What is RAM: All about RAM

What is RAM? What are the types and uses of RAM? How is it different from ROM? Find out all that you need to know about the primary memory of your computer in simple and easy language.

assembled view of what is ram
A picture depicting what is RAM and how it looks

Ram is one of the most basic parts of a computer system without which your PC is as good as nothing. Though we use it each time we sit on a computer, most of us still wonder "what is RAM" and what is the real purpose of RAM in a computer. As you can see in the picture RAM is a type of memory chip (The green chip in the picture) placed in slots just like the hard drives. Most computers today give you the option to put in additional memory into your system to optimize system speed. RAM is just like the short term memory of a person if explained in plain terms, but to know actually what is RAM, you need a further explanation.

What actually is RAM?

RAM is to a computer as is human memory to the body. It is primarily used by the CPU (Central Processing Unit) of the computer to temporarily store data while it uses them for processing. Ram consists of tiny cells arranged in the form of grid (table) where each cell can store data as a simple binary value. When your computer is turned on, the most important operating system data is quickly loaded into the RAM of your computer. This data can then be accessed at random by the processor according to its need. That is why it is known as Random Access Memory.

For more insight into what is RAM, it is actually a volatile memory. In other words, it cannot be used for permanent storage of data.  As soon as, you turn off your computer, all the data stored in the RAM is lost and it becomes empty to be used again when you start your PC. RAM is so important because it allows random and instant access to the data which cannot be achieved through hard disk drives. This helps enormously in boosting the speed of operations, else it would take a similar amount of time as turning the pages of your book to retrieve information.

Best books on What is RAM

There are so many great books written on what is RAM and How it functions. Though unless and until you want to have a great technical know-how, you actually will not need a book. But if you are eager to dig deeper into the topic and gain some valuable information or even if you want to learn some exciting memory tricks, you may try these out. Currently, the following books rock the list,

What is RAM speed or size?

Memory speed is measured in nanoseconds. It is the time taken to retrieve a piece of data from RAM. It usually ranges from 2ns to 80ns, a lower value depicting a greater speed. A good assumption of speed is made by the size of the RAM which is measured in Gigabytes (GB) or Megabytes (MB). The greater the size of RAM, the greater the amount of data it can store, hence a greater speed it can acquire.


What are the types of RAM?

Though there are many different varieties of RAM today available in the market, RAM can broadly be classified under two heads, namely DRAM and SRAM.

DRAM (Dynamic RAM): Dynamic RAM is the most commonly used type of memory as it is less expensive than static RAM. DRAM uses a transistor capacitor pair to store data in the memory cells in the form of zeros (low charge) and ones (high charge). The transistor acts as a switch to change the state from high charge to low charge and conversely.

SRAM (Static RAM): SRAM is costlier but much faster than the dynamic RAM. It uses a state of flip-flop to store a bit of data and requires less power to operate. In modern computers, static RAM is generally used as a cache memory for CPU.


How is RAM different from ROM?

ROM stands for Read Only Memory, which means it cannot be rewritten. It contains a prewritten set of instructions that are necessary for your computer to boot. It this property that makes ROM differ from what is RAM. While RAM needs electricity to load and provide data, ROM retains its data even after the computer is turned off. In plain words, ROM is a permanent memory that contains the instructions for booting your computer.

This is all about what is RAM and how it functions. For further understanding of the related concepts, you may visit the FAQs section (an extension of this post) compiled as What RAM do I need. You may find there tips on how to ascertain right amount of RAM on your computer for optimum speed and performance. If you want to install more RAM on your computer, you may visit this page, Add More RAM to Computer. But for the time being, you should now have a good level of understanding of what is RAM.