What is Random Access Memory (RAM)

Random Access Memory (RAM) is short term memory that a computer uses to store data needed for processing. Learn the difference between RAM and internal storage, as well as more technical aspects of installing and upgrading RAM.

Four sticks of RAM in a Motherboard

What is it?

All programs use RAM. It is required for the program to function. This makes it essential to the process of computing.

RAM is vital to a computers ability to multitask and process information. This allows the computer’s hardware and software to function quickly and in sync.

Certain programs use more RAM than others. Google Chrome is a good example of a RAM heavy application. Video Games and any form of graphical processing are other good examples.

RAM is typically measured in Gigabytes. As technology advances the standard of RAM size goes up.

Older computers could get away with lower amounts of RAM, but at least 8 GB is recommended for today’s standard.

16 GB is often more than sufficient for basic computing and gaming.

A minimum of 32 GB is ideal for anyone running a lot of programs at once, creative professionals being a good example.

Though more RAM means a computer has more computing capacity, it is important to realize both hardware and other software can bottleneck software processes as well.

An example of this is if someone has 64 GB of RAM but an old, slow processor. Much of the RAM will never be fully used, and therefore, it is not required for the system.

This can happen with many components in a PC. For example; an old slow processor can bottleneck the performance of a newer faster graphics processor. This can decrease overall performance.

This is why it is important to understand exactly what a system needs. It can also save money when replacing or upgrading RAM, as buying larger sticks is more expensive.

Random Access Memory (RAM) vs Internal Storage

Often people are confused between RAM and internal storage, as they may simply use the word “memory.”

Though RAM is memory in the sense of storing data initially, it is temporary and meant for processing, not for long term storage.

Internal storage is used for long term storage of files, and exists in the form of a hard drive or SSD.

Most modern internal storage devices range from 256 GB to 8 TB and more.

Hard drives also affect how quickly a computer functions. Older spinning hard drives (HDDs) transfer data more slowly than new solid state drives (SSD.) SSDs do not have spinning discs.

RAM sizes of 8 GB, 16 GB, 32 GB 64 GB is a good indicator that it is not something intended for long-term storage of files.

Installing RAM

RAM can be upgraded in many devices. Some more easily than others.

In most desktop PCs the RAM slots on the Motherboard are very accessible.

Simply open the side of the case and the motherboard is often easy to spot.

Laptops often have extra slots for RAM, but it is typically more difficult to install, as it requires taking the laptop apart.

Whether or not laptops have extra RAM slots is not always on the products description, but third party reviewers often include it in their review.

Slots of RAM on the motherboard will be numbered, 1, 2, 3 and 4

If installing multiple RAM sticks, pairs must match and be placed in alternating slots, such as 1 and 3, or 2 and 4.

RAM must be seated perfectly flat in each slot and needs to properly click in. It is sometimes helpful to turn the computer on its side so that it is flat.

Motherboard RAM slots 1, 2, 3, 4

RAM Speed

Ram Speed is measured in MegaHertz, MHz for short. This refers to how much data can be transferred to the processor at once.

Most modern ram is DDR or DDR4, which stands for Double Data Rate. The 4 identifies the generation.

If RAM is advertised as DDR4-3200, this states it has a speed of 3200 MHz.

This RAM ad indicates two 16 gb sticks of DDR4 RAM, with a speed of 3200 MHz.

Adding a second set of higher speed RAM will not affect anything if the computer has lower speed sticks already. It will always maintain the lower speed.

If you would like a more in depth understanding, check out this article in Digital Trends. For better understanding on RAM Speed specifically check out New Egg Insider.

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