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Computer Memory - Computer Memory Module

Computer Memory and Speed

Computer memory is the single hardware component in your computer most likely to create a performance bottleneck. With advertising emphasis being placed upon processor (CPU) speed, it is also the most overlooked. If your PC contains an Intel® Pentium® 4, AMD Athlon™ XP, or Motorola PowerPC™ G4 (Apple Mac) processor, you have sufficient computing speed for most of today’s computing requirements. Hardcore gamers, of course, demand maximum speed, often overclocking both CPU and memory. For the rest of us, insufficient computer memory or improperly functioning computer software are usually the responsible culprits when our computers become slow.

How Is Computer Memory Used?

Computer memory, for those not familiar with the inner workings of a personal computer, is the computer hardware component within which in-use programs and data reside while the computer is running. Technically referred to as Random Access Memory, or RAM, computer memory is used by the CPU (Central Processing Unit — the “brain” of your PC) as a repository from which information can be fetched and into which results can be stored.

When you turn on your computer, information is loaded from its permanent data storage location on your hard drive into RAM so that it can be accessed by the CPU. The CPU cannot “talk” directly to the hard drive due to the tremendous difference in speed that exists between these two components. Were this allowed to occur, your computer would be incredibly slow. In terms of speed comparisons, think of your CPU as a racehorse, your computer memory as the hare, and your hard drive as the tortoise.

Information is moved from your hard drive to RAM in relatively large blocks based upon requests made by running programs (applications or the operating system). The CPU, under program direction, then selects specific information it needs from what has been loaded into computer memory. Data fetching circuitry in the modern CPU is designed around “prefetch algorithms” — complex mathematical constructs which attempt to predict or anticipate what information the CPU will need next. Prefetch of data greatly enhances processing efficiency. (For sake of simplicity, I have deliberately excluded discussion of memory caching, an integral part of data prefetching and memory-to-CPU transfer, from this discussion.)

Computer Memory and Performance

Sufficient computer memory is essential for optimal performance of your computer. When insufficient memory is available for a particular task, the operating system will swap one or more tasks of lower priority to your hard drive, temporarily deactivating them to make more room available in memory for the higher priority task. Task swapping or memory swapping (The two terms are used interchangeably.) is a routine function of all operating systems.

When insufficient memory exists to perform essential tasks, the number of memory swaps performed by the operating system increases dramatically, leading to serious performance problems. (Remember from our discussion above that transfers between RAM and the hard drive are slow in comparison to transfers between memory and CPU; this means that memory swapping is a very inefficient activity.) Furthermore, some operating systems cannot handle a large volume of memory swaps properly, leading to effects such as video display anomalies (abnormalities or glitches) or even system crashes. I have personally observed this phenomenon in Microsoft® Windows® operating systems; Windows XP is still not perfect, but is much better at dealing with memory issues than are older Windows operating systems.

Find the Right Computer Memory Module

Obtaining the right computer memory module for your computer system is even more important than having enough memory. Cheap generic computer memory may not be stable (resulting in operating system crashes or in unusual behavior that may be difficult to diagnose, thereby costing you both time and money), while incorrect or mismatched RAM can create significant performance problems and may even result in hardware damage or irreparable harm to the computer memory module itself.

How do you find the right computer memory module? There are several excellent providers of computer memory, but only one manufacturer combines performance, reliability, discount pricing, excellent customer service, fast, free shipping for internet purchase, and an easy-to-use Memory Advisor™ tool to assist you in locating the exact memory you need for your computer. We exclusively use memory by Crucial Technology, a division of Micron Technology, for all our system building and system upgrades because we have found it to be well-priced and highly reliable. In fact, we have never experienced any problem with Crucial memory. For this reason, Crucial Technology is a Ten Spider Enterprises Recommended Merchant. Crucial will help you buy RAM memory, laptop ram memory, flash memory and even camera digital memory.

Authored by Kenneth L. Anderson.  Original article published 19 October 2003, updated 29 July 2006.

Follow links to the right to learn more about which computer memory module is right for your computer as well as laptop ram memory and random access memory suppliers. At the left margin, Related Links address topics of interest pertaining to computer hardware components, computer network hardware and other computer and internet resources. View the Computer & Internet SiteMap for a complete list of computer and internet-related topics.

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