What Is RAM (Random Access Memory)?

pc ram

Every component in a computer has its own set of specifications. RAM (random access memory) is no exception. Unlike storage, which stores data for long-term use, RAM holds information that your system uses right away.

RAM has two main components that impact performance: speed and latency. Understanding these terms can help you choose the best RAM for your needs.

It’s like a refrigerator

RAM works like a refrigerator, holding short-term data for instant access to get work done. However, unlike a refrigerator, it’s volatile and gets emptied when the computer is turned off. This makes it a lot faster than hard drives or SSDs.

When you need a specific piece of data, your computer pulls it from storage and puts it into its memory. Since RAM is much faster than storage, it loads almost instantly.

This helps keep your computer running fast, especially if you’re running multiple programs at once. But as more demanding applications hit the market, you’ll want a little more RAM to avoid slowdowns.

RAM comes in two different sizes and forms, soldered onto your system’s motherboard or removable modules called DIMMs that slot into it. Generally, 16GB is the sweet spot for PC gaming and light video editing, but you can go as high as 128GB if your budget allows it. You can also improve the performance of your RAM by using a specialized software tool to clear wasteful junk from it.

It’s like a freezer

RAM is the short-term storage component of a computer that holds data used for immediate access. It processes information at lightning-fast speeds, compared to the long-term storage provided by hard drives and other nonvolatile memory. This explains why programs open almost instantly when relaunched, or why you can scroll a webpage or move the mouse across the screen without waiting for the CPU to react.

The downside of this speed is that the information in RAM disappears when power stops flowing to it. This is why computers with less RAM experience performance problems like freezing and random rebooting.

Fortunately, there are ways to get around this problem. One of the best is to use a program like AVG TuneUp, which can eliminate junkware and free up RAM. Another option is to buy more RAM. Depending on how you use your computer, 8GB or more is recommended. Adding more RAM can significantly improve the speed and performance of your computer.

It’s like a desk

The more RAM your system has, the better. Think of it as your computer’s short term memory, helping the processor to quickly access important data. When a program is launched, it pulls information out of storage and puts it into memory, allowing the software to run much faster than if it were pulling from a hard disk.

RAM is volatile, meaning that whatever is stored in it disappears if the power to your computer is shut off. On the other hand, storage is non-volatile and keeps your data safe.

Depending on your usage, you might need up to 16GB of RAM to perform all your daily tasks without slowdowns in performance. If you need to run multiple programs and perform complex computing tasks like video editing or PC gaming, then you will need even more RAM. Memory is available in two forms for desktops, DIMM and SO-DIMM, as well as different speed grades. For best results, choose the RAM that matches your CPU speed.

It’s like a textbook

Your computer isn’t able to operate without RAM, which is like your laptop’s textbook. When you use a program, the information gets loaded into RAM so that it can be processed instantly. It would be much slower to load up Google Chrome or Photoshop from long-term storage (like a hard disk or solid state drive).

But RAM is volatile, meaning it erases when the computer shuts down. That means it needs to be refreshed regularly.

But even with frequent refreshing, if the amount of computing tasks it’s trying to manage exceeds its memory capacity, your laptop will start using its hard drive to do the work. That’s slow and causes performance problems. It’s why more RAM will improve your laptop’s performance — it makes the hard drive do less of the work. It’s the same idea as using a bigger notebook for math homework. You still have to flip through pages and take notes, but it’s far easier to access the information when you need it.