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ACK!! I need more RAM!

Memory tends to be a confusing thing for some computer users. Memory and hard drives are different in design and purpose. Understanding the difference between the two is important in making decisions on what size and amount of each a computer user should have for his particular needs.

Differences Between Memory And A Hard Drive

A hard drive is like a filing cabinet. It is the storage unit for the operating system, programs and data files. It is a permanent storage device and manipulated to remove unused data and temporary files, and add or remove programs that populate the drive.

Memory is known as random access memory or RAM. RAM can be compared to a bulletin board hung above the filing cabinet. The operating system uses RAM for temporary storage and is used and expunged automatically. When a program or file is opened, the computer uses some of the RAM to display the contents. When accessing the Internet, RAM is also employed. A large amount of memory increases the number of programs, files and Internet windows that can be displayed without slowing down the system.

What Causes Slowdowns In A Computer?

RAM is necessary to cache streaming data. When watching a video, the memory is used to hold the data while the movie plays. If there is not sufficient caching space, the video may halt or stutter as the viewing program struggles to capture the data and broadcast simultaneously.

If the user is multi-tasking, the computer may be slow in its response time. Rather than an instantaneous opening of a new screen or a return to a previous screen, there may be a significant lag time. Too many processes may eventually lock up the system or reduce its speed so it appears to stop functioning. All available memory has been used and the tasks cannot be completed.

A program occasionally does not release the memory it has used, and the temporary files that remain occupied is called a memory leak. To correct this type of problem, shut down the computer and restart to return the memory to its original, unused state.

What Is The Connection Between RAM and Processor Speed?

The Central Processing Unit speed is the rate at which data can be processed. Since RAM is the vehicle through which data is sent to the CPU for processing, the more RAM available will increase the amount of data that can be processed at a given time. The speed of the CPU does not change, but the volume of data accessible is increased. This gives the appearance of an increase in computer speed.

How Much Memory Do I Need?

The amount of RAM needed to optimize a computer is based on the kinds of tasks the user requires of his machine. A person who reads email, does on-line banking and plays an occasional game of solitaire has a low requirement for RAM.

On the other hand, the user who streams videos while doing research, writing his results and composes PowerPoint presentation all at the same time will need a significant amount of memory to keep his computer running efficiently.

A gamer may also have high memory requirements, with memory to run adequately a game, as well as the additional necessity to share memory with an integrated video card on the motherboard. Using a dedicated video card with adequate memory will lessen the RAM requirements.

If your computer seems sluggish, slows when asked to perform multiple tasks or freezes, consider adding memory to increase the performance of your system.

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