What Is Unbuffered RAM? (What You Didn’t Know About System Memory)

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What Is Unbuffered RAM

What is unbuffered RAM? Well, there are two main types of RAM: buffered and unbuffered. One contains a register between the DRAM and memory controller and one doesn’t. One can be found in most laptops and desktop computers, while the other is reserved for higher-end workstations and servers. While system memory can be easily sourced, finding the correct RAM compatible to your device can be challenging. Is buffered or unbuffered RAM better for your system than the other? Keep reading to find out.


To fully understand what unbuffered RAM is, it’s important to know how RAM functions in a computer system.

Random access memory, or RAM, is a temporary type of memory. As you work on your device. RAM temporarily saves anything that’s running on the device like programs and apps for instance.

RAM is responsible for easing navigation when you switch between different programs in the background. Or between different tabs on a browser.

The presence of RAM also means the CPU doesn’t have to send information to the MHD or SSD whenever you switch programs or tabs. Permanent storage is much slower than system memory. If the CPU had to go to permanent storage for such a simple click. Any activity you wanted to do on your computer would be mind-numbingly slow.

But RAM is only intended for temporary storage. Meaning it’s unreliable for any long-term data storage, like saving a term paper or important document. Once the device is off, all data stored on RAM is lost forever.

There are several types of RAM, but most modern devices have DRAM (dynamic RAM), as in DRR4, DRR3, and DRR2 with DDR4 being the latest iteration.

Buffered and unbuffered is another classification of RAM, with one difference between them: the presence or absence of a buffer.

Unbuffered RAM

Also known as unregistered RAM or unregistered memory. Unbuffered RAM has direct access to the memory controller. It doesn’t contain a register (buffer) between the DRAM and the memory controller. Unbuffered RAM is used in most desktops and laptops.

Buffered RAM

Also known as registered RAM. Buffered RAM is one that contains an extra register (buffer) between the DRAM and memory controller.

A buffer as an extra connection makes it possible for RAM to store a lot of data for a short time. This is usually in the form of small chips.

This organization point controls the electrical current sent to the memory controller. It makes buffered RAM practical for use in more intensive and complicated systems such as bigger servers in companies.

Characteristics of Unbuffered RAM

More Affordable

Unbuffered RAM is more budget-friendly than buffered RAM, as there aren’t any extra components to act as a buffer.

Smaller Build

Unbuffered RAM has a small build and is present in standard personal computers. Whereas buffered RAM is more robust and is used in large workstations and servers.

Less Stable

Unbuffered RAM has limited stability, unlike the buffered type. This is due to the absence of a buffer that acts as an organizational point.

The buffer organizes the memory’s processing, resulting in a more stable transmission. This is the reason why unbuffered types can’t be used in high-end workstations.


Data transfer is fast in unbuffered RAM, as there are no buffer stops. Still, the speed difference is minor between buffered and unbuffered RAM, except in intensive cycles of data transfer.

Less Reliable

Unbuffered RAM is less reliable in storing information due to the lack of a buffer. Which, as you now know, organizes the process of transferring data to the memory controller.

The fast, random, and unorganized transmission from unbuffered DRAM to the memory controller might result in errors such as memory loss.

Higher Electrical Load

Unbuffered RAM puts a higher load on the memory controller as the data moves directly from the DRAM to the controller without making any buffer stops.

How Does Unbuffered RAM Result in Better Performance?

Although less stable and less reliable. Unbuffered RAM wins in terms of performance because it has a higher number of clock cycles, which is the duration between the start of one process and the start of the next. Unbuffered RAM doesn’t miss a clock cycle like buffered RAM, as it doesn’t have a buffer.

The time lost because of the temporary storage inside the buffer greatly affects the CAS latency, short for Column Address Strobe. It’s the number of clock cycles that run whenever an instruction is given and when this instruction is fulfilled.

The less CAS latency, the faster the device.

How Do I Know If My RAM Is Unbuffered?

Buffered RAM usually has two additional small chips in the center, which are used as the buffer.

Also, unbuffered RAM doesn’t have any uniform-spaced leads. It’s best to look at the leads beside the first notch to determine which type of RAM you have.

In Closing

If you’re needing to replace the RAM in your computer, it’s important to make sure to get the one that’s compatible for your system to avoid any issues. Take some time to figure out just what exactly you’re looking for. During normal use the speed difference between buffered and unbuffered RAM is negligeable. But when information transfer gets intense, that’s when the speed difference becomes apparent. Buffered RAM is used in server computers and mainframe systems to provide the stability and protection against corruption that may occur in unbuffered modules when they are subject to intensive use. Buffered RAM is more expensive than unbuffered modules and generally slower in operation. But the stability of the memory and security of data more than compensates in commercial environment.