RAM – What is Random Access Memory?

RAM is an acronym for Random Access Memory, a necessary form of memory that computers use to run our different programs. RAM is in all types of personal computers we use today, including workstations, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and gaming consoles. Technology has changed fast, and all of the above devices are types of computers.

RAM is short-term memory, a significant memory type used by the computer. The majority of data we see and interact with on our computers (such as a spreadsheet) may be consolidated in RAM, so changes we make in a spreadsheet are seen almost immediately on our screen. RAM is accessed when we initially turn on our computer. The operating system is one of the initial programs loaded into RAM when we “boot up”. During this process, the operating system tells the computer what to do in multiple different situations imaginable, including how to use this style of memory.

This can be put into more detail over on Wikipedia.

Types of Memory

There are several different types of memory used by computers. The fastest is RAM, but it is short-term, meaning that all the information stored within it is lost when you turn off the computer. The next fastest type is SSD (solid-state drive) which is also random access but is long-term memory. We can store our data in the SSD. The next fastest is HDD (hard disc drive), which is also random access and long-term memory. The HDD is where most of us store our data today. The slowest somewhat active storage device is tape drives, which is longterm memory and uses sequential access.

Principal Differences in Memory

RAM is dynamic memory that has to be updated quite a few times a second to retain its information. RAM is usually on a motherboard, very close to the processor so that the processor can access the information quickly, but this may not always be the case. Random Access Memory also means that the data stored can be accessed directly by its address, so access by the processor can be high-speed, which is useful. And the fact that we call it dynamic memory means that when we turn the computer off, the information stored in RAM is lost. When we “save” something we’re working on, that data is stored in our HDD or SSD, and not in RAM.

Speed of Access

RAM comes in memory modules of different sizes and speeds. Depending on how much RAM your system can handle, usually the more memory you have, the better your system should perform under pressure.  Another difference between RAM and your hard drive is the speed of access. Memory has its own speed of access (fast) and has to be synchronized with the clock speed of the computer. Your HDD or SSD is usually a lot slower than this type of memory is.

In Summary

In current technology, RAM is one of the most important things to understand when buying a computer, because we get to decide how much of it we want in our system. To a great extent, the amount of random access memory we get controls how fast our computer runs and loads programs.

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