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The 2 Different Types of RAM in Computers – Each One Explained in Plain English

types of RAM

The 2 Different Types of RAM in Computers – Each One Explained in Plain English

Computers would not function without the types of RAM in use today. The memory in a computer helps to actually load assets and resources for the processor, or brain, of the computer to actually use it.

While you might think memory isn’t that important, it is a vital component. RAM is one of the crucial components of a computer.

Now, RAM has been around since the computer. As you can imagine, there have been many different types of memory to be used by computers over the years.

This guide will focus on two of the main types, as well as some examples of each. Things will be kept fairly straight to the point. Loading you up with jargon and tech speak isn’t the goal. Instead, it is to provide a broad overview of one of the crucial components of a computer.

What Is RAM?

RAM is short for Random Access Memory. It streams resources and information from your storage, like a hard drive or SSD. Information stays in the RAM until the CPU, or central processing unit calls on it for use. Anytime you see something on the screen on your desktop or tablet, that is information in the RAM.

RAM is one of the central components of what makes a computer work. There are two different types of RAM that are in common use today.

How Does a Computer Use RAM?

Computers have three central pipelines to use information and resources. Information is kept in storage, like your hard drive or a flash drive, until it is needed. Once needed, it is placed inside the RAM, sort of like pulling a tool out of a toolbox.

The RAM of your computer, smartphone, or what have you, is in constant use. Things like the operating system are kept inside the RAM. Other data like documents, images, and videos are pulled out of storage and temporarily placed in the memory when needed.

1. Static RAM (SRAM)

Types of RAM
RAM is how a processor interacts with data in storage

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Static RAM is one of the primary types of RAM in common use today. As the name implies, SRAM isn’t up for changing around a whole lot. It is faster than dynamic RAM, mostly due to things never needing to update things.

You’ll find it more commonly directly on the motherboard or as part of a CPU. SRAM isn’t meant to stream data from your hard drive to your processor. Instead, it is used to provide common instructions to the actual hardware components.

What Makes it Usable?

SRAM is the fastest type of RAM in common use. As such, it allows for instructions to be passed to the processor in no time at all. The different components which make up a computer all have their own specific tasks. A processor, for example, is going to have rote sets of instructions it uses for addressing registers.

SRAM is complex and expensive to design. As such, this memory type is meant for critical tasks on the computer. You won’t be using it to stream Netflix, but your computer will be using it the entire time for distributing power and data to the processor.

Some Common Examples of SRAM

All processors have something called a cache. This can vary in size, but you’ll find caches like L2 and L3 listed on the specs of a new laptop or desktop. While the name is different, this is just SRAM in usage.

The bandwidth provided by an L2 or L3 cache allows the processor to make quick decisions. Since it is faster in every known metric, SRAM serves well as the CPU cache.

SRAM sees usage in specialized computers as well, like medical equipment. The state of the data isn’t going to be constantly changing when using something like a computerized blood pressure monitor. Using SRAM allows a device to do its task quickly since time is of the essence.

2. Dynamic RAM (DRAM)

Dynamic RAM is chaos in silicon, essentially. DRAM is the other primary type of RAM. Data is constantly changing when used by a computer. It is slower than its static counterpart, but it is far more flexible in what it can do.

It is far faster than any other interface a user can interact with. Even older types of DRAM are leagues faster than something like the SATA protocol used by your hard drive. You’ll see this in everything, however. Your phone has DRAM. Things like laptops, desktops, and even gaming consoles have it.

As such, it is what most folks think of when they hear the word RAM.

What Makes it Usable?

Dynamic RAM is what sends the data to a processor to actually be used. Every single file you open, app you launch, and so forth, is going to end up in the RAM. Now, this is an oversimplification of the process itself. But you have data stored on a hard drive, you click it, and then it goes to the RAM.

Simply put, a computer wouldn’t be of much use without DRAM to load up the tasks a user might need. It is one of the crucial components of a computer and works in conjunction with the other type of RAM.

DRAM is far lower in cost than SRAM, so it crops up all over the place for a variety of components.

Some Common Examples of DRAM

Dynamic RAM is all over the place. Since it is a simpler and cheaper design than SRAM, manufacturers can use it for a variety of tasks. The VRAM, or Video RAM, of a graphics card on a console, is dynamic RAM. This streams things like textures and other visual assets at a far faster rate than a processor.

You’ll also find DRAM in usage as RAM sticks on your laptop or desktop. DDR4 and DDR5 RAM modules are just DRAM sticks you can slot into your motherboard. DRAM is one of the cheapest upgrades you can make to a laptop or desktop as well.

Believe it or not, most users could get on just fine with a computer for five years or more. Where they’ll eventually start to see performance issues is in the increased RAM costs of newer applications.

If there is more addressable RAM present for the computer, the age of the CPU and other components might not be noticed.

Why Use One Type Over Another?

Types of RAM
RAM is a crucial component of any modern computer.

You wouldn’t necessarily pick one type of RAM over another. The different types of RAM are crucial to any computer, and as such it will often use both. Now, you can’t go around upgrading things like the caches on your CPU. More often than not, you’d just replace the CPU entirely.

If you’re finding your PC is sluggish, however, it might be worth looking at upgrading the RAM itself. Larger pools of DRAM to pull from mean your computer isn’t going to be quite so sluggish when you’re using it.

As with any component of a computer, it is mission-critical for both types to be present. Modern computers are fast devices, and that’s thanks to the clever usage of RAM to help provide the throughput needed for a user’s needs.

Closing Thoughts

Hopefully, this guide has left you better armed when thinking about RAM and how it is used. You don’t need to be a tech wizard to know the components of your computer.

That said, the different types of RAM are important and vital for the operation of any computer. If you don’t mind a little homework, you can check out the specs of any device you use.

When looking at the specs, look for the RAM it might have on board. You can do this with your TV, Roku, smartphone, or whatever else is readily available. You will quickly see how ubiquitous and important RAM is for the function of any device you might come across.

Both types of RAM are even present on new cars, as those have their own operating systems and assets to use.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does every computer need RAM?

If the computer has a processor, it needs RAM to function.

Is VRAM static RAM?

No, it is dynamic RAM as visual assets are constantly changing.

Is RAM faster than a SSD?

DDR5 RAM is faster than a NVMe SSD.

Should I upgrade the RAM of my computer?

If it is acting sluggish, you certainly can. Make sure to check your computer’s specs to see what the maximum supported RAM is, however.

Can I upgrade the caches on my CPU?

Not really, upgrades typically are just buying a new CPU and motherboard for desktop builders.

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