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What is RAM? | Random Access Memory Definition

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RAM stands for Random Access Memory, it is a very crucial electronic component that is required for a computer to run, RAM is a form of storage that CPU uses to store the current working data temporarily. It can be found in all kinds of computing devices such as Smartphones, PCs, tablets, servers, etc.

What is RAM? | Random Access Memory Definition

Since the information or data is randomly accessed, the read and write times are much faster compared to other storage mediums such as CD-ROM or Hard Disk Drives where the data is stored or retrieved sequentially which is far slower a process as a result to retrieve even a small amount of data stored in the middle of the sequence we will have to go through the entire sequence.

RAM requires power to work, so the information stored in RAM gets erased as soon as the computer is switched off. Hence, it is also known as Volatile Memory or Temporary Storage.

A Motherboard can have a various number of memory slots, the average consumer Motherboard will have between 2 and 4 of them.

In order for Data or programs to be executed on a computer, it needs to be loaded into ram first.

So the data or program is first stored on to the hard drive then from the hard drive, it is retrieved and loaded into RAM. Once it’s loaded, the CPU can now access the data or run the program now.

There is a lot of information or data that gets accessed more frequently than others, if the memory is too low it might not be able to hold all the data that the CPU needs. When this happens then some of the excess data gets stored on the hard drive to compensate for the low memory.

Also Read: What is the Windows Registry & How it Works?

So instead of the data directly going from RAM to the CPU, it has to retrieve it from the hard drive that has very slow access speed, this process significantly slows down the computer. This can be easily tackled by increasing the amount of RAM available for the computer to use.

Two Different types of RAM

i) DRAM or Dynamic RAM

Dram is a memory that contains capacitors, which is like a small bucket that stores electricity, and it’s in these capacitors it holds the information. Because dram has capacitors that require to be refreshed with electricity constantly, they do not hold a charge for very long. Because the capacitors have to be dynamically refreshed, that’s where they get the name from. This form of RAM technology is no longer being actively used due to the development of far efficient and faster RAM technology which we will discuss ahead.

ii) SDRAM or Synchronous DRAM

This is the RAM technology that is widely used in our electronics now. SDRAM also has capacitors similar to DRAM, however, the difference between SDRAM and DRAM is the speed, the older DRAM technology runs slower or operates asynchronously than the CPU, this makes the transfer speed to lag because the signals are not coordinated.

SDRAM runs in sync with the system clock, which is why it is faster than DRAM. All the signals are tied to the system clock for a better-controlled timing.

RAM is plugged into the motherboard in the form of user-removable modules that are called SIMMs (Single in-line memory modules) and DIMMs (dual in-line memory modules). It is called DIMMs because it has two independent rows of these pins one on each side whereas SIMMs only have one row of pins on one side. Each side of the module has either 168, 184, 240 or 288 pins.

The usage of SIMMs is now obsolete since the memory capacity of the RAM doubled with DIMMs.

These DIMMs come in different memory capacities, that range anywhere between 128 MB to 2 TB. DIMMs transfer 64 bits of Data at a time compared to SIMMs which transfer 32 bits of Data at a time.

SDRAM is also rated at different speeds, but before we delve into that, let us understand what data path is.

The speed of CPU is measured in clock cycles, so in one clock cycle, either 32 or 64 bits of data get transferred between the CPU and RAM, this transfer is known as data path.

So the higher the clock speed of a CPU the faster the computer will be.

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Similarly, even SDRAM has a clock speed at which the read and write can take place. So the faster the RAM’s clock speed the faster the operations occur boosting the processor performance. This is measured in the number of cycles it can perform counted in megahertz. So, if RAM is rated at 1600 MHz, it performs 1.6 billion cycles per second.

So, we hope this helped you understand how RAM and different types of RAM technologies work.

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Elon Decker

Elon is a tech writer at TechCult. He's been writing how-to guides for about 6 years now and has covered many topics. He loves to cover topics related to Windows, Android, and the latest tricks and tips.

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