Is Single-Channel RAM Really Bad?

Single-channel memory is a config where you install only one memory module or only use one slot out of the two or more that are available. People will wonder whether single-channel memory is pointless as there are better configs such as dual channel. So you’re probably wondering why people still go for single-channel setups today.

The dual-channel config is slightly different from single-channel configs, it usually involves 2 or more RAM sticks as opposed to one. A typical dual-channel config will look like this – 2x8GB, 4x4GB, and a single-channel config will look like this – 1x16GB. Right off the bat, we can see that dual-channel configs are more expensive due to the extra RAM sticks, but is it worth the upgrade?

Answer: You may wonder whether single-channel memory is bad in today’s age. The answer to that question is a resounding no, single-channel memory is not bad. In fact, it’s still being used in many situations today, and for good reason. The main advantage of single-channel memory is that it is cheaper than dual-channel memory. This is because you are only buying one module instead of two.

Should You Use Single Channel RAM?

should you use single channel ram?

Whether you should use single-channel RAM depends on your budget and what you plan to use your computer for. If you are gaming on a budget, then single-channel RAM will be fine. However, if you want the absolute best performance possible, then dual-channel RAM is the way to go. The main difference between the two is that dual channel RAM can offer better performance in certain situations.

Dual-channel memory does offer double the bandwidth, so if you’re running RAM-intensive applications such as video editing or 3D rendering, then you will see a performance difference. RAM is extremely important when it comes to video editing, and it can usually be a bottleneck if you don’t have enough of it. So unlike builds such as gaming where the RAM isn’t as important, for video editing, you will need to get the best RAM that you can afford.

Dual-channel configs are decent as you technically have more than one RAM stick to fall on. So if one memory stick dies, you will have a backup at the expense of capacity and some performance. With single-channel setups, you’re practically relying on one memory stick, so if that stick fails, your computer isn’t going to work. So technically, 2x8GB is far more reliable than 1x16GB.

For the most part, dual-channel RAM kits are only slightly more expensive than single-channel RAM kits. So if you can afford it, we would recommend going for a dual-channel config for the extra performance, and extra reliability. But we understand why people go for single-channel setups, you will definitely save money initially, also it gives you time to upgrade if you really do need the double bandwidth.

Single-Channel Memory Is Not bad, It’s Just Different

dual channel memory

Single-channel memory isn’t bad, it just isn’t an optimal setup in terms of performance with current technology. Basically, a single-channel memory setup lacks the bandwidth, performance, and versatility that dual-channel memory setups offer.

The performance difference between single-channel and dual-channel isn’t as big as you’d think, looking at benchmarking results will show that single-channel and dual-channel configs are pretty close to each other. But for the best performance possible, single-channel memory isn’t the setup that’ll get you there.

As previously stated, going with a single-channel config will give the user time to fully decide whether they need the extra benefits that dual-channel provides. So, it can seem like a smart move to save money and test out whether your system and applications run fine on single channel.

Single Channel Memory Pros:

  • Cheaper
  • Gives the user time to think about upgrading
  • The performance difference isn’t as big as you’d think

Single Channel Memory Cons:

  • Lacks bandwidth
  • Not as versatile
  • Poor performance in comparison to dual-channel

Should I Upgrade To Dual-Channel?

dual channel memory
Dual-channel memory using 2 RAM sticks

If you have a single-channel config, upgrading to dual-channel not only means you’re getting double the capacity, but you will also get double the bandwidth. So, you’re definitely getting huge performance boost, but there are some things you need to ensure you get correct the first time.

For Dual-Channel, you need to ensure that the RAM modules are identical in capacity, clock speed, and CAS latency. This is so that both modules can work in harmony with each other, and you will get the best possible performance out of your system. The main important thing is getting the same capacity, this is because dual channel only works when you’re running two sticks with the same capacity.

You also need to make sure that your motherboard actually supports dual-channel memory, as some motherboards only support up to single-channel. To find this out, you can either consult your motherboard manual or look up your motherboard online to see what memory configurations it supports.

Although there are definitely performance gains, the question is whether it’s worth it or not. Sometimes, upgrading to more RAM is completely pointless as it’ll result in no performance differences. So unless you’re sure that your RAM is holding back your PC, we wouldn’t recommend upgrading. Here’s a scenario, if you have a 1x8GB config, and you’re a gamer, upgrading to a 2x8GB config may not result in the performance gains you’re looking for.

Dual Channel Memory Pros:

  • Increased memory bandwidth.
  • More stable overclocks.
  • Lower latencies.
  • Increased stability when using multiple graphics cards.
  • Potentially higher frame rates in games.
  • Ability to use all four slots on a motherboard with quad-channel memory support.

Dual Channel Memory Cons:

  • You can’t take advantage of dual-channel if your RAM sticks are of different capacities
  • If one stick fails, then you lose dual-channel benefits.
  • It’s more expensive to use more than one RAM stick.

How to install dual-channel memory

To install dual-channel memory, you need to ensure that you have two identical RAM modules, this is because both modules need to be the same in order for dual channel to work. Once you have your two modules, it’s simply a case of installing them into the correct motherboard slots.

When you’re installing single-channel memory, you don’t need to worry about which slot to install it. But with dual-channel memory, the DIMM slots are usually color-coded, this is to help you identify which slots to install your memory into. However, if you’re unsure, there are many resources that you can use to help you such as – your motherboard manual, or looking up your motherboard online.

Furthermore, ensure that you hear an audible click when installing your memory modules, this is to ensure that they’re installed correctly. Not installing your memory modules can result in your computer not booting, or not recognizing a RAM stick and showing half the effective capacity.

Tips When Installing RAM

Firstly, you must ensure that you’re installing your RAM properly, this is a big mistake many beginner builders run into. Not listening out for an audible click when installing your RAM is the easiest way to mistake your RAM for being faulty. Make sure the RAM is seated properly so all your RAM sticks are detected by your computer. Failing to install your RAM correctly can cause your system not to boot, as well as fail to detect other memory modules.

If you’re using more than one RAM stick, you will want to run them in dual-channel, so you must install them into the correct memory slots. Installing them in the furthest apart slots usually does the trick, but the best way to ensure you’re doing it right is to consult with the motherboard manual or check videos online.

If you’re upgrading your RAM, ensure you purchase identical modules if you’re not looking to completely replace them. This is because identical modules are necessary for Dual-channel performance.

CapacityConfigDual-Channel?
8GB1X8GBNo
8GB2X4GBYes
12GB1X4 + 1X8GBNo
12GB3X4GBYes(8GB Effective)
16GB1X16GBNo
16GB2X8GBYes

Verdict

Single-channel RAM isn’t bad, like most things, they have its upsides and downsides. With single-channel configs, it gives the user more time to think about upgrading to dual-channel memory. Also, single-channel memory is cheaper, so you will save more money as you’re purchasing fewer RAM sticks.