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Software Engineering

What is RAM: A Complete Guide

Christina Kopecky - June 18, 2022


One of the components of a computer’s overall architecture is its random access memory (RAM). What exactly does RAM do? This article takes a close look so you can be more familiar with why RAM exists and how it makes our lives better when working with our electronic devices.

If you are considering a career in tech, you need to know what coding is and how it works. However, becoming familiar with the different components of computing architecture, such as RAM, is also essential. To learn more about what RAM is and why it exists, keep reading.

Where is RAM located?

Random Access Memory is located in the Central Processing Unit (CPU). The CPU is a hardware made up of several components that make up the computer as a whole. RAM is considered the brains of the operation because it contains all of the readily accessible files, folders, and applications we use daily.

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Why does RAM exist?

RAM exists to act as a short-term computer memory bank. This allows users to access files quickly, keep folders open, or play games in detailed graphics. The more “stuff” you keep open regularly, the more RAM you will need on your computer.

Having RAM shortens the access times to get to those folders you need. Having this short-term memory storage increases system performance.

How does RAM Compare to a Hard Drive?

Think of the hard drive as a long-term memory storage unit that takes some time to sort through. If we were to try to access the same files we do on RAM, but on the hard drive instead, our computer would run much slower.

With the advent of SSD (solid state drives) the latency associated with hard disk drives has been reduced as we move away from electromagnetic access — where the drive has to read a physical object —  to electronic access. So the difference in performance between RAM and SSD might not be as perceptible as it was before its creation.

Conclusion

The RAM — random access memory — is the neurological wiring that makes your computer so quick. It has instant access to all of these short-term memories — files, directories, applications — that we keep open so they can be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

The RAM is only one component of the overall unit that makes up the central processor. Next, check out the other architectural components of the computer: the ALU, the cache, the control unit, registers, and more!

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Christina Kopecky

About the author: Christina is an experienced technical writer, covering topics as diverse as Java, SQL, Python, and web development. She earned her Master of Music in flute performance from the University of Kansas and a bachelor's degree in music with minors in French and mass communication from Southeast Missouri State. Prior to joining the Career Karma team in June 2020, Christina was a teaching assistant, team lead, and section lead at Lambda School, where she led student groups, performed code and project reviews, and debugged problems for students. Christina's technical content is featured frequently in publications like Codecademy, Repl.it, and Educative.

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