What Is RAM and Why Does It Matter?

Updated On:

By Jaylin

Did you know that in 2019, there were an estimated 261.2 million computers shipped around the world? This is a mere 0.6% increase from the previous year, but it was still great news for computer makers. After all, the rise in shipments ended a seven-year “slump” in the industry’s sales.

If you’re in the market for a computer yourself, one of the things you need to consider is RAM. If you get too little of it, it won’t be long before your new device becomes slow.

So, what is RAM exactly, and how does it work? What can happen if your computer runs out of it?

This guide will answer all these computer memory-related questions, so be sure to read on!

What Is RAM?

RAM is an acronym for “Random Access Memory.” It’s the active virtual memory of computers, acting as the devices’ “brain” and “core.” It’s the temporary storage for all information produced by currently running software.

RAM is “temporary” storage because it runs on what you call “volatile memory.” This means that anything stored in the memory gets deleted once it stops receiving power. One example of when this happens is when you turn off or restart your computer.

What Exactly Does RAM Do?

RAM provides software a place to access and save data on a short-term basis. It gives a computer a quick way to store and access all the information it actively uses. In this way, it allows a device to read, interpret, and write data as fast as it could.

You can think of RAM as your study or work desk, on which you place a lot of other stuff that you use. For example, you likely have pens, paper, and other supplies on your desk (or within its shelves).

So, your desk provides you a handy “storage area” for items you usually use. In this way, you can get your stuff with the least amount of effort and within only a few seconds.

If you were to stow all these items in cabinets, you’d need to get up from your seat first. Then, you have to walk all the way over to where the cabinet is and rummage through it. You then have to go back to your chair to continue whatever it is you’re doing.

RAM works pretty much like a desk in that it gives your computer an accessible storage location. Since it’s very convenient, your device can run way faster than if it were to rely on slower physical storage. Your computer’s storage (hard drive), in this case, is much like a cabinet used for long-term storage.

How Do You Use Up RAM?

Your computer relies on RAM whenever you launch any app, program, or service. These include all types of software, from text editors to photo viewers and anti-virus. They will continue to consume RAM so long as you keep these open, and you execute any task from within them.

RAM vs. Storage

RAM in computers is “memory,” whereas storage is “hard disk drive.” Both RAM and storage are types of memories, but the latter refers to a device’s long-term storage.

Everything that your computer already “knows” but doesn’t have to think about is in the hard disk drive (HDD). These include all saved files and folders and also all installed software. So long as they stay inactive or “unopen,” they will only use up space in your HDD.

What Types of RAM Can You Get Today?

Modern computers now use what you call “Double Data Rate” (DDR) RAM. Before DDR, Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory (SDRAM) was more common. However, since DDR RAM runs at much faster speeds, most computer makers have made the switch.

With that said, DDR RAM has evolved into DDR2, DDR3, and DDR4. The higher the number, the more “modern” the RAM. DDR2 RAM is faster than DDR, DDR3 is faster than DDR2, but DDR4 offers the highest performance of all.

According to experts, there’s now an official DDR5. It offers even more significant memory speeds and greater capacities than DDR4.

Why Exactly Do You Need RAM?

RAM influences the length of time that a computer needs to run programs and execute tasks. For example, it affects the time that a laptop needs to launch a program upon clicking on it. The higher a device’s RAM is, the faster it can initiate the opening of software.

Let’s say that you click on a program, such as Microsoft Word, to open it. The act of “clicking” alone already triggers your computer to use RAM so that it can open MS Word. The more RAM it has, the faster it’ll take to load the text editor completely.

RAM also affects the speed at which your computer reacts to tasks that you perform within a program. Suppose that you want to add photos to your MS Word file, in which you either have to copy + paste or drag and drop the image. These activities you do within the text editor also use part of your device’s active memory.

All in all, you need RAM so that your computer can do whatever job you demand from it.

What Happens if You “Run Out” of RAM?

Remember: each program you run and activity you do uses up a portion of your computer’s RAM. So, when you open a lot of software, especially complex ones, your device would need a huge chunk of RAM. The closer it gets to reaching its RAM capacity, the slower your computer gets.

Also, once all your RAM gets used up, your computer would have to depend on your HDD. The thing is, RAM is at least 50 times faster in processing data than hard drives. So, if you run out of RAM and your device switches to HDD, you can imagine how slow things would get.

Summing it up, running out of RAM would result in severe slowdowns of your computer. It will take a long time for your device to open programs and execute tasks. Open apps, on the other hand, will take forever to do what you want them to.

What’s Hogging Your RAM?

Internet browsers are a perfect example of a RAM-hogging program. Ten simultaneous active tabs of Chrome can already use up to around 725 GB of RAM. That’s already a lot, but if you use 10 tabs of Microsoft Edge instead, they can consume up to 3 GB of RAM.

Complex programs, such as video games, can also use a huge chunk of RAM. So, if you’re thinking of buying a computer for gaming, it’s best to get one with at least 8 GB of RAM. You can also learn more here about video gaming laptops and the specs to look for.

Photo and video editors, such as Adobe Photoshop and Premiere, are also memory-intensive. These apps require at least 8 GB of RAM for them to work properly and load photos or clips. You won’t even be able to download them if your computer has less than this minimum requirement.

Malware can also hog your computer’s RAM, and you may not even be aware of their existence. These harmful programs are so common that at least 9.9 million malware attacks occurred in 2019. If your computer runs slow even if you don’t have a lot of apps open, you may have a malware infection.

How Much RAM Do You Need?

Brand-new laptops usually come equipped with at least 8 GB of RAM. As mentioned above, this is the minimum requirement for most complex programs. So, if you plan to play a few games or use apps like Adobe PS or Premiere, then be sure to get a device with 8 GB of memory.

Be careful when buying a used or refurbished unit, as these may only have 4 GB or even 2 GB of RAM. With only 2 GB of RAM, you won’t be able to download and use the latest software. 4 GB is still okay, but only if you plan to use the computer for super basic apps, like research and writing.

All in all, the more apps and programs you plan to use, the more RAM that you need. This way, you can run multiple software at the same time without your computer slowing down. Besides, you now have the option to upgrade your RAM to 16, 32, or even 64 GB of RAM.

Don’t Let Your Computer Cram With Too Little RAM

There you have, the comprehensive guide that answers your question, “What is RAM?” Now that you know what it is and its importance, then make sure you buy a computer with enough of it. The more available RAM you have, the speedier your device can perform.

Looking for more nuggets of wisdom to help boost your tech, lifestyle, or health knowledge? Be sure to check out our site’s many other news and blog posts then!


About Jaylin

I'm a professional blogger, marketer, and entrepreneur. I'm Passionate for writing and focusing on the informative article about Fashion, Health, Beauty, Travel and many more.

Leave a Comment