Is DDR4 Backwards Compatible?

DDR4 or Double Data Rate 4 is a type of SDRAM and it’s the 4th generation, you will find DDR4 RAM present in laptops and desktop systems. It is known for having high memory bandwidth and offering up to 50% more performance compared to DDR3 memory. You can find many different DDR4 modules with different speeds, but the DDR4 generation is far superior to its predecessor. This is because of its low voltages, and far higher speeds.

DDR4 RAM has many benefits over its predecessor such as having higher module density, lower voltage requirements, and higher data transfer speeds. It also allows DIMMs up to 64GB in capacity compared to 16 per DIMM with DDR3. The lower voltage requirements mean the DDR4 DIMM runs more stable, and at higher speeds which is beneficial for overclocking.

Answer: The DDR4 DIMM is not backward compatible; it will only allow for DDR4 memory sticks. This is because of numerous differences such as voltage requirements and physical differences. The DDR4 DIMM only physically supports DDR4 modules, and it can only supply 1.2Volts per memory stick whereas DDR3 memory sticks require 1.5Volts.

How Does RAM Work?


RAM which stands for Random Access Memory is a type of storage that is made to forget everything it has stored when it loses power, the RAM will clear the data like SSDs and HDDs. The RAM is also meant to work extremely quickly as it has to send and retrieve instructions between the CPU. The information stored on the RAM is usually information the PC is actively using.

A computer cannot work without RAM as the CPU has nothing to send it instructions to process, this is because the data stored on the memory of the computer is usually instructions executed by the ALU on the processor. This data is crucial and is meant to be accessed near instantaneously, this is why using storage such as SSD and HDDs aren’t a good idea because they can’t reach the speeds that RAM can. The data sent between the RAM and CPU is usually transferred within nanoseconds.

Nowadays, a typical computer will have at least 8GB of RAM, and much more for RAM-intensive tasks. You’ll find that gaming computers typically have at least 16GB of RAM, and 32GB on the extreme end. Video editing builds start at 32GB of RAM and have 64GB on the extreme end. The speed of the RAM varies, but you can overclock it in the BIOS pretty easily.

Can I Plug A DDR3 Module Into A DDR4 DIMM?

Each generation of DDR is made to support its current generation, it does not support any type of backward or forward compatibility. This is because the differences between each generation are so different, for example, DDR4 DIMMs have their notch in a different place, and are slightly thicker than DDR3 DIMMs. The physical differences won’t even allow you to insert a DDR3 module into a DDR4 motherboard.

If you miraculously manage to install a DDR3 module into a DDR4 DIMM, the voltage differences will be too different for it to work, so you have an electrical barrier you need to pass after you somehow manage to pass the physical barrier. Although from afar they look the same, physically, electronically, and specification-wise, they’re practically identical.

There are adapters that you can use to install DDR3 modules into a DDR4 motherboard, they’re quite expensive and not worthwhile. Using this method to support backward compatibility on your motherboard will mean that your RAM modules will run slower due to added latency, this is what the adapter will do. And you will have to use DDR3L “DDR3 Low Voltage” to match the voltage specifications of the motherboard.


Storage Density512MB-8GB4GB-16GB
Voltage Requirements1.5v1.2v
Clock Speeds800MHz-2133MHz1600MHz-3200MHz (can overclock)

DDR4 RAM is far superior to DDR3 RAM specification-wise, it supports faster memory at lower voltages, consumes approximately 40% less power, and is far more reliable. DDR4 memory modules are denser in capacity which allows capacities up to 512GB this allows for builds with far more RAM with fewer memory modules compared to a DDR3 system.

DDR4 memory modules are faster in clock speed compared to DDR3 modules, the data rate of DDR3 modules ranges between 800MHz to 2133MHz whereas DDR4 starts at 1600MHz and can reach speeds up to 4400MHz. The higher input and output speeds mean the processor won’t have to wait on the RAM as much for instructions resulting in faster PCs. The DDR4 modules can provide up to 50% more performance without requiring 40% less power, this makes it ideal for gaming systems.

The notch on the DDR4 memory has been moved to prevent accidental installations, plus they have more pins per module compared to DDR3. DDR4 memory has 288pins instead of 240pins per module, they are also slightly thicker than DDR3, and they have a curved edge to aid in installation. So there is no possibility of installing the wrong RAM into the wrong motherboard without an adapter.


The verdict is that DDR4 DIMMs are not backward compatible; this is due to the physical differences not allowing you to install the wrong RAM into the wrong motherboard. Also, if you somehow managed to get DDR3 memory installed into a DDR4 slot, the voltage differences won’t support the RAM, therefore it won’t work.

There are numerous benefits to using DDR4 over DDR3, this includes faster data transfer speeds, more stability, higher memory densities, and lower voltages. The lower voltages make DDR4 RAM more stable at higher speeds making it ideal for overclocking, the higher memory density means you don’t need as many RAM modules to reach a specific capacity.

The use of an adapter will introduce extra latency as well as cost a fortune, so we don’t recommend this method of installing DDR3 memory or any memory into an incompatible motherboard. It would be far better to purchase the supporting motherboard to reduce latency as well as not break the bank.