Even with the unprecedented growth of computer literacy in the country, there have been series of confusion by Personal Computer (PC) users on issues regarding its performance.
As a result of poor or lack of knowledge, many PC users have made wrong decisions on their PC which has caused lots of damages, leading to the lost of valuable data and or damage to the PC.
One major confusion is on the performance of the Random Access Memory (RAM) which many see as the speed determinant of the PC.
Research on PC performance and processing speed has revealed that while the availability of the RAM and its size has a great effect on the performance of your PC, technically speaking, the RAM memory does not have any kind of influence on the processor performance of the computer. That is to say, the RAM memory does not have the power of making the computer processor work faster. It does not increase the processing performance of the processor.
The question now comes to mind; how does the RAM memory influence the computer performance? What is the secret behind the RAM’s function?
Random Access Memory (RAM) is the place in a computer where the operating system, application programs, and data in current use are kept so that they can quickly be reached by the computer’s processor.
RAM is much faster to read from and write to than the other kinds of storage in a computer; the hard disk, floppy disk, and CD-ROM.
However, the data in RAM stays there only as long as your computer is running. When you turn the computer off, RAM loses its data. When you turn your computer on again, your operating system and other files are once again loaded into RAM, usually from your hard disk.
When your PC is booting, files from the operating system which are needed for the system to run are being loaded into the RAM from the computer Hard disk.
The computer processor searches for instructions that are stored in the RAM memory of the computer to be executed. It has quicker access to the data. The processor then uses the instructions to execute the command by the user.
If the RAM memory is not enough to accommodate the amount of data to be loaded from the hard disk for all the information the CPU needs, the computer has to set up what’s known as a virtual memory file. In so doing, the CPU reserves space on the hard disk to simulate additional RAM. This process slows the system down.
So, when the RAM memory is large, more instructions will fit into that memory and, therefore, bigger programs can be loaded at once, as operating systems work with the multitask concept, where we can run more than one program at once. For example, a word processor and a spreadsheet can be opened or loaded at the same time in the RAM memory.
If you try to load a program and it does not “fit” in, either because the RAM memory size installed in the computer is too small or because it is already too full, the operating system would show a message like “Insufficient Memory.”
However, with the current technology today, computer processor creates a file in the hard disk called swap file that is used to store RAM memory data. So, if you attempt to load a program that does not fit in the RAM, the operating system sends to the swap file parts of programs that are presently stored in the RAM memory but are not being accessed. This will free the space in the RAM memory and allow the program to be loaded.
When you need to access a part of the program that the system has been stored in the hard disk, the opposite process happens: the system stores in the disk parts of memory that are not in use at the time and transfers the original memory content back.
The problem is that the hard disk is a mechanical system, and not an electronic one. This means that the data transfer between the hard disk and the RAM memory is much slower than the data transfer between the processor and the RAM memory. This makes the system slower when your installed RAM is low in size.[quote font=”georgia” font_size=”22″ font_style=”italic” align=”right” bgcolor=”#” color=”#” bcolor=”#” arrow=”yes”]If the RAM memory is not enough to accommodate the amount of data to be loaded from the hard disk for all the information the CPU needs, the computer has to set up what’s known as a virtual memory file. In so doing, the CPU reserves space on the hard disk to simulate additional RAM. This process slows the system down.[/quote]
When we install more RAM memory in the computer, the probability of “running out” of RAM memory and having the necessity to make a change with the hard disk swap file is smaller and, therefore, you notice that the computer is faster than before.
To have a clearer idea, suppose your computer has 64 MB of RAM memory and all the programs that are loaded (open) at the same time use 100 MB. This means that the system is using the virtual memory feature, making changes with the hard disk. However, if that same computer had 128 MB, it would not be necessary to make any changes with the hard disk (with the same programs loaded), making the computer faster.
However, while the RAM memory helps to improve your computer’s performance, the major determinant of your computer speed is the Central Processing Unit (CPU). Your CPU carries out all instructions and general processes in the computer.
If your CPU is slow or bad, no matter the size of your RAM memory, your PC will definitely be slow. If you discover that your PC now performs slower than it used to, don’t be quick to upgrade the RAM. It is best you try to find out the cause of the slowness, which could be caused by other factors other than the RAM. In our next series, we shall examine some tips to enhance the speed of you PC.