RAM and its impact on computer performance
What is RAM?
RAM (memory) stands for Random Access Memory and is an integrated circuit inserted into computers that functions as an important storage medium. It was given the name random because any piece of data stored in its circuits could be returned in constant time regardless of its relationship with other stored data and its physical location.
How does RAM Work?
RAM is your computers workspace – scenario below will help explain:
RAM is like a kitchen table – when you want to cook something you get out all the cooking ingredients and tools and place them on the kitchen table, and when you’re done cooking you put everything away. RAM works much the same way as a kitchen table – when you open a file or program it loads into memory (computers workbench) so you can manipulate and use the file.
Say you were cooking a lot and your kitchen table (RAM) was small – it would take longer to cook as you would not have enough space for all the cooking ingredients and tools and thus you would waste time making room and moving stuff of and on the table – RAM behaves in the same way. If a computer does not have a sufficient amount of memory available to run applications and files then virtual memory (paging/swapping) is used which slows the computer down.
So if your computer had 256 MB of RAM and all the programs and files currently running on your machine use 300 MB of RAM there would be insufficient psychical memory – so the virtual memory feature would kick-in. Virtual memory is where the computer sets aside space on your hard-drive that simulates additional RAM – this is called ‘swapping’. The processor (CPU) plays a massive role in everything your computer does – it receives many of its instructions on what to do via RAM memory. Virtual Memory (also known as pagefile) is not directly usable so if instructions to open a program or perform some task are stored on the hard-disk (virtual memory) they will need to be transferred to the RAM before the CPU can process the data – this process is known as paging. Paging slows your system down because you can’t immediately process instructions, they have to be transferred from your hard-drive to memory.
How does insufficient RAM affect the performance of your PC?
RAM is the much faster storage medium which is measured in nanoseconds whereas the hard-drive speed is much slower and measured in milliseconds.
If your computer is using too much virtual memory or spending a lot of time paging because you don’t have enough physical memory (RAM) to handle the resources/programs you are using then your computer will be considerably slower.
Upgrading your PCs RAM will boost your systems performance if your machine is using more memory then is physically available as it will stop/reduce the need for virtual memory (paging).
Some more important RAM info
Don’t run out and buy 20 Terabytes of RAM just yet, why? There is actually a limit to how much RAM computers can utilize. In 32-bit operating systems you can use up to 4GB of RAM whereas in 64-bit operating systems you can theoretically use 16 Exabyte’s – but most 64-bit systems use 6 GB to 200+ TB.