If you have spare laptop RAM sticks lying around then you may get an itch to try them up in a desktop, which begs the question, can you use laptop RAM in desktop?
The answer to this question isn’t simple. Technically, you CAN use laptop RAM in desktop using a RAM adapter that converts SO-DIMM to DIMM, but whether this arrangement will work or not will depend upon what motherboard make, and model you have.
Simply put, the current DDR4 SO-DIMM to DIMM RAM adapter do work for Intel motherboards, but do not work for AMD motherboards.
But besides the motherboard make and model, there can be many other caveats and pitfalls that can cause issues when using the RAM adapters.
Therefore, in short, I would personally recommend that you save yourself from the hassle and not spend on the RAM adapter UNLESS you are absolutely sure that they will work.
In the following text I will talk in detail about whether you can use laptop RAM in desktop or not and also talk about desktop and laptop RAM sticks in general.
Laptop SO-DIMM vs Desktop DIMM RAM
SO-DIMM and DIMM are both memory types for computers. DIMM stands for Dual Inline Memory Module owing to the fact that DIMM memory sticks have electrical circuits / pins located on both side of the RAM sticks.
They are different from SIMM or Single Inline Memory Module that have electrical circuits only on one side of the memory stick.
Now there are two types of DIMM memory sticks:
- SO-DIMM – Small Outline DIMM sticks – which is in mobile devices like laptops.
- DIMM – Standard DIMM – which is used in desktops.
SO-DIMM – For Laptops
SO-DIMM used in laptops have a much smaller profile and few pin counts as compared to DIMM memory sticks
Here are the pin counts of different SO-DIMM RAM sticks:
- SO-DIMM DDR 1: 200 Pins
- SO-DIMM DDR 2: 200 Pins
- SO-DIMM DDR 3: 204 Pins
- SO-DIMM DDR 4: 260 Pins
The physical dimension of these sticks is also much smaller compared to the DIMM sticks
- SO-DIMM DDR 1, 2 and 3: 2.66 x 1.25 inches or 67.6 x 31.75 mm (LxWxD)
- SO-DIMM DDR 4: 2.74 x 1.2 inches or 69.6 x 30 mm (LxWxD)
DDR4 has a larger physical profile compared to the rest.
DIMM – For Desktops
DIMM are larger memory sticks as found on desktops. They generally have a higher pin count compared to SO-DIMM RAM.
- DIMM DDR 1: 184 Pins
- DIMM DDR 2: 240 Pins
- DIMM DDR 3: 240 Pins
- DIMM DDR 4: 288 Pins
Except for the DDR 1 RAM, the desktop based DIMM RAMs have a higher pin count compared to SO-DIMM sticks.
The physical dimensions of DIMM stick is: 5.25″ x 1.18″ or 133.35 x 30 mm (L x W) and they are uniform across all DDR versions.
Can The SO-DIMM Physically Fit in Desktops Right Out of the Box?
No, they cannot. If you look at the physical dimensions of the sticks, then it is fairly easy to see that the laptop RAM sticks will NOT physically fit in the desktop RAM slots.
The only way to actually fit the SO-DIMM sticks in a DIMM RAM slot is to use adapters.
So Can You Use Laptop RAM in Desktops?
Yes, there is. You can use SO-DIMM to DIMM adapters to use laptop RAM in desktops.
Above is a passive adapter that converts a 260 pin DDR4 SO-DIMM RAM to 288 DIMM RAM. It supports memory frequencies of 2133 MHz.
Multiple users have tried and tested the adapters above.
The results are mixed.
Linus Tech Tips Review on Adapters
Linus used the DDR4 adapter on an Intel X299 motherboard. His results were positive as they clearly showed that the adapter seem to work just fine.
He even tested the adapter on higher than rated frequencies.
However, since his tests were conducted only on a single X299 chipset, the results he received cannot be generalized.
Also, the tests does not show if the RAM adapter will run stable over a prolonged period of time or when under heavy load.
Gear Seekers Review
Gear Seekers did a bit more comprehensive test on the DDR4 SO-DIMM to DIMM adapter by testing it on various different motherboard chipsets from AMD and Intel.
His tests were a bit more detailed as they revealed that the adapter does work for Intel motherboards, HOWEVER, for Ryzen based motherboard chipsets i.e X, B, A series AM4 motherboards, the DDR 4 adapter does not work.
I have personally searched across product listing of the SO-DIMM to DIMM adapter, none make this point clear except only one listing which states:
AMD motherboard memory controller is integrated in the CPU, Since the CPU does not support notebook memory SPD data, AMD motherboard can not be used, AMD users need to pay attention when purchasing. – SinLoon Store on Amazon.com
PanoramaCircule Review Using AMD AM3+ System
While majority of the users have warned against using the SO-DIMM to DIMM adapters on an AMD motherboards. One user, however, has made a comprehensive study on these adapter using an AM3+ system
PanoramaCircle tested different DDR3 RAM modules on an adapter using AMD AM3+ MSI 760GA-P43 board and an AMD FX6300 CPU.
Point to note, the user used DDR3 sticks and a DDR3 SO-DIMM to DIMM adapter instead of a DDR4 adapter.
He was able to test RAM adapter on his AMD system albeit with issues.
According to his tests, certain DDR3 sticks can work with ease while others fail in many occasions.
For instance, he first tested Hynix 2 x 4 GB DDR3 SO-DIMM, it worked just fine. He then tested Mushkin 2 x 4GB DDR 3 SO-DIMM which resulted in crashes on startup. He finally tested Samsung 2 x 8 GB DDR3 SO-DIMM which was basically highly unstable and resulted in crashes.
The tests conducted above lead to following observations:
- DDR4 RAM adapter does work on newer newer Intel motherboard with little issues.
- DDR4 RAM adapter does NOT work on the newer AM4 based AMD motherboards.
- DDR3 RAM adapter gives mixed results, albeit it does work on an AMD AM3+ system.
Should You Use Laptop SODIMM to DIMM Memory
So we have established that the answer to the question “can you use laptop RAM in desktop?” is a Yes.
However, just because you CAN use a laptop SO-DIMM RAM stick on a Desktop using a DIMM adapter, does not mean that you should.
SO-DIMM to DIMM adapter are basically a gamble at the moment. The frequency, the brand, latency, the motherboard chipset, and the processor all can result in mismatches and mixed results.
Since the adapters are passive, they do not have any logic controllers to process the data.
Because there are so many variables involved in making the SO-DIMM adapter work properly and since even if you make it work, you cannot be sure how stable the performance would be, I would personally advice against using them, particularly as your primary RAM.
The last thing you would want is for your system to crash unexpectedly due to a memory during a crucial period.
Also Read: How to Check RAM Model and Brand?
Again, the answer to the question ‘can you use laptop RAM in desktop’ is a yes. You can, if you have the adapter and the right type of system.
Unfortunately, most the SO-DIMM to DIMM listing on Amazon.com and other markets do not point out the potential compatibility issues, which naturally gives rise to many dissatisfied customers.