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PCstats Q & A - Memory questions - PCstats.com PCstats Q & A - Memory questions
Tue, June 21 2005 | 3:02PM | PermaLink Feedback?

Our eleventeenth Q & A of the week comes from Jim via the PCstats reader feedback page . If you have a question you need answered right away, try our friendly forums for help too.

Q: In your article for beginners about memory, you never mentioned ECC. Exactly what is ECC Registration and does it work with any memory configuration?

A: ECC memory modules and registered memory modules are actually two different things, but they are so often combined together that they have become one in many people's minds.

ECC stands for either Error Checking and Correcting or Error Correcting Code depending on who you ask, but what it boils down to is that each memory module has an extra chip that analyzes the data being written onto the memory module and stores an eight-bit number hashed from each 64-bit section of data stored on the module. When the same data is read from the memory, it is first compared to its eight-bit ECC hash to ensure that it has not changed while being stored. ECC memory can actually correct single-bit errors, making it suitable for server applications where data integrity is absolutely essential.

Registered (or buffered) memory has data registers (small memory storage areas) built into each memory module. These registers handle the data flowing from the memory to the motherboard, and can delay it so that systems with large amounts of memory can better synchronize reading from memory. As you would expect, this can reduce overall memory bandwidth and slow performance while increasing overall stability. All modern desktop and laptop PCs use unbuffered memory which has neither ECC nor registers. Modern memory is extremely unlikely to suffer errors during normal use, so these technologies are restricted to business and server computer markets.

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