What is RAM?

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009 | laptops, technology

RAM is an acronym for Random Access Memory.

You can think of RAM as the short-term memory of your laptop.  It is a temporary working space a computer uses to get work done and it gets cleared when the machine is switched off.

The RAM of your laptop can be compared to a workbench, or table.  While you are working on a project, you put all the tools and materials on the workbench.  When you’re done, you put all the items away neatly in the places where they belong.  In a similar way programmes and data are loaded into the RAM when you are working on them, but when you are done, your work is stored electronically on a disk for later use.  The RAM is then cleared for other activities.

When the workbench is small, you can do small projects on it, one at a time.  If you want to tackle bigger projects, or if you want to work on more than one project at a time, you either have to move tools and materials on and off the workbench to create space, or get a bigger bench. 

This is exactly what happens with your laptop.  If you have little RAM, you may be slowed down if you are performing complex tasks, of if you want to work on a few things at the same time.  Programs and data must be swapped into and out of the RAM all the time to create working space.  When you increase the amount of RAM, your laptop won’t have to move data and programmes around so much – you will then perceive your machine to be faster.

Don’t worry about the swapping of data and programmes into and out of RAM – this is handled automatically by the operating system of your computer.  You will not be aware of these activities at all and may only get an inkling of it when you notice that the laptop is slower than usual.

Unlike human memory, the laptop’s memory can be extended by adding extra RAM.

The good news is that your laptop will come to you with sufficient RAM to carry out all the tasks that you likely would need to perform.  It is only when you move into the realm of complex computing – or get some fancy games – that you have to consider a RAM upgrade.

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2 Comments to What is RAM?

Dwayne Bailey
Tuesday, 21 April, 2009

There is no guarantee that the laptop will come with enough RAM for what you need to do. When Vista was released many people got laptops with way too little memory. The best way to check is to play with the laptop and try to simulate what you would expect. RAM is probably something you want to have more of rather then less.

Beware cheap laptops. Your laptop might have the same or more RAM then your friends and cost much less. So now you feel pretty good about yourself. But then you can’t work our why hers is just so much slicker. Simple buy a cheap laptop and all the components will be cheap. So you display will use your precious RAM instead of having its own. Your processor will have less onboard and slow things down. Etc.

So test that laptop and try to create a real test, open a webbroswer to a site like youtube, and open a few more tabs. Then open a mail client, your wordprocessor and you IM. Now try to use the applications and see if you are still happy.

Denric Blaauw
Tuesday, 21 April, 2009

On way of checking the current RAM usage on a Windows Vista/XP/2000 computer is to go to Taskmanager (right click on the taskbar and then left click on task manager). By clicking on the Performace tab you will be able to see the current performance of your system.

You can open a few applications and see how this influence the performance of your system and use this info to decide whether you need more RAM or not.

Also rememmber that swapping takes place when there are not enough physical RAM available to perform all task. By doing the test above, always make sure that your physivcal RAM installed in the laptop exceeds the demand needed to run your applications.

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