Computer RAM or Random Access Memory is a computer system's temporary storage area. Computer RAM is often simply referred to as memory, system memory or computer memory. All data in the computer RAM can be randomly accessed by the computer without going through the entire RAM; thus, its name. This makes RAM very different from SAM or Serial Access Memory which requires data to be read in a certain order before you can get to the one you want. A classic example of SAM storage devices are cassette and video tapes.
Because data and information are only temporarily stored in the computer RAM, it is considered to be a volatile storage device as opposed to non-volatile storage hardware like hard disk drives, which can store and safeguard data for years even in a dormant state and without any electrical power. All data in the computer RAM is removed and lost once the computer is turned off.
The computer uses RAM to store data that it needs immediate access to. Date and information typically parked in RAM are those that are required to run open applications and software programs. Data in computer RAM can be retrieved by the computer CPU at high speeds.
RAM speed is expressed in megahertz (MHz). A 1033MHz RAM module can send and receive values faster than RAM modules of 800 MHz.
If you open too many programs your computer, perform too many tasks simultaneously, or run draining applications like PC games and video-editing software, you will likely run out of RAM. When this happens, the computer will use the hard disk drive to temporarily store extra data. This is called "swapping." Swapping will result in a significant drop on your computer's performance since data transfer rates between the hard drive and CPU are not blazing fast like those between the CPU and RAM.
With a large RAM, computers will be able to perform more tasks and at a faster pace too since the CPU has ready access to more data and information. It is highly recommended for modern computers to come equipped with at least 1GB of RAM. For high-performance workstations like gaming PCs, at least 2GB of RAM is advisable.
You can add more RAM to your computer by plugging in more RAM modules or memory sticks on your motherboard. Some motherboards can accommodate only two sticks while others can have as many as four memory sticks. You need to check your motherboard's layout to determine the number of RAM modules that it can support.