What is RAM?

Posted By BrokenClaw on September 13, 2007

Random access memory, abbreviated and pronounced RAM, is the component of a computer that holds whatever the computer is thinking about right now. It is sometimes referred to simply as memory, or volatile memory, because it is lost when the computer is turned off. In humans, RAM is like short-term memory. For example, someone tells you a phone number to dial or an apartment number to find. You remember it long enough to use it, but if you don’t use it again, you forget it. It falls out of your RAM.

The amount of RAM in a computer determines how efficient it can be when doing multiple operations or when doing intense processes like video manipulations. The hardware that holds the RAM is called the RAM module, RAM card, or RAM stick. It is a flat circuit board about the size of a small candy bar.

RAM module

The RAM card can be in the form of a SIMM (single in-line memory module) or a DIMM (dual in-line memory module). RAM technology is constantly being improved, so the acronyms can be dizzying, with names like DRAM, SDRAM, DDR, and DDR2.

The exact type of RAM in a computer is mostly inconsequential to the home user, except when you want to replace or increase it. Your computer’s manual or manufacturer’s website will have instructions on what type of RAM must be used. Most motherboards have two or three slots for installing RAM, but it must be installed in particular configurations. Nevertheless, RAM cards in desktop computers are one of the easiest components to install and replace, and probably the cheapest way to improve performance.

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