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How to Speed Up the RAM on Your Computer

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RAM frequently leaves the manufacturer operating at a slower speed than the silicon can handle. You can get your memory to run faster than the manufacturer’s specifications with a little BIOS tweaking and testing.

What You Must Understand Before You Start

RAM overclocking is considerably more complicated than overclocking your CPU or GPU, where all you have to do is flip a dial and hope that your fancy all-in-one water cooler doesn’t convert your computer into a space heater. Although RAM has a lot of knobs to turn, it is significantly safer because it doesn’t generate much heat.

There are practical advantages to this. Every program you use loads its working data into the CPU’s internal cache before storing it in RAM, and programs that use a lot of RAM can burn through it quickly. In games, frame rates can be significantly decreased by reducing the overall latency of your RAM. This can increase frame rates overall and, more importantly, lessen stuttering in CPU-intensive regions where new data must be loaded into the cache or VRAM from RAM.

Megahertz is typically used to assess RAM speed (Mhz). DDR4’s standard speed is typically 2133 MHz or 2400 MHz, but due to its double data rate, the actual speed is just half of that (DDR). Additionally, your memory has over 20 timings that regulate latency and the speed at which you can read and write. These are measured in terms of clock cycles and frequently categorized under the acronym “CAS Latency (CL)”. A midrange DDR4 kit, for instance, might have a 3200 Mhz CL16 rating. Throughput and latency are improved by tweaking either the speed or the timings.

A program called Serial Presence Detect is used by the memory to communicate with the rest of the computer. By doing this, the JEDEC specification—a set of frequencies and primary timings—is provided to the BIOS. Every DDR4 stick ever produced has this stock speed built-in as its default speed.

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But Intel managed to game the system. They may run RAM faster than the recommended speeds by adding the XMP (Extreme Memory Profile) profile on top of JEDEC. You will probably receive a kit with an XMP profile you can enable if you purchase RAM with a speed rating over 2400 Mhz. Factory overclocking that has been approved is this.

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But here’s the thing: That overclock is typically not the best owing to a number of reasons, and you can push it further than the manufacturer intended.

One is that manufacturers don’t completely discard everything. Because they have to charge more for the costly kits, product segmentation frequently results in your RAM having the XMP profile it did. Additionally, your kit only operates within a specific voltage range, typically 1.350 volts for midrange DDR4; however, you can increase this voltage level slightly on your own, as manufacturers do for higher-speed kits.

The fundamental issue, though, is that SPD doesn’t reveal every timing. A representative from Kingston claims that they “tune the ‘Primary’ timings (CL, RCD, RP, RAS) only,” and because the SPD system used to store XMP profiles only has a small number of entries, the motherboard is left to make the rest of the decisions, which isn’t always the best option. In my case, the “auto” settings on my ASUS motherboard set some odd values for some of the timings. Until I adjusted the timings, my RAM kit would not operate with the default XMP profile.

How to Choose the Optimal RAM Timings

While it is relatively safe to overclock RAM, there are a few more steps involved than simply turning the dial. You’re in luck if you have an AMD Ryzen system because there is a tool called “Ryzen DRAM Calculator” that makes the entire process much simpler. You won’t have to leave the RAM on your motherboard’s “AUTO” settings, and the calculator will save you some of the hassles associated with trial and error.

This program is still helpful for Intel systems as a reference for the primary timings, and the built-in memory tester will function similarly. Even if you don’t have an AMD system, you should still download this.

Open the tool and specify the type of memory you have as well as the Ryzen version you are using (just Ryzen 2 Gen if you are using Intel). If you don’t know, you can look it up online by searching for the part number of your RAM kit on Google.

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To load the XMP profile for your kit, click the purple “R – XMP” button at the bottom. To calculate your timings, enter the Ryzen version and memory type, then click “Calculate SAFE.” To view a comparison to your XMP settings, use the “Compare Timings” button. Many of the timings have been tightened up, as you’ll notice.

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I’ve had no problems using the SAFE settings at numerous frequencies and stock voltage; they almost always work. Although the FAST timings should function, they might not be stable at stock voltage.

To use this, take a screenshot using the button on the bottom left of the screen, and send it to a different device so you can view it inside the BIOS.

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How to Increase RAM Speed in BIOS

The remaining steps will be performed in the BIOS without access to your desktop, so make sure you have a screenshot of the calculator saved on a different device (or somewhere written down).

Shut down your computer, then restart it on the BIOS or UEFI firmware setup screen. To get to this screen as the PC boots, you’ll frequently need to repeatedly press a key like “Del.” You’ll see a screen that looks something like this:

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Locate the memory section, and load your XMP profile first. Verify that the frequency is what you desire. You can probably increase the frequency while keeping the timings the same if you don’t even want to touch the timings.

Timing control should be covered in a separate section. Open up this:

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Start putting numbers into the screenshot on your phone now. In my case, the order and calculator agreed, but you should check and double-check everything.

Here is a list of the primary timings and the technical terms that are used to describe them because in my case, the ASUS BIOS displayed the full names for many of the primary timings:

  • tCL – Primary CAS Latency
  • tRCDRD – RAS to CAS Read Delay
  • tRCDWR – RAS to CAS Write Delay. This is sometimes grouped with reading, though not always.
  • tRP – RAS Precharge (PRE) Time
  • tRAS – RAS Active (ACT) Time

The rest should match up exactly.

You should input the major timings for Intel at the very least; the rest can be left to run automatically. You can try entering the sub-timings the calculator provides if you’d like. I can’t confirm on my Ryzen system, but I can’t see why this shouldn’t work. If automatic settings are giving you trouble, try entering them manually.

Once the timings are complete, locate the section for voltage control. You should input the suggested DRAM voltage (the calculator highlights potentially dangerous voltages in red). Anything below 1.450 volts is probably okay. You should enter the recommended SOC voltage for Ryzen, which powers the CPU’s memory controller.

Save the changes, then close the BIOS. Restart your computer, and if it boots into Windows, proceed to the next step.

How to Proceed If It Fails to Post

You’ll probably have to wait around thirty seconds for the BIOS to boot into safe mode and restore the last functioning settings if it won’t boot, which means your motherboard failed its power-on-self-test (POST). Before increasing the memory voltage to the maximum advised level, you can try doing so in increments of 25 millivolts (0.025v). On Ryzen systems, you can also try slightly increasing the SOC voltage because the first- and second-generation Ryzen are particularly picky when it comes to memory overclocking. Since Intel doesn’t use the same SoC as Ryzen, it probably won’t experience this problem.

Don’t worry; you didn’t turn your computer into a paperweight if it won’t boot into safe mode. You will have to manually clear CMOS if your BIOS lacks that feature. Either a battery on the motherboard that you can remove and reinstall, or a pin by the front panel headers, will typically do this. Refer to the motherboard manual. You must use a screwdriver or a pair of scissors to make an electrical connection between the two pins (jumpers and switches are ideal, but you probably don’t have any lying around). It won’t surprise you, so don’t worry. The PC will reboot and return to normal.

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Check to see if the clock is stable.

Once you are back in Windows, the excitement continues. You should make sure the overclock is steady. This may be done using the “MEMbench” tab on the calculator. Set the task scope to 400% and the mode to “custom.” To allocate all of the RAM that is still available, click “Max RAM” at the bottom. This will check your RAM four times for errors.

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When you’re ready to begin, click “Run” and wait a few seconds. It took me less than ten minutes to test 32 GB of RAM at a 400% task scope.

You can try to accelerate the clocks further or experiment with the “FAST” settings if there are no errors. Memory overclocking consists solely of trial and error, deleting spam, and waiting for MEMbench to complete. This kind of routine is soothing to some people.

You should run an overnight test after you’ve exhausted your Numpad and are satisfied with your results to ensure that your overclock is unquestionably stable. Set the job scope to a ridiculously high value (100% should do), then return to it when you wake up. You can take pleasure in your overclock if there are no errors. The worst case scenario if you skip this overnight step is that you might experience a random crash or blue screen later on.

Benchmarking RAM to Check Performance

Download UserBenchmark to test your entire PC, including your RAM, if you’re extremely competitive and want to check how your RAM compares to the competition. This will provide you with a summary of your system’s performance. The margin of error with benchmarks like these is quite high, so you’ll probably need to run multiple tests. Another option is to use a game-specific benchmark like Unigine Superposition.

I spent $130 on a 32 GB kit of Micron E-die, which is rated at 3200@CL16 and is well-known for being inexpensive and capable of overclocking, and I got particularly good results. In UserBenchmark, it scored 90% faster than average RAM in its stock configuration, but even tightening the timings to 3200@CL14 results in a 23% performance boost.

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This compares the $250+ 3200@CL14 kits with the $130 Micron E-die kit, showing a significant cost difference. These were merely my results; depending on how well your memory overclocks and how your CPU handles it, your mileage may vary.

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