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What Is Random Access Memory?

Random Access Memory (also known as RAM) is a computer chip that acts as temporary data storage. It holds active and frequently used files. This allows the computer to retrieve them quickly, since it doesn’t have to sort through the larger hard drive just to find them.

However, Random Access Memory cannot store data for very long periods; in fact, all contents are purged once the power source is shut off. It must transfer the data to the hard drive or flash drive—which is done if the computer goes through the proper procedure for shutting down. When the computer is switched on again, the Random Access Memory will reload the data, such as the start-up programs and any files accessed by the user.

Random access memory comes in many forms. Most of them are sold in a “stick” form: a circuit board that is small, thin and elongated, and looks like a stick of gum. These random access memory cards are fit into the computer motherboard. As a general rule, the more random access memory a computer has, the faster and better its performance.

However, there is a limit to how much random access memory a motherboard can have, or even what type of chips it can accept. It is important to check if a computer supports dual-channel Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory (SDRAM); older units can only accept Single In-line Memory Modules (SIMMS) or Dual In-line Memory Modules (DIMMS). Given this, computer users may also have to upgrade the motherboard in order to get the newer, more efficient random access memory cards.

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