June 18, 2024

How To Enable Dual-Channel RAM to Boost PC Performance

Featured image showing a dual channel RAM configuration with a single empty slot. (Source: Unsplash.)

Inserting a second RAM stick in an empty memory slot is very easy on more recent computers. However, if you’re not sure whether your motherboard can handle it, or you’d like to understand the safety precautions before switching over from single-channel RAM, this guide is for you. We show how to enable dual-channel RAM in your laptop or PC to boost its performance.

Does a Computer Automatically Use Dual Channel RAM?

The short answer is no. A computer’s memory always defaults to single-channel use until the user enables dual-channel mode. The thing is, your computer needs only one RAM stick to run properly to pass any quality inspection. Also, shipping a device with a single RAM keeps the cost low.

The motherboard shown is capable of supporting dual-channel RAM but is currently in single-channel RAM mode, with one empty memory slot. It doesn’t use dual-channel RAM automatically.

Dual-channel RAM motherboard operating in single-channel mode with one empty memory slot.

However, most computers with dual-channel capable motherboards will automatically switch to dual-channel mode when you install a matching RAM stick. This happens quietly in the background, without any user involvement. As soon as you install a matched RAM stick, the motherboard immediately recognizes and configures it.

Good to know: are you wondering what dual-channel RAM is? It refers to a matched pair of DDR memory modules which can be installed in a compatible motherboard.

Note: many Windows laptops are sold with only a single RAM stick, as finding a matched and identical RAM for each new, build is not always commercially viable. However, it’s the opposite with MacBooks where identical RAM modules are factory-shipped in advance in 2x4GB and increasing variations.

Hardware Considerations for Dual-Channel RAM

To enable dual-channel RAM on your device, ensure that your computer hardware, namely the motherboard, is compatible with it. While most modern consumer laptops and PCs will support dual-channel memory out-of-the-box, the following checklist will help you be absolutely sure.

  • Determine whether the motherboard supports dual-channel RAM: this can be done through a visual inspection of the motherboard, as shown in the previous section. One or more empty RAM slots means there is room for more memory channels.
  • Find out whether RAM with identical specs is available: a software such as CPU-Z can help you determine this. Either install the application, or download its ZIP file, and go to SPD -> Memory Slot Selection. You will need to note down a few things. The first is the DDR-type, which is DDR-4, DDR-5, etc. Also, determine the Max Bandwidth, which has to be the same in both RAM modules. In this example, it is 1333 MHz.
Checking memory stats for a memory slot in CPU-Z software.
  • Decide how identical your RAM modules should be: in CPU-Z software, check the Module Size, Module Manufacturer, and DRAM Manufacturer. If the second RAM has the same details. Your dual-channel RAM is in “interleaved” mode, giving you a large block of memory. However, you can also insert RAM sticks from different vendors for different memory sizes. This is the “asynchronous” dual-channel RAM mode.
  • Ensure similar RAM form factor: in Windows devices, you can view form factor from Task Manager by going to Performance -> Memory -> Form Factor. If it says “SODIMM,” it means the RAM module will take up half as much space as a standard DIMM RAM. There are other form factors such as UDIMM, RDIMM, and LRDIMM. Without going into more detail, you should always purchase a RAM module with similar form factor.
Task Manager showing RAM form factor as SODIMM.
  • Check whether your RAM is single-sided or double-sided: a single-sided RAM has memory chips on only one side of the RAM stick, while the other is blank. A dual-channel RAM has memory chips on both sides. There will be a clear mention in the RAM specifications when you’re buying the device. You can also tell from a simple visual inspection.

Tip: what is the maximum amount of RAM you can install on your motherboard? We have the answers for Windows, Linux, and Mac.

How to Enable Dual Channel RAM in BIOS

Let’s learn how to enable dual-channel RAM in BIOS.

First, let’s go to the BIOS settings. On a Windows laptop or PC, you can access it using a BIOS key, which varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. It’s usually F2, F6, F12, or Esc. Restart your computer using one of these keys.

You will find the Memory Channel Mode option. It is usually Dual by default, but if you find any arrow keys, you may have to change the setting from Single to Dual. Click Exit, which will restart your PC.

Dual-channel RAM enabled in Windows BIOS Settings.

1. Install Dual-Channel RAM on a Computer

This step concerns installing the RAM module. It’s important to note that opening the motherboard will void the manufacturer warranty. This is certainly the case with Mac devices, and you may need to find a professional.

However, on Windows devices, that’s rarely a concern, and you can always install your own RAM if you choose to. Just turn off your computer, switch off the power supply, and follow these detailed steps.

It’s easier with laptops, as you just need to push the RAM stick at an angle into a slot within the enclosed RAM clips. Once it’s secure, you will hear a gentle click. Similarly, if you have any older RAM modules that you want to replace, just press the clips, and the older RAM will slowly detach at an angle.

In the following example, we have inserted another identical RAM module in a second memory slot in interleaved mode. Both RAMs are dual-sided with the memory chips visible on each side.

Enabling dual-channel RAM by installing dual rank RAM modules in interleaved mode.

2. Verify Dual Channel RAM

After firmly securing the RAM modules in their place, connect your device to the power supply again. Restart your computer, and open the CPU-Z software once again. Go to Memory -> General, and ensure the following are visible:

  • Channel# should show as “dual.”
  • Size is more than what you saw previously and should have increased according to your new memory module.
CPU-Z displaying dual-channel RAM with combined memory capacity.

Tip: periodically checking the RAM health on your computer ensures there are no errors in the current memory configuration.

After enabling dual-channel RAM on your computer, you can easily test whether it has boosted your PC performance. If you have a lot of unused memory in RAM, convert it to a RAM drive for additional storage capacity.

Image credit: Unsplash. All images by Sayak Boral.

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Sayak Boral

Sayak Boral is a technology writer with over eleven years of experience working in different industries including semiconductors, IoT, enterprise IT, telecommunications OSS/BSS, and network security. He has been writing for MakeTechEasier on a wide range of technical topics including Windows, Android, Internet, Hardware Guides, Browsers, Software Tools, and Product Reviews.

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