RAM (Random Access Memory)

If you are currently shopping for computers, whether a PC or a laptop, RAM is a term that you will run across time and time again because it is the most common form of electronic memory. For those of you who have already bought a computer, you probably already know a thing or two about what you are looking for, and maybe you want information on how to install RAM. If you want a detailed description of RAM with technical specifications including bits, bandwidth, and speed, see

RAM Explained

Otherwise, for all the newbies, here is a quick summary of what RAM is, what is does and why it is important to pay attention to when buying a new computer. If you want to upgrade, keep in mind that your motherboard (located inside the hard drive case) must have slots capable of supporting the upgraded RAM.

For those interested in buying a laptop, keep in mind that RAM is not as easily upgraded as with a PC, and sometimes it's possible without spending a ton of money. If you want to upgrade RAM for a notebook, try out credit card memory or a PCMCIA card, which unlike the latter are not proprietary, meaning that no matter what the brand they will work on your notebook type.

* '''RAM vs. ROM'''
** While ROM memory measures the amount of space you have on your hard drive, RAM measures how much you can run on your computer at once. TechTrax explains the difference between these two types of memory referring to household furniture: a cabinet and a table. Remember: both have finite space.
*** The cabinet is used for long term storage. You put things in that will stay for awhile, and when you need them, you can take them out.
*** The table is where you can things temporarily, say to work on a project. While you work, you lay out all the things you need on the table. When you are done, all the items get put away.

* '''More RAM allows you to multitask faster and smoother.'''
** RAM is what keeps the data stored on your computer. However, it is not like when you save a file or an image that you can retrieve after turning off the computer. It is actually what controls the memory of any live applications that are functioning while the computer is turned on only.
** Have you ever noticed that when you have several programs running at once that your computer tends to "slow down?" That is the RAM trying to keep up. When you don't have enough RAM to run graphics-rich programs such as video or image editing and video games, the system lags and may even crash.
** RAM constantly refreshes the active (live) memory on your computer so that you can work without any lag time. This type of memory that repeatedly refreshes itself is called DRAM (Dynamic RAM). It works hand in hand with your computers CPU (Central Processing Unit). SRAM (Static RAM) controls the memory cache. It is a faster type of RAM and usually costs more. The larger the SRAM cache in your computer, the more programs you can run at once without slowing down the computer.

What RAM Is Right For Me?

'''Is More Better?'''

More RAM will help improve everything from web surfing to photo and video imaging. However, depending on your computing uses, you may need more or less. Keep in mind that today's RAM happens to be getting cheaper by the day and the more RAM you have, the more possibilities you will have for expanding your system in the future. If you can afford to up the RAM, by all means, you should. On the other hand, if you don't plan on installing any new hardware or software, don't overly exceed your limits. Having too much RAM which is unsupported by your memory cache may actually slow your computer down.

'''Determine Your Computing Profile'''
* '''Basic/Administrative User:'''  You stick to basic word processing, spreadsheet, and graphics applications, faxing, web surfing, and emailing. Usually you keep one or two programs open at once. You need: 384MB
* '''Students and Executives:  '''Along with the above mentioned applications, you may also use imaging, illustration, or presentation software, as well as basic games and photo editing. You run a maximum of three applications at one time. You need: 512MB
* '''Professionals and Gamers:'''  You use multimedia software, photo editing, and all of the above. You may also use CAD or CAM software. For gaming as well as other graphic-intense applications you will need: 1GB.
* '''Graphic Designers: ''' For heavy-duty graphic work, 3D CAD, and modeling software, along with all of the above, you need: 2GB or more.

'''Choose According to Specific Application and Operating System Requirements'''

Most applications and operating systems give a "recommended" RAM requirement. Double that number and choose that amount of RAM. Here are some popular programs and the adjusted recommendation.

* Windows XP: 512MB
* Mac OS X: 256MB
* Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and After Effects:  512MB
* Front Page, Pinnacle Studio, Macromedia Studio MX: 512MB
* Half Life 2, World of Warcraft, and Everquest II: 1024MB

RAM Types

Here are just a few types of RAM available. Depending on your system, you will need one type or another. To determine which type is the right one for your computer model and manufacturer, follow the simple steps of the Crucial Memory Advisor at

* DIMM (Dual in-line Memory)
* RIMM (Rambus in-line Memory Module)
* SIMM (Single in-line Memory)
* RDRAM (Rambus Dynamic RAM)
* VRAM (Video RAM)

* SDRAM (Synchronous Dynamic RAM)- Most typical modern day RAM, allows for higher bandwidth storage of working data for PCs
** DDR (Double Data Rate)
** DDR2- Allows data transfer at twice the data rate of DDR
** DDR3- Allows data transfer at twice the data rate of DDR2, has a maximum memory module size of 16 gigabytes
** DDR4 is currently being designed and is anticipated to be released in 2012.

Notebook RAM

A lot of notebooks have an easily accessible RAM card and another empty slot for addition modules. These memory cards are a great way to get maximum performance out of your laptop.

Desktop RAM

One of the main benefits of owning a desktop computer is the ease at which you can upgrade components like RAM cards. Depending on how many RAM slots you have, you can add several modules to make a dramatic increase in performance.

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