What is XMP and how do I activate it?
The XMP for Extreme Memory Profile allows you to use your RAM memory at its full power. We explain how it works and how to activate it.
What is XMP?
When you install RAM in your PC, it will operate at predefined speed standards. This standard is called JEDEC (Joint Electron Device Engineering Council). So when you buy RAM, you will see mentions like DDR4-2133, DDR4-2400, DDR4-2666, DDR4-3000. These are standardized speeds that all memory manufacturers adhere to.
Apart from JEDEC we have another option which can determine how fast your RAM operates. It is called after the XMP for Extreme Memory Profile. It was originally created by Intel and is now used by all high performance memory manufacturers.
Unlike JEDEC, XMP speeds perform better and are generally tailored to specific memory needs. When you purchase XMP-compatible memory, you should also use it with an XMP-compatible motherboard and a processor that supports memory speeds. Typically, XMP must be manually enabled in the BIOS settings.
If you install XMP memory on a non-XMP motherboard, or if XMP is not enabled, the memory will simply run at the speed governed by the JEDEC. Usually, this means that the memory will run at a slower speed. A pair of sticks optimized for DDR4-3000, could “only” operate at DDR4-2400 speeds if XMP is not present or active. In fact, it could even run at a frequency of 3000, but with slower latency.
How can I verify that my motherboard and my RAM support XMP?
Often people try to see if XMP is active by browsing the BIOS. This is where we will have to activate it. But to check if your RAM supports XMP, the best way is to use the free software CPU Z, which gives lots of information about the system. Open this software and look in the SPD tab.
If you have several memory locations and there are some that are free, be aware that you will have to switch between the slots on the right side to see your active strip. And you should see a screen like the following:
On the right you see an option called SPD Ext with the mention XMP 2.0, so yes your RAM supports this standard well. But is your motherboard using it at full power. To check this, compare the frequency in the XMP column at the bottom with the frequency you see in the Memory tab of CPU Z. The two frequencies should be as close as possible.
If the gap is too large, then it means that XMP is not activated on your motherboard and that you will have to go to the bios to do so. Or that your motherboard does not support XMP.
How to activate XMP on your motherboard?
To enable XMP on your motherboard, there are not 36 solutions. Either, you look in the manual for your motherboard, but we know very well that you threw it … Or, you go to the site of the manufacturer of your motherboard and you look at the technical specifications to see if it supports the XMP. With CPU Z, you can easily know the exact model of your motherboard.
If it supports XMP then in BIOS and look for an option like in the screen above. Manufacturers still have a real jungle. So some let you just enable this option while others let you tune up to the RAM frequency you want.
Playing with XMP is not without risk!
One important thing is that using XMP and RAM at full power is like overclocking (although purists will howl). Certainly, you will clearly have better performance, but your computer may not start or have unexpected reboots. XMP was invented by Intel and even if it is now supported by AMD, it still poses hiccups.
Sometimes AMD systems will go wild if you use the max frequence of the RAM. Hence the interest of having a motherboard and an XMP whose frequency you can adjust to see how far you can go. However, if you buy high end RAM sticks then it can be assumed that the motherboard and processor will also be of a good standard and therefore the XMP will not be a problem.
On the other hand, on entry or mid-range motherboards, XMP should be used with caution and not hesitate to revert to standard JEDEC settings in the event of problems and chronic instabilities of the system.