What is RAM and how much do you need?

RAM stands for random access memory, and it is one of the most essential pieces of a working computer.

Any PC build needs RAM to function, the only questions are how much RAM does it need, and what kind of RAM does it need?

The standard RAM that is used in computers can only retain the information that it holds while the computer is powered up, but during this time it contains the files and software that are currently being used or edited. This allows the system to access them far faster than directly accessing them from a hard disc drive.

Different processor and motherboard combinations support certain kinds of RAM, and are limited in the amount they will support. The motherboard will only have so many slots. Each slot has a rating of the maximum size RAM that can be used, and when added up the total is the amount of RAM that a given motherboard can support. This amount of supported RAM grows with each new generation of motherboard, but the amount needed to support the programs also grows with each new generation of software. Operating systems also have a minimum amount of RAM required to run, along with a maximum supported RAM limit. Any more RAM installed beyond the operating system’s maximum supported RAM will not be recognised by the system, and can cause instability.

While most systems can get by with the bare minimum of RAM that is required to use the operating system, some users will need more. An office user typically needs the minimum, while someone who plays computer games will need a lot more. Someone involved in 3D animation, modeling, or photo manipulation as a career or hobby may have every reason to increase the RAM to the maximum that their system can support due to the high memory usage of the software programs involved in these activities.

RAM is a computer part that is easily upgraded by the end user, requiring only basic knowledge of how the system operates. When a user wants to upgrade their RAM, they can choose a set of RAM from a store or online site that is compatible with their system, and easily purchase it. It is best to choose a matched set that comes together instead of mixing and matching different chips as they might not sync together even if they are the same type. It is recommended to remove the old RAM chips from the motherboard, and install the new ones in their place, instead of just adding in the new chips. If everything goes correctly, the RAM should be recognised by the system on the next boot up.

The future of RAM seems to be on a steady course, gradually gaining in both size and access speed. Barring any new innovation, it is expected that this course will continue for the foreseeable future. Random access memory will most likely continue to be part of our lives, living in our computers, laptops, phones, tablets, and other devices not yet on the market.

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