[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | System Memory | Memory Errors, Detection and
Mixing Parity/ECC and Non-Parity Memory
Under most circumstances, you will want to avoid mixing parity and non-parity memory in
the same machine. Certainly, no vendor should ever sell you a machine that comes equipped
with mixed memory in this manner. However, many folks who upgrade machines, particularly
older ones, find themselves in a situation where they may not be able to find expansion
memory that is identical to that which is already in the machine. This can include
problems finding parity memory for an older parity machine. Also, in some cases parity
memory of a particular style may be available but only at a prohibitive price.
Here are some general guidelines for mixing parity/ECC and regular non-parity memory in
the same machine:
- If possible, avoid mixing memory at all. Memory is cheap enough now that it may be
cheaper to replace all of the memory in a PC than to upgrade it with a more expensive
- Do not mix parity and non-parity SIMMs in the same bank of
memory on any machine. This can lead to all sorts of problems due to the
modules being different electrically.
- If your machine currently uses parity memory and has no way to disable parity checking in the BIOS, you
must use either proper parity memory in the machine, or if you must, false parity memory to fool the system into thinking
it has all parity memory. If you put regular non-parity memory into a parity system, the
machine will halt shortly after it starts to boot.
- If your machine either does not allow parity checking, or it can be disabled in the
BIOS, you can use either parity memory or non-parity memory, and probably can mix them as
well. Parity memory placed into a non-parity system will normally function as non-parity;
the extra parity bits are simply ignored.
- There are probably some machines out there that will act strange if you mix parity and
non-parity memory in them. This is more likely to be the case for older machines than
- Watch out for certain big-name PCs that require proprietary modules.
- It is not possible to mix parity and non-parity memory in a parity machine and have the
parity memory still function as parity memory; you must turn off parity checking. However,
if you mix true parity memory with false parity memory and leave parity checking
enabled, then the true parity memory will still be protected.
As with all hardware upgrades, you should back up your hard drive before adding memory
to your PC, especially if mixing different types.
Next: Logical Memory
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