So what is Computer RAM?
Computer RAM (random access memory) is a volatile data storage device. It is used by the computer to temporarily store data. When the computer is turned off all the data stored on the computer memory is lost.
The words ‘random access memory’ refers to the fact that any byte of data can be accessed directly by the computer instead of it searching in order till it finds it (such as in a cassette tape).
RAM operates at very fast speeds and is crucial to the health of a computer. RAM was measured in ns (nanoseconds) which equals one billionth of a second but with the introduction of SDRAM is now measured in MHz (megahertz).
Computer memory (RAM) is placed into the memory slots of a motherboard meaning that it is easy to upgrade or swap if the memory breaks. Computer memory is needed for everything so it is important to have enough.
Types of RAM
There are two basic types of RAM: Dynamic RAM (DRAM) and Static RAM (SRAM). Dynamic RAM is the more common and needs to refreshed thousands of times per second. Static RAM does not need to be refreshed making a lot faster but also much more expensive.
To find out more information about the different types of RAM click on the type of RAM below that you want to learn about.
What does RAM do?
Operating systems, application programs such as Microsoft word, Firefox or a game program are kept in the RAM so as to be quickly accessed by the CPU. Computer RAM is much faster then other storage devices but it will lose all its information when the computer is switched off. When you turn your computer on again then the information is loaded from the hard drive or CD drive back to the RAM and the process begins again.
The more programs you have opened up at the same time the lesser amount of computer memory can be distributed. If you have a small amount of RAM this could slow down your computer considerably. However, the more RAM you have the faster programs can run and the more programs you can have running. If your RAM fills up, then the processor will need to send the information to the hard disk slowing down your computer. See this page on choosing computer memory and understand how much you need.
RAM is measured by its speed (MHz) and by its size (megabytes or gigabytes). For example you could have DDR RAM (name) 400mhz (speed of the RAM) 256mb (RAM size). The most common RAM sizes are, 16mb, 32mb,64mb, 128mb, 512mb, 1Gb and 2Gb. DDR RAM will only go into a motherboard supporting DDR. This is the same for SDRAM and DDR2RAM.
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