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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | System Memory | Memory Packaging ]

Gold and Tin Connectors and Sockets

Most people don't pay attention to the color of their memory module connectors and sockets, but they should. :^) There are in fact two different types of metal used. Most older motherboards use gold sockets for SIMMs. Newer ones use tin sockets (which is a silvery color).

It is important to make sure that you use gold memory modules in gold sockets, and tin modules in tin sockets. When gold and tin are mixed by putting gold in a tin socket or vice-versa, the direct contact between the two dissimilar metals causes a chemical reaction over time. It can take months or even years to happen, but tin oxide will build up on the gold and eventually, cause the electrical connection between the socket and connector to become unreliable.

While many people get by mixing metals, it is not recommended. I have seen gold memory in tin sockets produce errors after a period of time. There is really no reason to take the chance; just make sure to specify the right metal type when buying memory. (Don't be surprised if you get a funny look asking for a particular metal type. Many PC component vendors understand their product a lot less than their customers do.)

The current standard in newer systems using SIMMs is tin; the change from gold was made mainly as a cost-savings measure, but tin can be just as reliable as gold when used properly. Interestingly, gold is now coming back in vogue in most of the newest PCs, which use the DIMM memory packaging format. This is likely due to how "picky" SDRAM can be, which uses the DIMM format. Here are the three most common memory packaging styles and an assessment of their general availability in gold or tin:

  • 30-Pin SIMMs: The oldest module type, these are most often found with gold contacts. I have seen tin ones, but they are not easy to find today.
  • 72-Pin SIMMs: These are usually, in my experience, found with tin contacts. Gold ones are available for use in older systems and not too hard to find.
  • 168-Pin DIMMs: The latest packaging technology, DIMMs are generally found only with gold contacts. There may be tin ones out there but I have not found a major vendor offering them for sale. Please let me know if this is incorrect (I got this one wrong once before. :^) )

Next: Memory Banks and Package Bit Width

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