Often called “the brain of your computer,” RAM is where all the data you’re currently working with sits as you use it. This short-term storage allows for lightning-fast processing speed.
Whether it’s playing demanding games or running Google Chrome, most PC users will benefit from having at least 8GB of RAM installed. This capacity is also ideal for high-end content creators and multimedia enthusiasts.
Random Access Memory
RAM, or Random Access Memory, is a type of computer memory that stores the information your system is currently working with. This includes applications and files. RAM is able to process data up to twenty or even one hundred times faster than hard drives can.
Computers can’t operate without RAM, and the more of it that is installed, the faster a computer will perform. This is because RAM stores data that is being actively worked with and can be accessed almost immediately, whereas a hard drive will take longer to retrieve data from its long-term storage.
Most modern PCs use DDR RAM, which has been reimagined three to four times. The latest version, DDR4, is capable of performing two data transfers in a single CPU clock cycle and consumes less power than previous generations. It also uses an SPD chip to store configuration information about the RAM’s speed, type, and size. This enables the computer to quickly acquire this information as it is booting up.
Cache memory stores frequently accessed data from main memory closer to the CPU, making it much faster for the processor to access. Whenever the processor requires a piece of information, it first checks whether this data is available in cache memory. If it is, the process will proceed instantly as there is no need to go to main memory and retrieve the information. This accelerates the system’s performance and reduces its loading times significantly.
If the processor is looking for a particular piece of information and it does not find it in the cache memory, this is known as a cache miss. In order to avoid these misses, cache memories use various techniques that prioritize either time or information search accuracy.
A computer’s short-term memory, RAM reads data that the operating system, CPU, or graphics card may need in the future and stores it temporarily. This information remains available until the program is closed or the device reboots, then the RAM is cleared and ready to receive new data.
RAM comes in the form of soldered-on modules that are glued to the motherboard or removable modules called DIMMs that slot into a motherboard. When selecting a DIMM, look for the latest generation of DRAM to ensure it’s reliable and has high performance.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the module’s rank, capacity and configured clock speed. The MHz number indicates how fast the module can read and write data to and from its storage chips, but latency isn’t generally advertised as a measurable feature. Instead, look at customer reviews to find out how well the product performs in practice. A good rule of thumb is that the higher the MHz, the faster the memory.
VRAM (video RAM) stores the image and graphics data that’s sent to the computer display. This allows games to render smooth and lag-free images on your screen. VRAM has a high bandwidth, which helps it process information at fast speeds. It also supports multiple memory banks or modules, allowing it to access data in parallel.
A gamer or video editor needs more VRAM than someone who only uses the PC for typing documents and browsing the web. 4GB of VRAM can be sufficient for gaming, but it’s too low to easily edit videos.
You can find details about your computer’s RAM using programs like CPU-Z and Speccy. The “Memory” and “SPD” tabs offer important information about your RAM’s speed and capacity. The “Memory” tab shows your computer’s current memory type, while the “SPD” tab reveals its manufacturer and part number. The “Memory” tab also displays the amount of data your system can manage in real-time, a value known as capacity.