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Technician installing RAM stick (random access memory) to socket on motherboard

What Is RAM? Your Complete Guide to RAM and Why to Upgrade It

Thinking of upgrading your computer or buying new software like Adobe Premiere Pro and a video game? You may have to upgrade your PC’s RAM.

Wait. What is RAM, you ask? And what is it used for?

RAM is short for Random Access Memory, and it’s one of the most important parts of every computer. If you’re part of the 76% of Americans that use the computer both at home and at work, you’re at least familiar with the concept.

If you want to become more effective in maintaining your computer, you need to know more about how RAM works. After all, it’s the component that holds all your computer data in current use. Comparing it with our memory, RAM works as our short-term memory while the hard drive is our long-term memory.

Are you ready to find out more about RAM? Read on and find more information.

What is RAM? What Does RAM Mean?

what is RAMRAM’s main function on your computer is to act as the middle ground between your CPU’s small but fast cache and the large but slow storage of your unit’s hard drive.

Your unit uses it as a means of storing temporary functions for your operating system. It also serves as temporary storing for data applications use at the moment.

Think of it like a drawer in your kitchen compared to the big cupboard. You keep things in the cupboard for long-term but when you’re still actively using something, they go in and out of the drawer.

That said, always remember that RAM doesn’t store anything on a permanent basis.

Compare it to an office setting, where your hard drive represents the filing cabinet while the RAM is your workstation. The CPU, on the other hand, represents your actual working area where you can make documentation and executable programs.

The more RAM your unit possesses, the more application parts you’ll have quick access to at any instance. In the office allegory, it’s like having a much bigger desk where you can put more material on it without making a cluttered mess. This helps reduce the number of times you need to go back to your filing cabinet to reorganize.

Unlike your standard office desk, RAM doesn’t allow you to store files in it. As soon as you turn off your computer, all the data in it disappears. It’s the equivalent of wiping the desk clean as soon as you shut down the computer.

Synchronous Dynamic RAM (SDRAM) is what people refer to whenever they talk about RAM for their PC units. Through the rest of this guide, you will learn about this type of RAM. Regardless of whether it’s for desktops or laptops, it physically appears as a stick that you can plug into the motherboard.

However, this is changing.

The current trend for thin and light laptops is to have a direct-soldered RAM to the motherboard to save up some space. It’s efficient but in the process, they sacrifice the laptop’s ability to get upgrades and repairs. You can no longer remove and replace your SDRAM cards.

Don’t confuse SDRAM with SRAM (Static RAM). The latter is the type of memory used by your CPU as a cache as well as other things. It’s a much faster type of storage but in terms of capacity, it’s more limited, making it inferior compared to SDRAM.

In most cases, you don’t need to worry about SRAM. General users won’t have to deal with it. However, it might be something you need to consider when you’re thinking about buying a used computer.

When it comes to sizes, RAM has two: Dual Inline Memory Module aka DIMM and Small Outline Dual Inline Memory Module aka SO-DIMM.

You will often find the former in both desktops and server machines. The latter often finds use in laptops or other computers that have small form factors. Both of these work in the same manner and have the same technology.

However, that doesn’t mean you can mix them together. You can’t use a DIMM stick on a SO-DIMM slot and vice versa. The simple reason behind the fact is that the pins aren’t lined up in a proper manner.

When you buy a new computer, always remember to know this distinction. It’s the first thing you need to know, even before you think about its capabilities and features. Nothing else matters if it doesn’t fit your motherboard slots.

What is the Meaning of DDR?

The RAM your computer uses operate with the use of Double Data Rate (DDR). What this means is that two transfers occur every clock cycle. There are newer versions of the DDR technology, and the majority of people use DDR4 SDRAM around the world, with around 6.6 billion gigabitsshipped in a single quarter.

All RAM generations have the same type of size and shape, but it still has compatibility issues. What this means is that you can’t use DDR3 RAM on a motherboard that can only use DDR2. Each has their own notch cut in the pins so that means their physical forms can’t fit in any normal way.

That is a safety feature that ensures you won’t damage your RAM or motherboard when you insert the wrong type of DDR RAM. If you’re curious about the different types of DDR, here are its types:

1. DDR2

It’s the oldest type of RAM, so it’s unlikely for you to come across it that much. It boasts around 240 pins for the DIMM variant while only having 200 for the SO-DIMM counterpart. The current generation of DDRs surpassed it in all manners of ways.

If you need to upgrade an older PC unit, you can still buy DDR2 from a limited number of stores. Otherwise, don’t bother with it since it’s obsolete.

2. DDR3

It’s released way back in 2007 and most of the current generation PCs use this as the current standard. However, the emergence of the DDR4 is now making it obsolete. DDR3 DIMMs sport the same number of pins as its DDR2 counterpart, but its advantage is the fact that it uses at lower voltages and higher timings, making it unsuitable as a replacement for DDR2-compatible motherboards.

3. DDR4

This is the newest generation of DDR and it’s getting more mass market adoption ever since it got released back in 2011. Its main difference between its predecessors is the fact that it uses an even lower voltage–from 1.5v to 1.2v. They increase the pin numbers to 260, so it’s important to ensure that you buy a new motherboard with DDR4 compatibility.

What are the Common Terms Involved with RAM?

With the prior knowledge about RAM, DIMMs, and DDRs, there are a lot of other things you need to learn in terms of RAM-related jargon. There is only about 17% of the entire adult population of the United States considered digitally ready. What this means is that they have the capability to use digital tools to learn more, making them tech-savvy.

If you want to learn more to become a digital-ready person, here are some terms you need to learn:

1. Clock Speed, Transfers, Bandwidth

If you play a more hands-on role on your PC maintenance, you might see your RAM referred to by two sets of numbers. Examples of these include DDR3-1600 and PC3-12800. These references indicate the RAM generation and its speed of transfer.

The number paired after the DDR is the number of mega transfers (MTs) it can perform each second. A DDR3-1600 RAM will operate at 1600 MT per second. The number paired after the PC is a measure of its bandwidth in megabytes per second in ideal scenarios–PC3-12800 means that it operates at 12800MB per second.

RAM has the capability to become overclocked just like the CPU or GPU. Doing so increases the bandwidth of the RAM. Don’t believe manufacturers that say the RAM they sell is already at an overclock since you can do it on your own as long as your motherboard supports it.

2. Timing and Latency

There are instances where RAM modules have a series of numbers such as 9-10-9-27. This refers to the timings, a performance measure of the RAM using nanoseconds. The lower its numbers are, the quicker it will be for the RAM to react to the things the computer requests of it.

The first number is the CAS latency. At its most basic form, it’s the number of clock cycles needed for the data requested by the PC’s memory controller to get availability for a data pin.

DDR3 has higher timing numbers compared to DDR2, while DDR4 has higher timing numbers compared to the former. Yet it still surpasses both in terms of speed. This seems suspect, but there is an explanation behind it, simply due to the fact that DDR4’s lowest speed is much higher compared to DDR3.

However, most people prefer capacity over RAM clock speed and latency. In most cases, the latter two are the least of the things you need to worry about when it comes to upgrading your PC.

3. ECC

The Error Correcting Code (ECC) RAM aims to detect and fix up the corruption of data. If you’re a general user, you won’t encounter this due to the fact that only servers use this to correct mission-critical data errors that can result in catastrophe. A good example of information like this includes personal or financial data used while in a database.

Remember, identity theft is a real problem in this day and age, with more than 17.6 million Americans experiencing it within the last year. So if you’re managing a server, it’s important to have ECC to reduce the vulnerabilities that hackers might exploit.

ECC-compatible RAM doesn’t find compatibility with most consumer-based motherboards and processors. If you aren’t a business that needs a server for its database, don’t bother with it.

In a world where smartphones have 4GB of RAM, anything below that is considered obsolete. Couple that with the fact most browsers take up lots of memory applications, you need to ensure that your computer has 4GB as its minimum RAM. This is only if you’re using it for general purposes since heavier tasks might require you to get something beefier.

Heavy users who need at least 60 tabs in their Google Chrome browser might need at least 8GB of RAM to stay functional. If you’re trying to edit images while rendering videos, you might need 16GB. It’s rare for people to need 32GB of RAM, but if you can afford it, you will benefit from the space and performance it offers.

How to Choose the Right RAM?

If you’re looking to replace your current RAM, don’t rush out and buy the latest DDR4 RAM in the market.

It might get you into some potential compatibility issues especially if your PC unit is several years old. There are other factors that you need to consider since it’s possible to get a sub-quality RAM that might break down.

As such, it’s important to check if the RAM is in the Qualified Vendors List. This is the list that states that the RAM underwent through testing to ensure it’s compatible with the motherboard you have.

Another great factor to consider is the manufacturer’s warranty. Some offer a lifetime warranty while increasing the voltage for free. RAM has the tendency to break down after several years, so it’s always great to get one from vendors that allow easy replacement.

Discover More Computer Guides Today!

What is RAM? RAM is one of the most complex yet easiest concepts to understand when it comes to your computer unit. If you think replacing your RAM will improve your unit’s performance, you need to ensure its compatibility first.

Follow this guide and take time since it helps things go smoothly before you even buy your next RAM sticks.

Are you confused on how to upgrade your RAM? We can help you find the best deals and connect it to your computer without problems. We have the expertise and experience that makes the entire process risk-free and fast.

What are you waiting for? Contact us today and we’ll be glad to help you.