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Computer Memory - Why It's Important

Posted by Michael Russell on: 2006-09-10 17:19:02

Self SEO > Hardware Articles

Many of you have probably asked yourselves this many times. For those of you who are looking to buy or have already purchased a computer may still be asking yourselves what this piece of hardware does for your computer. Buying computer memory is not as simple as going to the store and asking a sales representative for it. Each computer can only support a certain type of memory.

Walk into any computer store and either look at the cute little sticker they put on the case or just ask the sales representative and they will almost always let you know exactly how much memory, or RAM, the computer has. Ask them what it means and depending on where you're shopping you may or may not get an answer. The purpose of this article is to help you get a better grasp on what you need to look for when it comes to computer memory.

A more common name for computer memory is RAM. RAM stands for Random Access Memory. For those of you who are not fluent in computer lingo you may still be complexly lost.

To help you understand better about the purpose of RAM we will go over how anything gets done on your computer without RAM. Each time you start an application on your computer it goes through many steps to bring up the application you are wanting. It usually starts with an input device such as a keyboard or a mouse. Let's pick on a well known application that most of you are probably familiar with; Notepad. You would start by taking a hold of your mouse and clicking on the start menu. Doing so would in turn pop up a menu. From that menu you would find and click on notepad. Once you click on the notepad icon, information is sent electronically through the wire of the mouse down to your USB or PS/2 port on your motherboard. When it gets there the information then travels to your processor. The processor then decides where it needs to send this information. Most of the time, the information is needed to be sent to your hard drive, since your hard drive is where most of your information is kept. Once the information gets to your hard drive it then searches for Notepad. All the files needed to run Notepad are sent back to your processor. The processor then sends the files where they need to go to run Notepad.

Now that seems like a long journey to pull up an application as simple as Notepad, doesn't it? This is what makes RAM so wonderful. All those files that are needed to run Notepad can be stored on RAM. When you click on the Notepad icon on your start menu your RAM will actually send the required files needed to run Notepad rather than the long trip explained above. This alleviates a lot of stress on your computer. Instead of worrying about where the files that are needed are and searching for them, RAM will step up and let your computer know, "Hey, I have those files right here! You can start Notepad now!"

If you have ever seen a stick of RAM you may have noticed that it looks a lot like little black squares attached to the greenish colored circuit board. These little black squares are where the information is stored.

RAM does this for starting and running all applications on your computer. The most important thing you must remember when looking at memory is that each application you need to run requires a certain amount of RAM in order for it work correctly. The more you have the better off you will be and the faster your computer will run. You have to be cautious though, having too much RAM can cause problems. The problems mainly arise because of a combination of both hardware and software restrictions. If you have a fairly recent computer you could safely get away with running 2GBs of computer memory. The operating system you probably use, Windows XP, will only support up to 4GBs. This isn't a lot when you compare the size to hard drive space. But your computer doesn't need a lot of RAM because the information that is stored in it is not permanent. It would be almost impossible for you to run so many applications and work on them all to 'fill up' your RAM with application information. But as technology grows applications will require more and more RAM to operate. So the amount of RAM that you can safely use will eventually increase. Windows XP 64-bit version already supports up to 16GBs of RAM and although it hasn't gone retail yet, Windows Vista will also support up to 16GBs. This will allow for programmers to create a more diverse range of applications to run on your computer.

The underlying factor in the benefits of getting RAM is two-fold. It relives stress on your CPU and can make your computer a lot faster. Now if you upgrade from 512MB to 1GB you may not see much of a difference. Going from 512MB to 2GB will undoubtedly show you some massive speed improvements with your computer. Always be sure to check with your motherboard documentation before getting RAM for your computer. Each motherboard will only support a certain type of RAM. Don't make the mistake of buying RAM that you can't even use.

Michael Russell
Your Independent guide to Computer Memory

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