What is RAM?

Javed Ali Javed Ali
What is RAM?

Most of us know the importance of storage devices, and one of them is RAM, which provides us with the most efficient way to retain and retrieve data for our operations. Here we will discuss the quarry what is RAM in depth. And why this volatile memory is so significant for PCs? Let us sum up words saying a system can finalize no action without having a proper RAM unit installed in your system, whether it be streaming Netflix, downloading files, or playing video games. All our activities require the CPU to fetch data from the internal storage, process it, and deliver it in minimal time.

A RAM hardware keeps all the data related to programs, operating systems, applications, and files actively running on your desktop for a short momentary period. This element retains and delivers data relevant to all the outputs being shown on the computer display. The processor accesses this data and retrieves it for other components which handle it and complete the task. However, the capability of this chip to pool information is limited to its bond with the power supply. Here the power is cut, the computer shuts down, and all the memory stored in your RAM is blown away.

On the contrary, some other storage elements like a hard drive do not let your data vanish when not equipped with power. But here, the significant difference that enhances RAM’s importance for any computing device is that its storage is much more quickly reachable by the CPU than other storage units. It’s fast and easy for the processor to read and write information retained by the Random Memory Access; therefore, its significant share is considered in elevating the computer’s capacity to perform and finish assigned tasks in the minimum possible time.

Function of RAM

The critical function of a RAM unit is to store data for time-being. It means you want to run a program on your system, insert some keys and commands, and the programs start working. The RAM is constantly supplying all the data relevant to this program. Here, if the power goes off, it will shut the system and the supply of this data delivery. Moreover, the information regarding what you were performing and where you reached would have vanished.

The memory of a computer resembles that of a human being. It never runs out, unlike a storage drive. However, it just helps carry out immediate tasks, while a hard drive keeps enduring records and helps you run a program you saved times ago. The way short memory acts, like it keeps just limited information, and allows few and instant actions, the same way a RAM module reacts. It can not retain unlimited data for an extended period.

It might have happened that your computer slows down, and when you contact any computer expert, he suggests that its storage is fully loaded with data, making your system slow. Why does storage full of data make your machine slow? The essential point is that RAM is filled with massive content after long-term usage. Hence, the processor takes a long time accessing this huge stock and finding the corresponding data you commanded it to bring. It also allows the hard disk to keep the new data layered on the old data in RAM and easily accessible.

How does RAM work?

First, let us discuss some aspects of RAM that can later justify its working pattern. A RAM unit is small in form factor and is secured in the appropriate slot on the motherboard. Like size, its ability to store data is small compared to other drives. For example, a random access memory module in a laptop or computer is optimally kept at 8 GB, whereas a hard drive can save up to 10 terabytes which is many folds greater than RAM. The possible reason for this small capacity of RAM to store data is its built-in nature to hold any stuff temporarily.

A processor accesses and retrieves data many times from the RAM when instructed to process some stuff. But this repetitive work is accomplished in nanoseconds due to the RAM’s speedy data delivery. On the other hand, when the same task is being performed by hard drive storage, more time is spent accessing the data in milliseconds. That explains the purpose of having a good RAM in your system; as can be seen, it is super-fast in fulfilling tasks. However, there is no limit to using just a single random memory unit on your PC. Some operating machines allow users to add more than one RAM stick to the motherboard.

But how does adding more RAM elements to a PC help out? Adding more chips will make your system much quicker than before, as the efficiency of your PC to access data will be mounted. The processor would not have to read data from the hard drive many times. Even if one RAM chip is complete, the other chip can handle and retain data easily. The wondering part is how these devices store such massive information. We know some drives rely on a magnetic field generated by mechanically moving parts that count for their slow speed.

A head moves on the disk like a recorder, spots the required data after rotating multiple times, and finally makes it accessible to the processor. Here information must be written and read out sequentially. Locating the relevant data and then fetching it is time-consuming. That is where a RAM stick is peculiar in bringing the data in nanoseconds. And that is how its name is justified, Random Access. Your PC processor can directly reach out to the storage and have random access to the targeted data. It does not have to read things sequentially.

How much RAM do you need?

RAM capacity is entirely a matter of your job demand and burden. Different storage sizes are available to fit multi-purpose computers and laptops. For lighter activities, like reading documents, listening to songs, and streaming videos, even 3 GB of memory works well. Professionals like photo and video editors and 3D graphic designers need something more significant to catch every detail.

Like the widely used professional tool, Adobe photoshoot works well with just 3 GB memory, whereas video editing tools and software need massive space up to 16 GB or even more. If the storage capacity of your PC is not suitable for a program, it will make the system sluggish and diminish your working capacity. However, the storage potential in general-purpose computers is kept at a standard of 8 GB which is enough for modest work.

Types of RAM

Random Access Memory is also divided into two types: DRAM and SRAM.

History of RAM: RAM vs. SDRAM

RAM types are elaborated and classified by the term “Synchronous.” Have you ever wondered why the speeds of SDR RAM and DDR RAM are described in rates and not nanoseconds? It has some background history. A RAM chip is not synchronous with speed, or you can say the clock cycle of the processor. With time, processors became more competent, and their clock speed enhanced. On the other hand, RAM’s clocking speed was still rudimentary and could not match the CPU’s working speed. So later, in 1996, developers introduced synchronized chips called SDRAM. This chip synchronizes itself with the clocking speed and timing of the CPU.

Whenever the CPU requests the SDRAM, its memory controller assesses how long the targeted data will take to get ready. It measures the exact clock cycle timing to save the processor from the hassle of waiting longer. The first generation of SDRAM is SDR RAM, where SDR stands for Single Data Rate. Single rate means this chip reads and writes data only once during a clock cycle. When one cycle is completed, the chip has to wait for another cycle to begin to read and write data again. This clock speed is brilliant but not a competent match with more powerful CPUs.

A second-generation RAM, DDR SDRAM, is introduced to get more bandwidth and transfer rate. Here DDR stands for Double Data Rate, which bumps the data twice in a cycle. When a clock cycle begins, it reads and writes information once at the rising and falling edges of the cycle. So with the same internal clock speed and frequency as that in SDR RAM, we get double data transfer rates. DDR clock rate is compatible with many powerful processors; however, it has further evolved and now has three variants DDR2, DDR3, and DDR4. These variants handle significantly large batches of data and consume less power.


The primary purpose of this RAM type is to enhance GPU performance. Graphics processing units require a memory drive with high bandwidth, so general-purpose drives can not serve the heavy workload. However, the highly advanced DDR4 has the same double data transfer rate; still, we need a GDDR SDRAM; why? Because GDDR is specifically built to facilitate graphics-intensive tasks like 3D video rendering and graphic designing. However, GDDR is not the only one in its race; several generations have been introduced, with GDDR6 being the latest. Data transfer rates and memory clock speed increase significantly with every generation.

RAM vs. virtual memory

Here first, we need to know what is RAM. The way we purchase other computer components, the same way, RAM comes as a physical unit slotted in one of the ports in the motherboard. A computer must access its memory storage and driver inputs to perform any function, such as downloading documents or running a program. The first preference of any device for accessing and retrieving information is RAM. On the other hand, virtual memory is not part or is associated with a RAM drive. Instead, it stores data on a hard drive.

It does not have any physical existence and is created and used by the system when RAM is filled. Though RAM is efficient in stocking data and performance, virtual memory has some upper hands. It uses a paging process to store information, in which fixed-size pages are created and laid across the hard drive. Both units vary in terms of storage capacity as well. A RAM unit can retain data up to its size, like 8GB. Virtual memory depends on a hard drive’s size and ability, and we know hard drives have gigantic data storing capability.

However, control options are given in the operating system to manage virtual memory. This memory is itself created by the operating system when RAM runs out of space. Though this chip can cope with challenging tasks for more extended periods, at a certain point, when you run multiple programs simultaneously, memory may run out. Now for other functions, it is difficult for the processor to access the fully equipped storage. Here the operating system creates this virtual memory and transfers it from RAM to the hard drive. It uses inactive hard drive storage and RAM to create a virtual address where all the required application and program data is kept. 

So now you can perform multiple tasks which require massive storage without needing more RAM. Just load heavy files, games, and more extensive programs simultaneously; all the space would be provided by virtual memory. One disadvantage of virtual memory is that it slows down your system’s performance. It stocks data in the virtual address created between a hard drive and random physical memory. If you want speedy performance, you can install more RAM, as this chip is well-known for this role.

RAM vs. flash memory

We know almost all features of a RAM module, like which types of memory it is, how it stores data and the requirements for its functioning. Another storage type that is non-volatile, cost-effective, and slower in performance compared to RAM is flash memory. This chip takes more significant time to store data in capacitors and therefore is slow in performance. RAM delivers minimum data accessing time and high read and write speeds in nanoseconds. Though flash memory is not competent enough to beat random access memory, it is a more reliable storage option than others with mechanically rotating parts like CDs and hard disk drives.

Flash memory is an electronically working chip that carries no single moving unit. Another advantage that counts in portability is its small size. Other memory drives have massive storage capacity and sizes; however, this chip delivers comparable storage capacity in a tiny size. However, running both memories parallel to each other will help the system get quicker access to the storage and enhance performance. As flash memory can keep data without a power connection and is cheaper, it is widely seen in solid-state drives as primary storage.


The potential future of storage devices suggests that the RERAM (Resistive Random Access Memory) may get the leading role in the digital mainstream. This chip has exponential data storage capacity using minimum power sources. Initially, the device was meant to replace flash memory with its high endurance and affordability. It means the chip was supposed to be more reliably accessing data bidirectionally, i.e., reading and writing. But still, it could not surpass innovative drives like DRAM and SRAM. These technologies contribute to a significant share in the market demands; therefore, replacing them is a highly challenging task for companies.

An RRAM stores data permanently and can have different materials. Generally, it is composed of solid dielectric material named memristor, which can change the resistance of the chip following the varying voltage. The working principle of resistive chips relies on oxygen vacancies, whose operation is analogous to semiconductors. In a semiconductor, electrons and holes drift along the surface. On the other hand, when an electric field is applied to the oxide material, oxygen ions and vacancies flow inside the layer. An oxygen atom is removed when an oxide bond is formed between two molecules, creating an oxygen vacancy. This vacancy is considered a physical defect in the chip material.

5G and the RAM market

Companies working day and night to develop better solutions to people’s problems with the older models are setting new trends for the future and shaping the industries faster. Solid state technology association has published LPDDR5 technology, which operates at a much higher rate than LPDDR4. This update will ensure advanced improvements in memory speed and operating efficiency of many intelligent systems such as notebooks, mobile phones, and tablets.

In the previous version, LPDDR4, the pin speed is 3200 megabytes per second. But now, with LPDDR5, you can enjoy your automotive devices with a pin speed of 6400 megabytes per second, which elevates data transfer rates to 51.2 GB per second. Not only that, SAMSUNG has come up with better power solutions in this new generation like DVFS, DQ Copy, and Writex. Thus, batteries will require 20 percent less power and last all day.

Cost of RAM

During the last few years, the tech markets have seen numerous tensions, which have led to constant fluctuations in RAM prices. This volatility has seriously affected the purchasing ability of users. It not only hit the purchasing power, but people have also diverted from the basic chips to more advanced technologies, altering the previous selling market patterns. First, a massive rise in chip supply decreased price competition; however, at the very moment, disruptions between the world’s largest memory stick developers made the prices further volatile.

Nowadays, companies are not settling for less, as are the users, not compromising on any aspect. With the launching of LPDDR5 technology, users have become more choosy, and now they want more user-friendly chips which do not burden their power resources while maintaining performance up to the mark.

Final Words

Over time, operating systems have seen several innovations in storage devices. They have seen the transition from hard disk drives and CDs to RAM and ROM. Our discussion in this guide has always surrounded the notion of what is RAM. The paramount value given to this chip compared to other units is all due to its incredible speed and ease of mapping and retrieving data. One of the contrasting features is its small size and massive storage ability. Previously, all drives with enormous storage had larger physical sizes. RAM helps you accomplish things quicker and faster like web browsing, downloading files, opening multiple tabs, running several programs simultaneously, and playing beastly video games.

However, RAM is not just the end of the computing era; here are the latest generations, which work on the basic principle of RAM but have one or more unique features. They are better data keepers, intelligent performers, or fewer power consumers. Some units work on lower voltages and deliver faster data transfer rates and pin speeds. Specifications are admirable though you can choose another option to boost performance if you do not know much about the new generations. Try slotting more than one RAM unit in your PC motherboard; it will increase the storage area, ease out CPU access to the storage, and boost clock speed.

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