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What is RAM?

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It’s a question you might have asked from time to time, and we’re pleased to present another one of our ‘absolute beginners’ guides so that we can answer it. Random Access Memory, more commonly referred to simply as RAM, is a component in your computer which allows for short-term data access.

PC memory is the quick access modules in a computer used to store data for active programs.

When you load a file or run an application, your PC system’s processor is constantly accessing data from the memory – so the speed and amount of memory you have plays a critical role in your system’s performance. RAM is temporary working space the computer uses to get work done and access files, this gets emptied when the computer is turned off. The larger the RAM the more work can be done consecutively.

The RAM Analogy

The best way to think of RAM is like a kitchen counter top. The chef (processor) does all his work on the countertop (RAM), with the ingredients (data) he has to hand from the fridge (the hard drive).

If you have a lot of counter space, the chef can work on preparing more things at once. If you don’t have enough counter space, the chef can’t work on as many tasks. He has to keep going back to the cupboard to get individual ingredients out – and therefore his cooking slows down.

Some programs (such as games or design software) use a lot of RAM as they are constantly locating many files and data – much like some recipes call for a lot of ingredients. On a small counter it’s harder to fit all the ingredients on.

On computer with less RAM, programs can slow down as they don’t have enough quick access to the vital data which they need to function. This is one of the reasons older computers appear to slow down when you put new programs on there. The RAM (amongst other things) which is required to run new programs is often higher generations progress.

How Memory Works

Inside your computer, memory works alongside the system’s processor and storage (hard drive) to access and use data. For example, if you want to access data from a spreadsheet and perform some basic edits. Here’s what’s going on inside your system.

Your programs and files are kept on the storage drive (HDD & SSD). Your system’s Processor transfers program data from the storage drive to the memory for short-term access and use. The processor then accesses data from the Memory, which is like your computer’s bank of available workspace. The speed and amount of memory you’ve got installed helps determine how fast applications are able to operate, and helps determine how effectively your computer can multitask.

Is RAM Different to Memory?

RAM is often referred to simply as ‘memory’ – however, this should not be confused with ‘memory storage’ (like a Hard Drive or SSD). The two perform very different tasks.

RAM differs from standard computer storage as the information can be stored and accessed quickly from random locations. Because information is accessed randomly (instead of sequentially like a CD or hard drive), the computer can get to, and use, the data far faster. This makes it perfect for short term storage rather than long term.

Think of the computer accessing something from long term memory (HDD) like a word file, compared to a font selection which is short term (RAM).

The Role of Memory in Your Computer

Memory (DRAM) is a component in your computer that allows your system to perform many of its everyday tasks. This could include loading applications, browsing the Web, editing a spreadsheet, or experiencing the realism of the latest game. Memory is what allows your computer to perform its basic functions. As a general rule, the more memory you have, the smoother and quicker your computer tasks will run.

If you turn on your computer, load Excel, and begin working on a spreadsheet, you’ll have just used memory in several different ways. Whether it’s loading and running applications, responding to commands, or toggling between multiple programs at once, memory is almost always being actively used by your computer.

Memory is your system’s short term data memory (it stores the information your computer is actively using). The more programs your system is running, they more memory you’ll likely need.

Upgrading and Compatible Memory

If your system is slow or unresponsive, a memory upgrade is often one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to improve performance. It’s important to find the memory compatible for your computer. Ebuyer has a range of different RAM options available.

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