Random access memory, usually known by its acronym RAM, is basically the short-term storage area for a computerís data. If a human were a computer, the RAM would be comparable to the portion of the brain that handles oneís short-term memory while the computerís hard drive is likened to a personís long-term memory.
RAM is the place within the computer that the operating system, any programs, and any data that is currently in use is stored so that they can quickly be accessed by the computerís central processing unit (CPU). Reading bits of data from the RAM is far faster for the computer than retrieving information from the hard drive, floppy drives, or CD-ROM drives.
This type of memory may be accessed at random, meaning any byte of data is able to be accessed at any time without the need for using the preceding bytes to refer to first. Besides computers, RAM may also be found in other electronics such as printers.
RAM is also sometimes referred to as the computerís ďmain memoryĒ or ďvolatile memoryĒ because unlike other forms of memory and data storage, when the PC is turned off or powered down, the data stored within RAM is lost. Unlike the hard driveís memory or capacity, RAM will never run out of room or memory, but will keep operating, just at a slower rate until it is refreshed, or the computer is rebooted.
What does RAM look like?
With the majority of personal computers, RAM is not a built-in part of the motherboard, but rather is in the form of modules known as RAM or memory sticks, which are approximately the size of a few sticks of chewing gum. RAM is easily removed and replaced if they are damaged for some reason or if thereís the need for more memory.
Basic Types of RAM
There are two basic types of random access memory, dynamic RAM (DRAM) and static RAM (SRAM). Besides the way they hold a computerís data and how often they need to be refreshed, SRAM is faster than the more common DRAM, but also more expensive. With both types of RAM, once the computer is turned off or restarted, the data stored is lost and the memory is then refreshed. This is why computers must be rebooted periodically to free up RAM and help them to run faster.
There is another type of random access memory which is integrated within the computerís CPU and is referred to as ďcache memoryĒ instead of RAM. Most PCs will have slots to add more modules of RAM to help the computer process data faster.
Measuring the Speed of RAM
Access time is the term used to describe how fast RAM writes and reads data once it has received the request or command from the computerís central processing unit. Access time is measured using nanoseconds, and the smaller the number, the faster the RAM will be able to process data.
Much like a computerís CPU, RAM is measured using megahertz (MHz) or gigahertz (GHz). The higher the amount of MHz or GHz, the faster the speed of the RAM will be.
Computer RAM, Random Access Memory
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