistered) and the two modules cannot be mixed.

Of course there are other factors that determine memory compatibility as well such as speed and form factor. As mentioned previously, finding the correct part can be difficult and extremely frustrating. If you have any questions about this or any other areas of your data center, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our qualified sales reps.