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[ The PC Guide | System Optimization and Enhancement Guide | System Optimizations and Enhancements | General System Performance Optimization ]

Optimize System Memory Timing

Most motherboards support not one, but in fact many BIOS settings that control the access timing for the system memory. System memory timing is a complicated subject that is discussed in more detail in this part of the Reference Guide.

There is usually a key memory timing BIOS setting that is used to control the others; it is usually called "DRAM Speed" or "DRAM Timing" or something similar. This setting automatically sets the other memory timing settings, preventing possible errors, but also preventing you from tweaking them for maximum performance. You may be able to get a performance increase by adjusting this setting. For example, most modern PCs ship with 60 ns memory, but some vendors leave the memory timing at 70 ns. By putting the setting at 60 ns, you will get slightly better speed out of your system.

Note: You may run into problems if you try to set your memory timing to a speed that is too high. For example, telling the system to use 50 ns timing when your memory modules are 60 ns may cause lockups or errors. However, I have bought PCs that had supposedly 60-ns memory in them that locked up when the memory timing was set to 60 ns (it worked OK on 70 ns). This is a dead giveaway of poor-quality memory or a defective motherboard. You should troubleshoot the memory and replace it if the problem persists.

In order to truly maximize the performance of the memory subsystem, you need to set the master timing setting to "Manual" and manipulate the individual settings that control the timing of the memory. This can be very difficult to do, and requires a lot of trial and error. I do not recommend that most people bother with this. In fact, I very rarely even do this myself. I guess some hard-core system optimizers will consider this blasphemous, but on a good motherboard the performance difference between the automatic memory timing settings and the perfect, hand-tweaked settings is tiny, and I have better ways to spend my time.

Warning: Be careful when optimizing memory timings if you have more than one kind of memory in your PC, and especially if you have one kind that is faster than another kind. If this is the case, then you may set your timing at the absolute limit of what the faster memory can handle, but this may be too much for the slower memory. Errors may result, and they may not be immediately noticeable when you test them.

Next: Flash the System BIOS

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