System temps weigh heavily on many builders minds. If not for
practical reasons, like maintaining longer lifespans for
components, then for the sheer enjoyment of optimization. Most
people focus on CPU and GPU temperatures, as those heavy hitters are
expensive to replace, but some folks also come to wonder about
other parts—like RAM. Generally they wonder about the passive
heatsinks on memory modules, and if bigger heat spreaders are
better for keeping RAM cool.
With passive cooling, bigger can sometimes be better. But when
it comes to RAM and performance, heat spreaders barely matter.
These days they're largely for show. Memory modules don't get
hot enough for their heatsinks to make much of a difference. DDR4
runs at a lower voltage than previous generations, allowing it to
stay cooler overall. Moreover, heat spreaders drop temperatures by
only a couple of degrees on average. Good airflow through a case
has a stronger impact.
That means you can mostly ignore heat spreaders on RAM. If
you're on a tight budget and want to shave a few dollars off your
build, you can buy low-cost value RAM that lacks heat spreaders
without worry—then spend your savings on another case fan. The
money and time put into case fans and optimal placement will pay
greater dividends. (Of course, U.S. shoppers generally don't have
to do without heat spreaders—mid-tier RAM goes on sale often.)
The value Kingston RAM
in this photo lacks head spreaders. Image:Valentine Tanasovich / Pexels
This advice may shift when DDR5 RAM launches. While the voltage
for DDR5 drops slightly, the voltage regulator will move from the
motherboard into the memory module, likely causing a rise in
temperature. But how much and the overall effect remains to be
For now, the only time heat spreaders do matter is when
it comes to size. Some memory modules have absolute monster-sized
heatsinks attached to them. But like a peacock flashing its
feathers, those big pieces of metal are more about attracting you
(and your cash) than anything else. In reality, they're a royal
pain in the butt. Large heat spreaders are tall, and tall RAM
interferes with the installation of other components. Usually the
main conflict is the CPU cooler, either of the air or AIO variety.
Even RAM that doesn't seem that tall can cause installation
problems for a beefy air cooler.
You don't have to purposely avoid heat spreaders, though.
Attempting that is nearly impossible outside of cheap value RAM—m
anufacturers add heat spreaders in various styles as a way to
distinguish different lines of memory. Pay attention to RAM
heatsinks for height or aesthetic reasons (wee RGB), and no
By the way, don't buy RAM with the thought that you'll just
remove its tall, elaborate fins to make it work in your case. Heat
spreaders are often glued on in a way that can cause damage when
RGB RAM is all the
rage still, and these days you can find variations in in style and
The good news about heat spreaders' relative lack of importance
is that you get more freedom to choose based on looks. Pick the
speed and capacity you want, make sure that the height of the DIMMs
won't cause problems, and then you can select any model you want.
Don't like that particular diffusion on one brand's RGB memory?
Hate RGB all together? Need a specific color? Not a problem. You've