That's right, this is one of those I-bought-a-bunch-of-parts-for-my-new-PC-and-couldn't-get-them-to-work kind of stories. I recently retired my old PC that has been up and running since 2003 and never thought I would be getting a déjà vu back to '95 when incompatible hardware was not few and far between. In the last decade I have not seen anything that would simply prevent a motherboard from posting altogether or memory modules that would be rendered defective when plugged in. Especially since I can honestly say that I have seen a broader selection of motherboards in all those years than many will see in their lifetime. Frankly, I realize this introduction sounds like I bought some dirt-cheap motherboard on eBay from an unknown Chinese manufacturer with a name like "Golden Flower" or something similar.
But no, that is not the case here. The motherboard in question is from a very reputable manufacturer, uses DDR3 memory and features one of the latest Intel PCI Express 2.0 chipsets. And no, I did not get a "lemon" either, as I returned and subsequently acquired two identical motherboards from two different vendors hoping the first one was just from a bad batch. Unfortunately, all three motherboards refused to boot when a particular brand of DDR3 memory was used, which incidentally was the only brand that I initially had available.
The first thing I tried was replacing the DDR3 memory, so I bought a few dual channel DDR3 kits from various popular brands only to find out that of the five DDR3 dual channel kits I tried only three worked. Out of those three none would run at the manufacturer's advertised timings, despite two of those kits being high-priced low-latency DDR3 memory. Actually all would simply default to the JEDEC specified timings for the selected DDR3 memory speed no matter what I tried, completely ignoring the timings stored in the module's SPD or any manual settings made in the BIOS.
But at least I got it to post, right? Well, not quite, as the plot thickened. One of the memory kits I returned for not allowing the PC to start was promptly shipped back to me by the vendor with a detailed report explaining that both DIMM's had gone defective due to overvolting and hence my refund was declined. Obviously I was more than a little surprised - how can I have killed the modules by overvolting if the motherboard did not even post at all? I would first need to be able to enter the BIOS settings in order to be able to set a higher memory voltage. So needless to say I am still debating this with the vendor and by the looks of it he's not budging.
But lets get back to memory modules that do work. I already mentioned that I bought DDR3 dual channel kits as I was planning on making full use of the dual channel architecture for blistering memory throughput. I was stumped to find that although the motherboard's BIOS correctly identified two modules in dual channel mode and so did the operating system and the host of system diagnostics tools I installed, performance was anything but what you would expect. Actually, performance in dual channel mode was slightly lower than performance in single channel mode, which left me scratching my head. Did I already mention that I am using a motherboard from a very reputable manufacturer? Pretty sure I did, right? So this whole exercise of building a new PC, and spending quite a bit of time and money on it has left me a bit frustrated. Have I lost my touch? Not quite, as similar motherboards from other manufacturers using the same chipset seem to be fine for the most part. I just seem to have picked the one that had all the bells and whistles I wanted (and needed) and it turned out to be a product with quite a few issues. Just my bad luck I guess, but this experience really feels like 1995 all over again when hardware incompatibilities were in abundance. Now let me go find my '90s CDs and complete this trip down memory lane.