RAM stands for Random Access Memory. Before defining exactly what RAM is, it is helpful to know what it is not. RAM is also known as the computer’s memory and a lot of people confuse this with what the hard drive does. The hard drive stores all of your data, like your documents, photos and music. Nowadays, a standard computer a hard drive is likely to be a three figure sum measured in GB. If you are running low on storage space then upgrading your RAM will not increase it.
So, what is RAM? It is correct to say that it stores data, but only temporarily. Everything stored on the RAM is lost as soon as the computer shuts down. Files from the operating system and programs are loaded onto the RAM from the hard drive when your computer boots. This makes it so that the process can access these files quickly.
RAM is solid state. This means that it has no moving parts, unlike a hard disk drive. As such, it is very reliable and pretty much won’t deteriorate through use. RAM is made up of millions of small capacitors. These capacitors either hold electrons or not, representing the bytes that make up the data.
RAM will never run out of space like a hard drive can. However, if all the data on the RAM is used up then the processor will have to keep going to the hard drive in order to access data. This is a slower process and you may notice that your computer is taking longer to perform operations if this happens. Your computer can easily be expanded as adding an extra RAM component in the computer. You have to physically open the computer case and slot in the RAM. A lot of modern cases make this a breeze and you will be able to install extra RAM on your computer within moments (providing the part is compatible with your motherboard, of course).
Modern computers usually come with 2 GB of RAM at a minimum. The amount of RAM you need depends on things like what software you use and your operating system. When using Windows, there is a limit to how much RAM your system can make use of. For example, if you have Windows 8 32 bit edition then only 4 GB of RAM is useable. However, if you have the 64 bit edition then this increases hugely. Standard versions can make use of 128 GB and Enterprise and Professional users can employ 512 GB. It is unlikely that you will require so much RAM on a standard consumer device, however. If you are looking to upgrade your operating system then it is recommended to get the 64 bit edition if possible. This will ensure that your system is future proof when it comes to installing additional RAM.
Hopefully now you are a bit more clued up on what RAM is and what its role is in a computer. RAM is only getting cheaper, so if you are noticing your computer is slowing down then it is worthwhile to invest in some extra random access memory.