Skanky old DDR4 server chips reportedly sold in new RAM kits but really don't panic

(Image credit: Samsung)

Tech analysts TrendForce reckon old server memory sticks are being stripped of their DDR4 memory at scale, only for the chips to be resoldered and sold as new on DDR4 memory sticks for consumer PCs.

The basic ruse here is simple enough. If you can buy in old server DDR4 sticks, remove chips and reflash them for use as vanilla DDR4 memory, and you can do that cheaper than you can buy in new DDR4 memory chips, well, you've got a go-er.

It's thought someone must have worked out how to automate the process of stripping the chips and resoldering them for the business case to add up. Whatever,
TrendForce says the used chips can hit speeds of up to 3200MT/s, so any DDR4 DIMMs faster than that should therefore be safe. And of course none of this applies to DDR5 RAM for the latest Intel and AMD platforms.

Exactly how you might identify these used chips in memory DIMMs that run at 3200MT/s or slower isn't entirely clear. TrendForce has declined to specifically identify the original manufacturer of the used chips, but does say that they come from "two major South Korean suppliers' legacy processes," which Tom's Hardware reckons heavily implies Samsung and SK hynix. 

Old DDR4

(Image credit: Trendforce)

Then there's also the question of it it actually matters. 

DRAM chips aren't exactly renown for wearing out and if a DDR4 kit comes from a reputable brand and is covered by a warranty, it may not be hugely material whether the memory chips themselves are brand new, even if it is rather unethical should the product be passed off as all new.

Moar RAM

An image of the best DDR5 RAM for gaming 2022 on a blue background with a PC Gamer recommended badge.

(Image credit: Future)

Best DDR5 RAM: the latest and greatest
Best DDR4 RAM: affordable and fast

Arguably, from a sustainability perspective, the idea that some hardware can be repurposed like this rather than go straight into land fill is appealing. But, again, it would all be a lot more satisfactory if the fact that the memory chips were used was explicit.

Moreover, some observers have wondered whether there may be some confusion between reclaimed chips from used servers DIMMs and unused, but older, excess stock hitting the market.

In short then, we're not totally clear how you might spot DIMMs with used chips, we're not entirely sure if it matters from a performance and reliability perspective, and we're not completely convinced it's definitely happening. If that's not hugely helpful, then a thousand apologies.

Jeremy Laird
Hardware writer

Jeremy has been writing about technology and PCs since the 90nm Netburst era (Google it!) and enjoys nothing more than a serious dissertation on the finer points of monitor input lag and overshoot followed by a forensic examination of advanced lithography. Or maybe he just likes machines that go “ping!” He also has a thing for tennis and cars.