RAM (short for Random Access Memory) is used to store temporary data. When your computer loses power, such as it shutting down, the RAM will clear all data held in it. RAM is much faster than a standard hard drive which makes it ideal to store temporary files which need to be accessed quickly Software uses the RAM to store small files which need to be accessed regularly and quickly to prevent slow performance.
There are many different models of RAM with different capacitates and speeds. RAM is usually measured in GB (Gigabytes) and generally the more you have the more responsive your computer will be. Different users will have different requirements for RAM. For example, a user who uses their computer just to browse the Internet will only need 4GB of RAM. While more could provide a better experience, it’s not required. Below is a list showing example usages for some common RAM capacities.
- 4GB or less: Word processing, web browsing
- 8GB: Gaming, multitasking
- 16GB or more: Design applications, extreme multitasking, video rendering, gaming, virtualization
RAM also comes in a variety of speeds. The speed is measured in MHz (Megahertz) and the speed measures the bandwidth of the RAM. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the bandwidth the better however, there are other factors which can impact performance such as timings. For example, RAM which is 1600MHz in speed is faster than RAM with a speed of 1333MHz. Having RAM with a higher bandwidth is ideal as it can increase performance and make your computer more responsive.
There are several generations of RAM including DDR2, DDR3 and DDR4. CPUs and motherboards need to support a generation before you can use it. Some processors can support DDR2, for example, but cannot support DDR3. If you are upgrading your RAM it’s important to refer to your computer manufacturer to see which RAM generation is compatible with your system.
The RAM can be found connected directly into the motherboard in laptops and desktops. In laptops the RAM is smaller and more compact to accommodate the reduced size whereas a desktop has larger RAM. In a desktop, the RAM is usually connected near the CPU.