What is RAM and how does my computer use it?

October 12, 2017 by
What is RAM and how does my computer use it?
Lighthouse IT Solutions, Matthew Almendinger

RAM, also known as random access memory or sometimes system memory, is one of the more important parts of your computer. It is usually associated with DRAM, which is the type of memory module. It is responsible for a majority of the β€œtraffic” that a computer manages. It is what allows programs to open and lets functions work. Random access memory is most comparable to our short-term memory, we use it all the time to process what we are doing in the moment, but forget most of it later.

As the computer boots, parts of the operating system and drivers are loaded into system memory, which allows the CPU (central processing unit) to process the instructions faster and speeds up the boot time. If too many programs or browser tabs are open, the computer will swap the data in the memory between the system memory and the hard disk drive. This can slow the computer down, as your random access memory is much quicker than a HDD (hard-disk drive), so having more system memory equates to a faster computer.

The main quirk of system memory is that it is not kept if a computer is suddenly turned off. This is called volatile memory and it requires power in order to keep the data accessible. This is why computers ask you to close out of everything before shutting down or restarting. When a computer is put through a forced shutdown it is akin to someone getting knocked out, as they don't remember what happened beforehand.

Want to know what your computer is packing? Checking the DRAM yourself is a fairly simple process. Simply go to your computer in the start menu and click system properties, settings and about in Windows 10.

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