About Random Access Memory (RAM)

Random Access Memory is something that you will hear mentioned whenever people talk about computer performance. That’s because RAM, or Memory, is one of the low hanging fruits as far as boosting performance on computers is concerned. So, what is Random Access Memory and how does it work? Why is RAM an important component on computers?

What is Random Access Memory (RAM)?

Random Access Memory is a type of computer memory that is volatile (loses data as soon as power is turned off), and is used to temporarily store information. Individual memory cells on RAM modules can be accessed at any given time and from any given point, without having to follow a sequential order.

In order to fully understand Random Access Memory, you need to take note of the fact that there is also what is called Serial Access Memory (SAM), which can be regarded as being the opposite of RAM. The main difference between RAM and SAM is that, with the latter, data can only be accessed in a sequential manner.

How Does RAM Work

Memory, as we have already pointed out, acts as a temporary storage for the most used programs on a computer. As an example, I am typing this article on my laptop using the word processing application, Microsoft Office Word. This program, along with every other program on my PC, is stored on the Hard Drive. 

The moment I open Microsoft Office Word, all the information that I need in order to work in as smooth a manner as is possible is transferred to my computer’s Memory. Why, you may ask, have computers been designed to behave in this manner?

The Processor on a Computer

The workhorse on any computer is, arguably, the Processor (CPU). In fact, processors are often referred to as the brains without which computers would be nothing but expensive pieces of hardware and software. The CPU is the one that does the computing on a computer.

Over the years, computers have evolved, from being cumbersome affairs that could barely handle more than a few calculations at any given time, into the wonderful devices that we use today.

Not many people realize that the earliest computers were large; as big and rooms and weighing several tons. Today, the PCs that we have gotten used to, including our Smartphones and tablets, are small enough to fit into our pockets.

Whatever the size of your computer, processors have to work hard to make sure that everything runs in the way that it needs to. As mentioned earlier, all the data that is on your computer is stored on the Hard Drive.

Unfortunately, Hard Disk Drives, although spinning at several thousand revolutions per minute, are still rather slow when it comes the achievement of a smooth user experience.

What we mean by this is that it takes the processor a “large” amount of time to access the information that is on a hard drive. We should point out here that “large,” in this instance, is probably only a matter of a few seconds which, as it turns out, is unacceptable since it makes for a stuttering computing experience.

Why is Random Access Memory (RAM) Important?

Random Access Memory is important in this regard. The information that is stored on RAM, as it turns out, can be accessed quickly.

  • As soon as I open my word processing program (Microsoft Office Word), all the resources that I need in order to work on this article are transferred by the processor from the Hard Drive to my computer’s Memory.
  • This ensures that the processor does not have to look up data on the “slugging” hard disk drive. Everything that it needs has already been stored on the much faster Random Access Memory, and can be accessed quickly and efficiently.

Types of RAM

There are two main types of Random Access Memory. These are, Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) and Static Random Access Memory (SRAM.)

DRAM

DRAM is the type of Memory that is commonly found on computers. It is volatile, as have already been noted, means that it does not retain information when power is turned off. As soon as you shut down your computer, everything that is stored in Memory disappears.

SRAM

Like DRAM, SRAM is volatile. The main difference between the two is that unlike Dynamic Random Access Memory, your PC’s processor does not need to constantly refresh the data that is stored on SRAM.

How to Detect the Type of RAM that is Installed Computer?

Detecting the type of RAM that is installed on your computer is a simple matter of opening the Task Manager. To do so, all that you need to do is right click on your Task Bar and click on the option “Task manager.”

There Windows Task Manager
Task Manager in Windows

This brings up a page that is, more or less, similar to the one that is above. Click on Performance, and you will have a window that is similar to the one below;

Taks Manager Performance Tab
The performance tab in Task Manager brings up details about memory type and usage

As you can see in the above screenshot, my laptop has 3GB of DDR3 RAM. This has largely been enough for my uses; but then, the only game that I ever play on the poor thing is Spider Solitaire.

Conclusion

Random Access Memory is one of the most important parts on a computer. It is also one of the hardware components that can easily be upgraded, resulting in a significant boost in performance.

Interested in speeding up your computer? Read my article on the 8 things that will immediately give your PC a boost to find out more. You can also learn more about malware and computers by reading this article.

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