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ECC vs non-ECC RAM

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by Tegal, Jun 18, 2007.

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  1. Tegal

    Tegal Thread Starter

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    I have an old mobo, MSI K7T Turbo 2, which takes pc133 which I know is ancient.

    However my question is this - what is the practical difference between ECC RAM and non-ECC RAM? I know that ECC provides error checking and non-ECC doesn't, but also that the majority of home PC's use non-ECC coz it's faster and they don't need the error checking functionality.

    So far as i can gather I can use ECC in my system and it'll just ignore the error checking bits. But i also know that ECC runs slower than non-ECC, is this true even on a mobo that doesn't support the ECC function? What sort of speed difference are we talking about anyway?

    Price wise ECC seems to be cheaper than non-ECC on places like Ebay.

    Thanks
    Tegal
     
  2. Frank4d

    Frank4d Trusted Advisor

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    Installing ECC RAM in a motherboard designed for non-ECC RAM will usually cause it to not boot. And the same the other way.
     
  3. JohnWill

    JohnWill Retired Moderator

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    Actually, installing ECC memory in a non-ECC board will simply run without ECC. The extra memory bits are simply ignored. However, I've never seen a case where it won't boot in that configuration. FWIW, I use ECC memory whenever practicable, since it's just one more bit of extra reliability.
     
  4. Rich-M

    Rich-M

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    Just don't mix Ecc and non- Ecc...that is when it won't boot.
     
  5. erick295

    erick295

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    I wouldn't use ECC on anything but a server... the chances of any errors occurring in RAM are close to none, especially if you have good RAM... however, on a server, even one error is a BIG problem, because the RAM is used a lot, and server crash = downtime. For home or workstation use, though, it just adds expense (normally) and makes it marginally slower, with no real gains to speak of.

    Yes, it should run on a non-ECC board, but personally I would just spend the extra and get non-ECC to make a better match.
     
  6. Tegal

    Tegal Thread Starter

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    Does the ECC still perform it's error checking on a non-ECC board? i.e. will it still be that tiny bit slower than it's non-ECC equivalent (because of the error checking) or can it detect that it's on a non-ECC board and disable the error checking? This is a q for information only, on PC133 I doubt it will make a significant difference in performance.

    Reason I ask is that one stick of 512Mb PC133 ECC ram is going cheaper than non-ECC on Ebay, it seems to be less popular, but before I buy one I want to know what I'm getting.

    Thanks guys, this is really helpful.

    Tegal
     
  7. MaverickUK

    MaverickUK

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    If you use an ECC RAM module and install it on a non-ECC motherboard, the result will be a non-used bit on the RAM. The computer will use the RAM as any other 'normal' module and will execute and transmit (minus the one extra bit) in exactly the same way as non-ECC RAM would on a non-ECC motherboard.
     
  8. JohnWill

    JohnWill Retired Moderator

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    If you configure the BIOS for non-ECC, it'll boot fine. It'll also work if the first bank is populated with non-ECC memory. However, if the first bank has ECC memory, and the second bank has non-ECC memory, you will normally get a POST memory error. :)
     
  9. JohnWill

    JohnWill Retired Moderator

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    So, all the memory errors we hear about here are actually statistically impossible? ;)
     
  10. JohnWill

    JohnWill Retired Moderator

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    The memory will work just fine, and it'll be just as fast as the non-ECC memory when you're running it as non-ECC memory. Note that you "may" have to specify non-ECC memory in your BIOS, depending on the specific memory controller and how it initializes memory.
     
  11. erick295

    erick295

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    lol

    Like I said, close to none, especially if you have good RAM ;)

    When people buy $10 specials on eBay and pair them with a $25 motherboard, yeah, they're more likely to have problems... personally, I buy good stuff, and I have never, not even one time in my entire life, had a single crash due to a memory error. Neither has anyone I've built a machine for.
     
  12. Tegal

    Tegal Thread Starter

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    When it comes to quality RAM it's a case of once bitten twice shy. Bought some budget RAM once, lots of trouble. Replaced it with slightly more expensive Kingston economy RAM and been running sweet as a bell since!

    Kingston is my first choice for RAM, you can get it on ebay if you don't mind waiting for it to come round. Anyone used Crucial RAM? My impression is that they are comparable to Kingston.

    That said, as I was re-installing my system on the MSI K7T Turbo 2, with 1x 256Mb Kingston PC133 and 1x 128Mb Kingston PC133 I was getting some errors when the install files were not copied. Remove one stick and problem solved so definitely RAM, but memtest86 didn't find anything. So running XP on 256 only right now. Had a problem with the old system where it would lock for no apparent reason, suspecting RAM problem now.
     
  13. JohnWill

    JohnWill Retired Moderator

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    I've had memory of almost every brand fail at one time or another. I currently have a Kingston 512mb DDR2 sitting here waiting to be returned. Memory can and will fail at some point, ECC is just another tool in the reliability toolbox. If memory never fails, what's the point of putting ECC memory in servers?

    I will also point out that transient errors are a larger issue than outright failures, and ECC memory neatly solves this issue too.
     
  14. erick295

    erick295

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    Transient errors are exactly what I'm talking about... even ECC won't do you any good if the RAM is bad. It only protects against minor single-bit errors. Those kinds of errors are more common in cheap RAM. I'm not talking about memory failure at all.

    Why use it in a server? Like I said, downtime = bad. When you're running lots of RAM under high stress 24/7, your chances for errors increases. It only takes one to crash the system, bringing the server down until it's rebooted.

    You hardly need ECC memory to read your email for two hours a day, lol, unless you're willing to put up with the speed loss to protect yourself against the 1 in 1,000,000 chance that your computer is going to lock up because of a memory error maybe once or twice in its entire life :p

    (unless you buy cheap RAM and motherboards, in which case, good luck...)
     
  15. erick295

    erick295

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    I guess what I'm saying is, you don't build a paper airplane to the same tolerances as a 747... and a home computer is a toy compared to a server ;)
     
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