Read our article today to know everything you need to know about RAM. What it is, what it does, how it works, all in simple words to be understood by young people in the world of information technology.
Humans often liken computers to the human brain, and sometimes that is a fair comparison. For example, both the brain and the computer have short-term and long-term memory. RAM is the part where a computer stores its short-term memory.
What is RAM?
The abbreviation RAM stands for Random Access Memory and if you have ever opened a laptop or desktop computer, you have seen it, but you may not have recognized it. In the image above, you see modern RAM bars for desktops. It is a long board with or without a sleek housing that acts as a heat distributor. Several chips are usually nailed on it, usually of the same shape and size.
Laptops, compared to desktops, often have more RAM sticks, but smaller size, as the distribution of space occupied by each part is of paramount importance.
Those of you who have a modern computer case with transparent sides and colorful lights inside, you can easily locate the RAM and you are probably lucky as new users rarely see the inside of a computer.
What does RAM do?
Now, we know that these sticks on your computer motherboard are your system's RAM and act as short-term memory, but what does that mean in practice? When you perform actions on your computer, such as opening a text document, etc., it requires access to the data contained in this file.
When you are not working on this document or when you click the save button, the last copy of this file has already been saved or is now stored on your hard disk, ie in a long-term storage.
But when you work on the file, the latest changes to its data are stored in RAM for faster access. This applies to spreadsheets, text documents, web pages and streaming videos.
And it's not just document data. RAM can also store program and operating system files to make applications and your computer faster. However, RAM is not the only source of short-term memory. For example, a graphics card has its own graphics RAM and the processor has smaller data caches inside.
Η RAM is the basic short term memory and the location for data actively used by the system. Its operation essentially contributes to faster data processing and therefore your computer is faster.
How RAM works
RAM consists of tiny capacitors and transistors, capable of holding an electrical charge that represents pieces of data, similar to what is done with processors and other parts of your computer. This electrical charge must be constantly renewed. If not renewed, the capacitors lose their charge very quickly and the data disappears from the RAM.
The fact that data can be lost so quickly when charging is over is why storing any changed data on your hard drive or SSD is so important. That's why so many programs have the ability to automatically save data from caches in the event of an unexpected shutdown.
Data recovery specialists (private companies, police, etc.) can also recover data from RAM, under special conditions. However, most of the time, when you run out of a file or your computer shuts down, the information in the RAM disappears.
What is DDR?
The most common form of RAM currently in use is DDR4. It is the fourth version of the Modern Dynamic Random Data Access Memory with Double Data Rate (Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory = DDR SDRAM). "Dual data rate" means that data can be transferred twice per clock cycle, as opposed to only once. Effectively, it means you double the memory bandwidth, that is, you send twice the amount of data, and it also refers to how fast data can be moved in and out of RAM.
Before DDR4, computers used (guess what!) DDR3. It is not uncommon for computers to continue to use DDR3 RAM. DDR4 was released in late 2014 and it did not take years to become the most common type of RAM.
RAM boards are "locked" to prevent people from mixing and matching different generations that are not compatible. These boards usually have a notch where they are nailed to the motherboard, so you can place it in the right direction. This notch is in a different position in DDR3 from DDR4, making it (along with other differences) impossible to insert a DDR3 memory into a DDR4 slot and vice versa.
RAM is also available in two types: DIMM and SODIMM. DIMM is used on desktops and servers, while SODIMM is used on smaller devices such as laptops and compact computers. Some preparatory computers (especially laptops) also have RAM modules that are mounted directly to the motherboard. When this happens, there are no RAM sticks that can be easily removed by hand, which makes upgrading impossible.
Speeds, trends and capacity
While the basics of what RAM does are very simple, there are many different types, even among DDR4. For example, RAM operates at various speeds, such as 2.400, 3.000 or 3.200 MHz. Also available in different sizes, such as 4, 8 or 16 GB.
Generally, modern computers need two RAM sticks (called kits or sticks) of the same size to operate in what is called "dual channel mode". Basically, this simply means that one computer runs on two RAM boards. But using only one board is not prohibited, the computer can work like that, but you do not prefer for various reasons.
Many users claim that you can combine and map different configurations of RAM, both in speed and capacity, and this is true. However, it creates problems and it is much better to have a computer with all the RAM boards at the same speed and capacity and from the same manufacturer. If it saves and well should be different, consider the above series as a series of importance, so make sure it has at least the same speed and if possible the same capacity.
There is also an issue with the RAM voltage that should be the same on all boards, but most DDR4 desktops sell for 1,35 volts. For laptops and previous generations of RAM, however, it is a different story.
If you can't get the same RAM for a laptop, at least make sure you use the same voltage, speed, and capacity. How much RAM you can use also depends on what your motherboard can accept. An aging laptop, for example, may only be able to handle up to 8 GB of DDR3.
A modern desktop computer, however, can get something like 128 GB DDR4, depending on its processor and motherboard. However, for most people, 8 to 16 GB is plentiful.
Of course the more you enter the world of computers the more you have to learn about RAM. As if you are overclocking, then trends and timings become important. This article remains a basic overview, and we hope you have a better understanding of what RAM does and why it is so important to your computer.