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

Single Inline Memory Modules (SIMMs)

The single inline memory module or SIMM is still the most common memory module format in use in the PC world, largely due to the enormous installed base of PCs that use them (in new PCs, DIMMs are now overtaking SIMMs in popularity.) SIMMs are available in two flavors: 30 pin and 72 pin. 30-pin SIMMs are the older standard, and were popular on third and fourth generation motherboards. 72-pin SIMMs are used on fourth, fifth and sixth generation PCs.

SIMMs are placed into special sockets on the motherboard created to hold them. The sockets are specifically designed to ensure that once inserted, the SIMM will be held in place tightly. SIMMs are secured into their sockets (in most cases) by inserting them at an angle (usually about 60 degrees from the motherboard) into the base of the socket and then tilting them upward until they are perpendicular to the motherboard. Special metal clips on either side of the socket snap in place when the SIMM is inserted correctly. The SIMM is also keyed with a notch on one side, to make sure it isn't put in backwards.

The 30 pin SIMMs are generally available in sizes from 1 to 16 MB. Each one has 30 pins of course, and provides one byte of data (8 bits), plus 1 additional bit for parity with parity versions. 72-pin SIMMs provide four bytes of data at a time (32 bits) plus 4 bits for parity/ECC in parity/ECC versions. Package bit width is discussed in detail here.

SIMMs are available in two styles: single-sided or double-sided. This refers to whether or not DRAM chips are found on both sides of the SIMM or only on one side. 30-pin SIMMs are all (I am pretty sure) single-sided. 72-pin SIMMs are either single-sided or double-sided. Some double-sided SIMMs are constructed as composite SIMMs. Internally, they are wired as if they were actually two single-sided SIMMs back to back. This doesn't change how many bits of data they put out or how many you need to use. However, some motherboards cannot handle composite SIMMs because they are slightly different electrically.

72-pin SIMMs that are 1 MB, 4 MB and 16 MB in size are normally single-sided, while those 2 MB, 8 MB and 32 MB in size are generally double-sided. This is why there are so many motherboards that will only work with 1 MB, 4 MB and 16 MB SIMMs. You should always check your motherboard to see what sizes of SIMMs it supports. Composite SIMMs will not work in a motherboard that doesn't support them. SIMMs with 32 chips on them are almost always composite.

Warning: Lately, some 16 MB and 64 MB SIMMs have been seen that are composite. These can cause significant problems with some motherboards, since they are specified to support 16 MB SIMMs on the expectation that 16 MB SIMMs will all be single-sided. You may not be able to use double-sided 16 MB SIMMs in some systems, especially older or cheaper ones.

Most motherboards support either 30-pin or 72-pin SIMMs, but not both. Some 486 motherboards do support both, however. In many cases these motherboards have significant restrictions on how these SIMMs can be used. For example, only one 72-pin socket may be usable if the 30-pin sockets are in use, or double-sided SIMMs may not be usable.

Next: Dual Inline Memory Modules (DIMMs)


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