Home : Hardware Terms : RAM Definition


Stands for "Random Access Memory" and is pronounced "ram." RAM is a common hardware component found in electronic devices, including desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. In computers, RAM may be installed as memory modules, such as DIMMs or (SO-DIMMs sodimm). In tablets and smartphones, RAM is typically integrated into the device and cannot be removed.

The amount of RAM in a device determines how much memory the operating system and open applications can use. When a device has sufficient RAM, several programs can run simultaneously without any slowdown. When a device uses close to 100% of the available RAM, memory must be swapped between applications, which may cause a noticeable slowdown. Therefore, adding RAM or buying a device with more RAM is one of the best ways to improve performance.

"RAM" and "memory" may be used interchangeably. For example, a computer with 16 GB of RAM has 16 gigabytes of memory. This is different than storage capacity, which refers to how much disk space the device's HDD or SSD provides for storing files.

System memory is considered "volatile" memory since it only stores data while a device is turned on. When the device is powered down, data stored in the RAM is erased. When the device is restarted, the operating system and applications load fresh data into the system memory. This is why restarting a computer often fixes problems.

Updated: June 21, 2019

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