Thursday, 24 November 2011

What does it do? (2 of 4) Part 2 - RAM

So our second article about the major components in a PC is the subject of RAM.  What does it do, and why do we need it?

RAM stands for "Random Access Memory" and in it's simplest form, it's a temporary storage for programs and data to reside.  Anything stored in RAM is lost when you turn off your computer, which is why you need a Hard Drive - which we will discuss in Part 3.

After discussing about how many calculations the CPU performs every second, this is only any good if it has somewhere to STORE those calculations, or it will start getting bogged down and will slow down if it has to write it all back to the Hard Drive.

Therefore, a good size of RAM is recommended. Sizes of which will largely depend on the types of applications you plan to run on your computer.

The easiest way to describe the role of RAM is like a desk.  If you imagine that you have a shelf with reference books on it and you're working on a project - each time you look something up you pull down several large reference books from the shelves and open up the correct pages to lay them on the desk.  This is OK for a while, but if you keep bringing more and more books down, you'll start running out of room on the desk.  When finally you run out of room, you'll have to put a book back on the shelf every time you want to get a new book out.  This will slow down your studying as you'll be up and down to the shelves swapping books so that have the relevant material in front of you.

RAM is like that desk. If you don't have enough, you'll find that you'll slow your computer down as it has to empty a few items from it's memory when you want to run another program.  However, if you upgrade to bigger RAM - a larger desk so to speak - you'll have more room to have more programs open and running and so system performance will not be affected.

RAM is measured in MB (Megabytes) or more commonly today GB (Gigabytes). To give you a rough measure, 1 GB could hold the same amount of information as about 20 volumes of encyclopedia's.

As a guide, Windows XP is happy running on around 2GB and due to technicalities will not immediately recognise more than 4GB.

Windows Vista is a little more sluggish, and so I'd recommend 4GB+, Windows 7 runs much better than it's predecessor, so 4GBis a good size, but more is always good.

RAM is a cheap upgrade if you find your computer is running slow. If however, you'd like advice before increasing the RAM in your machine, please contact us first.

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