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Should I replace CPU fan/cooler to smaller size in order to access dual channel ram?

Leee211 asked
I recently had a custom computer built by a local computer store.  I told them the basics of what I wanted, which is to have a beefy PC that can handle music composition software (Cakewalk Sonar along with software synths, sampling software, and audio efx plugins), Video editing software (Sony Vegas 13 and special efx software/plugins), and finally 3D design software (3D Studio Max, Daz Studio, Vue,).  So I ended up with the following machine:

CPU: AMD FX-8320 3.50 GHz (8 Core Processor)
Motherboard: Gigabyte 990FXA-UD5
RAM: Corsair 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3 PC3-12800
AUDIO: Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 (USB connection)
Rosewill Lightning-800W ATX Power Supply
Windows 8.1 64-bit
Two (2) Internal Hard drives, Seagate, C drive=500GB, D drive=1TB

They also installed a very large CPU fan/cooler (Not the one that was supplied by the CPU manufacturer, because they told me the stock fans are not recommended and don't do a great job of cooling the CPU).  I was okay with that except I discovered that the CPU fan blocks two of the four RAM Memory slots.  So I have two 8GB Modules in the first two slots, but in order to get DUAL CHANNEL RAM, the 2nd module would have to be placed in one of the blocked slots.

When I picked up the computer, the technician who built the computer did not make me aware of this.  It was only after I read the motherboard manual that I realized the module is in the wrong slot.

So my question is, even though I'm currently getting 16GB of Single Channel RAM, I was wondering if it would be worth it to replace the current CPU fan with one that is slightly smaller in order to access that blocked RAM slot and get Dual Channel RAM?

I don't plan on overclocking my computer, I never trusted myself or the computer to do that, even though current Bios setups make it easy to overclock, I'm fine with the default settings.  And the current CPU temperature is around 30 degrees Celsius, and I read that it's okay if the temp goes up to 60 or 70 degrees.  So there is a lot of room (temperature wise) to spare.

I've only had the computer for a week or so, and have only installed my music/audio software and Sony Vegas.  I have yet to install or try any of my 3D graphics programs.  But I was getting some stuttering with the audio software, and Sony Vegas seemed to run smoother on my previous PC (which was an Intel based computer of similar power and specs)
So, I'm thinking I could use the boost from the advantages of having Dual Channel ram.

I've built my own computers before, so I think I could replace the fan myself.  But if it requires the removal of the motherboard, I might have the same computer shop do the work for me.

Thanks for any thoughts or opinions.
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Distinguished Expert 2019
personally - i never used another fan than the original one it comes wit the cpu
so - since you are not overclocking -it should be fine
also - the latest cpu's use a lot less power - so the fan runs less fast -= no noise
dbruntonQuid, Me Anxius Sum?  Illegitimi non carborundum.

>> ...  except I discovered that the CPU fan blocks two of the four RAM Memory slots.  

Sloppy work on the part of the technician who did that.

You should be able to go back to the original sized heatsink or an aftermarket heatsink that is of the correct size.  Put a decent fan on it and there should be no problem.

Decent aftermarket setups with heatpipes such as the Noctua http://www.techspot.com/review/707-best-cpu-coolers/ should have no problem in keeping your system cool and keeping clear of the board components.  I'm not necessarily recommending the Noctua.  There are a number of similar heatsink/fan combinations that do similar jobs and will keep your system cool.


Thanks for the quick replies.  I'm not just concerned about keeping the CPU cool, but I'm also wondering if it would be really worth doing?  From what I understand having 16GB of ram set up in a dual channel configuration essentially doubles your ram memory. So would I actually have 32GB of RAM available? Or is it a little more complicated than that?

And for the types of software programs I am using, would I see a noticeable difference in overall speed and/or performance?

Thanks again!
dbruntonQuid, Me Anxius Sum?  Illegitimi non carborundum.
>>  Or is it a little more complicated than that?

Well, yes.  If you use a Dual Channel configuration your CPU will be about 5-10% faster than your present setup.  That's a rough figure.  Maybe 5% from top of my head.  But it will be faster.

If you could move your present memory to a Dual Channel configuration you will still only have 16 Gb memory, not a magical 32 Gb.

>>  And for the types of software programs I am using, would I see a noticeable difference in overall speed and/or performance?

The difference would be measurable but you would not necessarily notice the difference in day to day use.

In my opinion it is worth fixing up as someday you may wish to use those two blocked memory slots for more memory.

You are correct in your thinking that the Dual Channel RAM configuration is the way to go. See the above link for an explanation on how it effectively doubles your system's memory bandwidth.

It will hopefully be the fix for the stuttering issue you mentioned. It sounds like you know more than you give yourself credit for. I would hire you and fire the tech that built your rig, if I was his boss.


Thanks guys, you helped me decide to have this done.   And thanks for posting that article Daniel, that helped explain things much clearer.  So points all around!

I've always come to Experts Exchange whenever I had problems or technical questions because I can always count on fast, quality answers.  Thanks again!


Oh, and just to be fair (picking the best answers and giving out points is always the most difficult part for me), so I think all your responses should be labeled as the "accepted solution", not just "assisted".  I actually didn't pick one, so the forum software just chose the first answer as "accepted".  I even feel bad about one of you getting one less point than the others.

Anyway, you all helped equally in helping me decide.  So thanks again, I appreciate the quick and detailed responses.
Distinguished Expert 2019

dual channel gain is not noticeable - in most cases, and requires identical ram sticks
Gary CaseRetired
Most Valuable Expert 2013
Top Expert 2009

Definitely sloppy workmanship for the tech to have installed a cooler that blocked one of your memory channels.

As noted above, running your memory in dual channel mode doubles the bandwidth of your memory.    The performance gain isn't that much, however, as a lot of the time involved in a memory access is not transferring data -- but waiting for the address lines to "settle" and the memory chips to prepare to transfer the data ... that's what the latency cycles are in a memory access cycle.   Just how much the actual performance gain is depends on the latency of your memory modules and the memory access patterns of your programs ... but typically there will be a gain of 5-20% in actual memory performance.

I'd replace the heatsink with either the stock heatsink or a 3rd party unit that does NOT block the first memory channel.     It's best to only install 2 modules anyway -- the bus loading with 4 modules installed can notably reduce the reliability of your memory -- but you at least want the 2 modules you have installed to be on different channels so your memory controller can give you all the performance the system is designed for.

Incidentally, I also think the computer shop did you a disservice by selecting that CPU in the first place, given your desire for a "... beefy PC ..."  to run some fairly CPU-intensive applications.    The FX-8320 is a reasonable CPU, but it only scores 8066 on Passmark.    An Intel Haswell-based system using a high-end Core i7 would score significantly higher ... for example an i7-4790k scores 11238 ... and that's with 4 cores, so the per core performance is more than 2.5 times as high with the Haswell CPU.   AND the i7 only uses 88 watts compared to 125 watts for the FX-8320, so it runs much cooler  (the stock Intel heatsink is fine for these systems).

To answer your specific question r.e. stuttering -- I doubt that switching the memory to dual channel is going to make much difference.    It's likely that the audio software isn't utilizing multiple cores, and the relatively low per core performance of the FX-8320 is the culprit.    You can't change that at this point, but one thing that may help would be to replace the C: drive with an SSD ... if the stuttering is related to disk accesses that would almost certainly resolve that -- and you'd get a FAR quicker "feel" for booting, program loading, etc. with an SSD.    You can get an SSD in the 500GB range for ~ $200 these days ... Newegg has a 512GB Crucial MX-100 on sale today for $179.99 (with a promo code).


Gary Case: Thanks for your response.  Yes, I agree, I kind of screwed up with this latest computer.  My previous two computers were purchased and assembled by MagicMicro and my previous computer was definitely better with an Intel i7 CPU (I can't remember the model number right now),  but the computer had problems from day one.   I had it for two years and it would shut down at least once a day.  (If you look at my previous two questions here on EE, you can read the whole sordid story).  But it turned out to be a bad Power Supply (the last thing I checked).

I should have stuck with MagicMicro and with an Intel CPU, but I made the mistake of having a local computer store build this latest computer.  They charged almost twice as much for the various parts (motherboard, CPU, and ram)  And that same technician talked me into getting an AMD processor, telling me they are just as good but a lot cheaper.  I ended up paying over $800 for the whole thing and I realize now I could have gotten a much better computer for that price if I would have stuck with MagicMicro.

So I went one step forward and several steps backward.  I have a solid computer now...one that doesn't shutdown on a daily basis, but the overall performance is not as good as my previous PC, as you mentioned with the Passmark ratings.

I ended up swapping out the CPU fan/cooler.  I did that myself today and used the stock fan that came with the CPU.  I've been keeping an eye on the temperature and so far it's been pretty good.  It hasn't gone over 50 degrees Celsius while doing a lot of CPU intensive audio work with Sonar.  Plus I was able to get the ram modules in the correct slots now.

The SSD I had in my old computer got fried, which was the final straw prompting me to get a new computer.  It could have been the bad power supply that did it, I'm not really sure.  But the SSD is still under warranty, so hopefully I can get it replaced and put it in my new rig.

I'm trying not to be too depressed over this whole fiasco, reminding myself it's nice to have a solid working computer that I don't have to worry about saving my work every five minutes for fear of it shutting down.  But the next time I get some extra money again, I'll be upgrading the CPU and motherboard.

Thanks again for your reply!
Gary CaseRetired
Most Valuable Expert 2013
Top Expert 2009

I do think the SSD will give you a nice performance bump -- but it won't help if the issue is a CPU-intensive task that simply doesn't have enough "horsepower" in a single core for the application.

It's not just the higher Passmark that you could have had with an i7 (about 40% higher than your FX), but that fact that it's achieved with only half as many cores ... so the "per core" improvement is dramatically higher -- about 2.8 times as much "horsepower per core" !!

AMD processors are fine for budget systems ... they ARE less expensive => but if your goal is performance, they're simply not a good choice when you consider how well the Core architecture CPUs perform.     And the Haswell CPU's are all VERY power-efficient ... drawing VERY little power when idling,  and still far less than the AMD chips when running at full stream [i.e. the i7-2790k maxes out at 88w, compared to 125w for the FX-8320).