Understanding RAM or SDRAM – a vital and indispensable component of any computing system.
By BlueWater Tech
What is RAM?
Random access memory or RAM is essentially a short-term memory. It is designed to facilitate frequently accessed information while running programs, software, and applications. RAM acts as a middle ground arrangement alongside the swift cache memory and the HDD or SSD. RAM retains functional currency only to accommodate and actively support data when running an OS, applications, and programs.
What happens when the RAM is filled completely and cannot accommodate any more data? It simply resorts to a seamless and automatic process, whereby, it goes and accesses the HDD or SSD, retrieves information, and overlays the earlier data with the fresh data. This is a non-stop process that the volatile RAM is programmed to perform on the fly. Further, RAM can retain data only as long as the power is on. Turn off the power supply and this short-term memory loses all stored data.
A RAM’s operating frequency or the speed at which it functions is expressed in Mega transfers per second, the standard unit for which is ” a million transfers per second or Mt/s”.
RAM is SDRAM
The DDR SDRAM you come across on specifications sheets is actually referring to the simplified expression – RAM. The initialism SDRAM (full form) stands for Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory.
Up until just before 2000, DDR SDRAM referred to the slow Single Data Rate or SDR. Around this time, the DDR standard surfaced on the scene and quickened things up, and doubled the pace as compared to the earlier module. So, in the present scenario, you normally encounter the much swifter ” Double Data Rate” or DDR SDRAM.
RAM is a volatile, swift short-term memory by nature. It is extremely useful and indispensable to a computing system without which a computer cannot do anything at all. Turn off the supply and lose all the documents, apps, and programs not saved.
The more the better
The more RAM you have the higher will be the efficiency of your computer. A higher RAM directly impacts processing speeds as the convenient middle ground resource significantly increases the rate at which information is accessed and shared between the CPU as well as the peripheral components of the system. With faster communication comes faster processor and system performance.
How much RAM is adequate?
An obvious indication that your RAM is filled up or inadequate is a slowing down of your system, as, the system begins to rely on the painstakingly sluggish process of accessing information from the HDD. Which, by function and design performs at a slow pace compared to the strategic RAM and the even faster cache memory. How much RAM a user needs depends on his academic or work profile and computing needs. It can be pretty subjective, but simple enough for at least students, executives, and small businesses. Any user trying to meet the bare computing essentials with activities like web browsing, preparing spreadsheets, listening to music, emailing and so on would be comfortable with 4GB of RAM. A more intense user, who is a habitual multitasker and engaged in activities like programming, intense productivity tasks, and high-end gaming should opt for 8 GB of RAM.
Beyond these levels, professionals, detail engineering, designing, video editing would need a wider provision of memory with a decent buffer. Such computer users would want to access a more-than-generous 16 GB. There is the 32 GB level too, which caters to much more intense and greater computing needs but barring very highly specialised requirements and applications, it is generally considered overkill as far as mainstream computing goes.
SDRAM vs SRAM
The two sound nearly alike. In addition, SRAM too is volatile and loses data in memory when the power is turned off. But the similarity between the two forms ends there. SRAM is an on chip memory and is faster but lower in capacity as compared to SDRAM. Of significant note is that SRAM is not a replacement for SDRAM and it is not encountered in general usage.
What is the difference between RAM and ROM?
As we have understood, RAM is a volatile and more active form of memory and plays a crucial role in the performance of a computing system by enhancing speed and performance. Read-only-memory or ROM is an active-passive form of memory that plays a necessary but limited role in the functioning of a computer. ROM is a form of non-volatile memory with limited responsibility. It is located on the motherboard and usually is associated with basic tasks associated with turning on the computer, booting up, and processes like running a connected printer. Unlike SDRAM, it’s memory is not lost if the power supply is turned off.
DDR and it’s progression
The term DDR stands for “Double Data Rate” which indicates, ” two data transfers per cycle”. Simply put, it is much faster than the earlier module – SDR. And the computer that you are using has a DDR-based memory module.
In the current, modern context, a DDR2 would prove to be slow and would likely not serve your purpose. The old version would, however, would be useful to accompany lesser configurations of an older system. The next step up is DDR3. DDR3, released in 2007, still enjoys currency among computers that have been in use for a few years. DDR3 chips have a similar construct in terms of pins but differ in terms of voltage needs and timings. The DDR3 is much faster than it’s predecessor and envelops a wide range of generations of computers. Besides, it is an economical option to the latest DDR4.
That brings us to the presently reigning generation of RAM – DDR4. The newest version which was introduced in 2014 has come to be the most popular and capable option for most users who have switched to this new generation of RAM. DDR4 operates at a much lower voltage making it energy efficient which also means it requires less demanding cooling solutions. It offers greater data transfer speeds, generally, providing a significant boost in overall system performance.
What about DDR5?
DDR5 has been much talked about for it’s superior energy savings and increased bandwidth which should provide a big boost to system performance. It is now, expected to be launched alongside the Intel Alder Lake CPUs. It may also adorn the eagerly awaited, yet to arrive Zen 4 chips by AMD. The frequencies, with DDR5, get a leap and read an impressive 4, 800 MHZ to 8, 400 MHZ. And, the memory capacity receives a major bump up to 128 GB over the 32 GB offered by DDR4. So, in all, DDR5 seems all set to provide a significant upscaling in performance to match the much talked about CPU architecture being readied for release by both lntel and AMD.
- Make sure that the motherboard can receive the RAM that you pick. A DDR3 RAM, for instance, with not be compatible with a motherboard designed for a DDR2, and so on.
- While purchasing a RAM chip, it is necessary to check the form factor. A smaller construct meant for a laptop will certainly not fit into a desktop system.
- Unless you are an extreme user or a professional, it would make sense to not delay your purchase till DDR5 hits the shelves, which is likely to be priced higher and will call for higher all-round system specs, raising the package price higher.
Can you run a computer without RAM?
Theoretically, maybe, but for all practical purposes, a construct missing a RAM would not get past the starting block – POST. And trying to run your computer RAM-less you would, at best, encounter a few beeps and an error message. So, the short answer is ” No, you cannot use your computer if it is missing RAM.