RAM is short for Random-Access Memory. It’s a super fast component that can temporarily store information for the CPU to use or call back on. It shares virtually direct connections with the CPU making seek times almost non-existent compared to a HDD or even a SSD. The information RAM stores is based on the current applications or programs open. When you open a program all of its essential files are copied from a storage drive into the RAM.
An example of how RAM works would be if you opened a web browser like Google Chrome, the CPU will copy the programs files to the RAM. Any website you open, including its pictures, are also copied to the RAM. As you navigate that site pages and items will load faster if the same navigation layout or some images are used on the same pages. Another example would be if you were to use an image editor like Adobe’s Photoshop. The programs essential files are copied to RAM, as well as, while you create or edit an image all changes are also stored.
What makes this component a temporary storage is the fact that, if you were to close a program all additional data generated besides the programs essential files are deleted. All that data is not “gone” though, it was copied onto your storage drives as well. The next time you reopen the same program you will notice it opening and loading things faster than the first time. The only time all data is wiped off RAM is if it were to lose power, a.k.a. turning off or restarting a computer. That is one of the reasons your computer may take a while to turn on. The CPU is starting programs in the background and also copying all the data to RAM at the same time.
RAM is not universal though, just like USB connectors, as newer faster generations are developed, different connections are made. In desktops the connectors on the motherboard are called DIMM (Dual In-line Memory Module) slots, SO-DIMM (Small Outline Dual In-line Memory Module) for laptops. The speed at which RAM can operate is commonly termed as DDR (Double Data Rate), with each new generation gaining a number on the end like DDR4. DDR4 is what you should find in all current desktop builds to date.
How much RAM do you need? You can buy different RAM variations from 1GB up to 256GB, but typically 4GB is needed for very basic computing needs, like surfing the web or creating word documents. For gaming, I would recommend starting with 2 – 4GB sticks (8GB total) or 2 – 8GB (16GB total) sticks for higher end builds. If you plan on creating and editing videos I recommend starting at 32GB and go up from there. Also, many companies will have a list of minimum or recommended specifications, which will tell you exactly what is needed. I would suggest looking at their recommended specs, upgrading or downgrading from there, depending on your budget.
How do you choose the right RAM for your system? A good place to start researching is going to be your computer’s motherboard manual, it should tell you what type and sizes will work with your machine. Alternatively the company Crucial has a simple website, https://www.crucial.com/upgrades, to help guide you through their products for the right one.
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