RAM : Computer Hardware Buyers’ Glossary

RAM (Random Access Memory). The computer’s high speed memory. Its contents are lost when you turn off the power or if there is a momentary power failure. This is why every 10 minutes or so you save you work to the hard disk, which retains its information even when the power is off. The more RAM, the more programs you can run at once, and the faster your machine runs. 16 to 32 Megabytes of RAM is adequate for running Windows-95. 256 Megabytes is needed for Windows 2000. 4 GB for Windows 7.

Most memory sold now-a-days does not have even error detection logic, much less error correction ( ECC (Error Correcting Code)). When you get an error, the program continues, but with wrong information. This may not be all that important if you are just playing a game, but it could be crucial if you are doing an income tax return. Parity memory is a very simple form of error detection without correction. Because of alpha particle emissions, memory can be expected to make errors every so often, even when it is functioning perfectly.

To upgrade RAM, you must check the motherboard manual too see what kinds and combinations of memory it can take. If you have no manual, try the website of the motherboard or computer manufacturer. You could even ask the vendor who sold you the computer, but that information is usually not trustworthy. You can also try the Kingston memory configurator. The catch is it only list RAM for which Kingston makes a replacement part. Before you shop you need to know if the memory is:

The easiest way to handle this is to buy the RAM and motherboard from the same source and leave it up to them to ensure they match, or look in the motherboard specs for the list of vendors of compatible vendors and models of RAM and CPU (Central Processing Unit) combinations.

I have tended to order the options with the option popular in previous years first and in more recent years last. In other words the types mentioned last are the latest and greatest.

Most new machines use DDR RAM, value machines SDRAM and premium machines RDRAM (Rambus Dynamic Random Access Memory).

New machines tend to come configured with too little RAM for that class of machine in order to shave the advertised price. Nearly always you should buy the offered RAM upgrade to double the available RAM. You should be thinking of 4-16 Gig to start. The other advantage of buying up front in the RAM type may not always be easily available.

Newegg.ca: online Canadian retailer
Newegg.com: online US retailer
TigerDirect: Canadian retailer
TigerDirect: US retailer

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