RAM often falls in the same category for the average computer user as a carburetor does for the average driver. You’re aware of its existence, you know it serves some function, but beyond that your information is murky at best.Luckily there’s nothing particularly complicated about what RAM is, what it does, or what you need to know about it.
What is RAM?
Random Access Memory, or RAM, is a computer’s repository for temporary data that needs to be quickly accessed.
It is the partner to the primary Hard Drive, or HDD, which is optimized for larger amounts of data meant to be stored over longer periods.
Traditional HDDs operate like a record player, with many disks stacked on top of one another that are “read” by an arm with a magnetic reader attached. In order to get from one piece of data to another, the disks must spin to that location.
RAM, on the other hand, is Solid State memory. This means it consists of solid computer chips, and requires no moving parts. In contrast to HDDs, all the data on a RAM chip is immediately accessible when requested, and can be read in any order with no need for a disk to spin from one piece of data to the next in line. This is the source of the “Random Access” portion of the name.
How Much RAM is enough?
Generally, 2GB of RAM is the minimum amount necessary to run modern Operating Systems and computer programs. Most professional systems will be equipped with at least 3-4GB of RAM to make sure they can handle more memory-intensive computer programs.
It’s important to stay aware of your system’s “memory limit,” the maximum amount of RAM your configuration is able to accommodate.
Most 32-bit Operating Systems can only utilize 4GB of RAM, and will simply ignore any amounts above that limit. Adding additional memory can actually slow your computer down if it’s above the memory limit.
If your computing needs are exceptionally intensive, your PC will likely have a 64-bit Operating System installed. These systems can utilize much more RAM than their 32-bit counterparts.
Both Windows XP and Windows Vista can use up to 128GB of RAM with their 64-bit versions. The 64-bit version of Windows 8 can effectively utilize as much as 512GB of RAM, making it a good choice for the most intense computing needs.
Keeping these considerations in mind will allow your system to operate at its most efficient.