One of the most important aspects to consider when looking for a new computer is probably the memory. In Computer memory, the storage space in the computer where data is processed and stored, making it one of the determining factors in how well your computer performs. In general, there are two types of computer memory: primary memory and secondary memory.
Primary memory is the computer memory that is directly accessed by the central processing unit (CPU). When you turn your computer on, the primary memory loads the operating system, user interface, and all other software utilities. Every application-specific task is carried out thanks to the interaction between the primary memory and the system processor. There are two types of primary memory: RAM and ROM.
RAM, or Random-Access Memory, is a volatile-type memory that stores data temporarily in specific memory slots. RAM allows the computer to read and write data near instantaneously, making it a very fast and responsive type of memory. The more RAM your computer has, the more data you can load, and the better your computer performs overall. However, the same principles that make it so fast are what makes it volatile; because the data is stored temporarily, when the computer is turned off, the data is lost. Within RAM, there is Dynamic RAM (DRAM), Static RAM (SRAM), Direct Rambus RAM (DRDRAM), Synchronous Dynamic RAM (SDRAM), Double Data Rate SDRAM (DDR SDRAM), and their respective successors.
ROM, or Read-Only Memory, is a non-volatile-type memory that retains all data in permanent memory slots. Because the data is permanently stored, no data is lost when the computer is turned off. Typically, ROM is unalterable, so it’s used to store firmware, which has little to no necessary updates or changes. However, recent advances in memory technology means that there are such things as Programmable ROM (PROM), Erasable Programmable ROM (EPROM), and Electrically Erasable Programmable ROM (EEPROM).
Secondary memory, as opposed to primary memory, is an external computer memory that is permanent. This is where data and programs are saved for longer periods of time. The data can be altered and changed, but they are “permanently” stored in secondary memory media. Secondary memory also tends to have much larger capacities compared to the computer’s primary memory. Hard Drive Disks (HDD), magnetic disks, magnetic tapes, Solid State Drives (SSDs), and USB memory drives are all examples of secondary memory.
Without primary memory, the CPU cannot access the necessary data fast enough for the user to use applications or programs smoothly. If the CPU had to access data from secondary memory like the hard drive, then the computer becomes so slow that it’s essentially useless. But, at the same time, primary memory is so limited in how much space it can have while still being quick and efficient, hence the need for slower but larger secondary memory. Next time you go shopping for a computer, think about what type of work you’ll be using it for— that will determine how much memory you need.
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