What Is Computer Memory?

Computers are a ubiquitous feature in the modern digital landscape. To many users these devices are practically a black box with their inner workings a complete mystery. Computers are complex machines with many parts. When shopping for upgrades or even replacements, it is important to know at least a little about these constituents to know what may be needed. Of all the upgradeable parts in a computer system, computer RAM is one of the most common.

RAM is one of the pieces of hardware that acts as computer memory. This is a Random Access Memory that allows the computer to store and quickly retrieve data that it is currently using. This information can include operating system features, currently running programs, and cached graphics data. This form of computer memory is not persistent, meaning that when the computer goes off, the RAM goes blank. However, it has much quicker retrieval times than other forms of computer memory that are intended to store data for long term.

The processor uses the available RAM as the computer's short-term memory. When a user creates a new document and first begins creating content, this content is stored only in the RAM until the save button is clicked. The amount of RAM memory a computer has at its disposal will affect its speed when running many process, playing high end games, or any other application of resources that is memory intensive.

RAM is typically made up physically of memory chips on a small circuit board. These boards are designed to easily plug and clip into RAM slots on the computer's mother board. In most cases this is a simple process that involves physical replacement and installation, but no software modification. The motherboard already knows how to access the memory chips. Every time a computer boots up it detects how much RAM is installed.

This conjunction of easy installation and potentially vast performance improvements is what makes computer RAM a popular upgrade choice. RAM doesn't decide how fast a computer can "think," but it is a major determinant of how much a computer can think about at a time by allowing faster recall speeds for more information.