RAM for Laptops: This is How Volatile Storage Works

RAM for laptopsRAM for laptops or any computing device is also known as memory; system memory; primary memory; internal memory; and main memory.

RAM (Random Access Memory) is a type of physical hardware inside a computer that temporarily stores and retrieves data. It serves as the computer’s working memory.

By storing information and applications that are actively being used, like the operating system (OS). The CPU (Central Processing Unit) can access them quickly. This allows the laptop to perform basic functions and everyday tasks, efficiently.

Generally, the more RAM you have. The more information your laptop can work on at the same time. The result is usually a dramatic increase in total system performance.

How Does RAM for Laptops Work?

Running many programs at once requires a lot of memory. RAM is like your desk. The more surface area  your desk has. The more space you have for papers and folders.

And because those papers and folders are right out in front of you. You’re able to access them quickly. Your storage drive is like a filing cabinet where you can permanently store your projects for safekeeping.

The storage drive-typically a hard disk drive (HDD) or solid-state drive (SDD)-holds the OS until power to the laptop is turned on. The CPU loads the OS into RAM. Along with all the data the laptop is actively using.


How Much RAM Do I Need?

The amount of RAM you need on your laptop depends entirely on what you plan to use your laptop for.

  • A system that’s lightweight on hardware and software components like a Chromebook can survive with 2 GB since all you’ll do is surf the web.
  • For multitasking on a mainstream laptop. 4 GB of RAM provides a good amount of temporary storage.
  • Gaming and other graphics intensive work like video editing requires enough RAM to support smooth gameplay, so figure between 8 and 16 GB.

A great way to find out how much RAM you need is to look at the minimum system requirements for the programs you use most often.


Volatile Storage

Once the laptop or computing device is turned off. All the information that was saved in RAM is lost. That’s why none of your program files are still open when you power your laptop back on.

One-way laptops and other systems get around this is with the “hibernation” or “Sleep” mode. This function copies the contents in RAM to the hard drive when the system shuts down. And copies it back to RAM when the system boots up.


How Does RAM for Laptops Differ from the Hard Drive?

ROM (read-only memory) and the hard drives are types of non-volatile storage. Data is held permanently, even if power is turned off to the system.

RAM provides quicker read and write access than the time it would take to complete the same action directly off a hard drive. This is because of the different way both forms of storage save and retrieve data.

Hard drives read and write data in a predetermined order, which makes it slower because of the time it takes to find and arrange the information in the order it was saved.

RAM, on the other hand, can access data “randomly” instead of sequentially. Making retrieving specific pieces of information is much faster.


Memory Modules

These physical devices are often referred to as the memory stick, memory module, or a stick of RAM. It’s a narrow-printed circuit board that looks like a short ruler and attaches to a connector on the motherboard.

The bottom has one or more notches to help guide the memory module into place on the motherboard for perfect installation. It is lined with numerous, usually brass colored connectors.

The slots on the motherboard can be found by looking for small hinges that lock the RAM stick in place. They are located on either side of the similar-sized slot on the motherboard.

The three, main memory circuit board types are: DIMMs (dual in-line memory modules); RIMM (Rambus in-line memory modules); and SIMMs (single in-line memory modules). Most motherboards use DIMMs. (There’s also SO-DIMM, and SO-RIMM.)

Memory modules come in various capacities ranging from 256 MB, 512 MB, 1 GB, 2 GB, 4 GB, 8 GB, 16 GB and 32 GB sizes. Each motherboard only supports a certain range of RAM. And certain sizes of modules can only be installed in certain slots.


Two Types of RAM for Laptops

The two types of volatile RAM are static RAM (SRAM), and dynamic RAM (DRAM). SRAM is faster. But more expensive.

Most PCs use DRAM as the main memory. It stores each bit of data in a separate capacitor within the integrated circuit. Charged or discharged.

These two states represent either a 0 or 1. Every few milliseconds an electrical charge refreshes the storage cells to make up for leaks in the capacitor-which makes DRAM dynamic.

SRAM retains data bits in its memory as long as there’s power supplied. SRAM doesn’t have to be periodically refreshed.


Virtual Memory

RAM is short term storage for quick access of data. When the capacity is maxed out, it borrows space from the hard drive in what is called virtual memory.

Virtual Memory is a feature that sets aside hard disk space for use as RAM when the capacity in normal RAM is used up.

While it increases overall available memory for applications and other work. It slows down system performance because, once again, the hard drive is slower than RAM.



RAM for laptops started out having different Clock Speed from CPUs. As processors became more powerful, however, RAM couldn’t keep with requests for data from the CPU.

In the early 90s RAM Clock Speeds became synchronized with CPUs with the introduction of synchronous dynamic random-access memory. But SDRAM quickly reached its limits since it could only transfer data at a single rate.

The year 2000 saw the development of Double Data Rate Random Access memory, or DDR RAM. It could move data twice in one clock cycle. Since then, DDRAM has evolved through DDR2 DDR3 and DDR4 with each generation increasing data throughput speeds and reducing power use.

Each innovation handles data in larger batches, making new iteration unable to be backward compatible.


Troubleshooting RAM for Laptops

If your laptop becomes slow or unresponsive. A memory upgrade is an easy and cost-effective way to improve performance.

Here’s everything  you need to trouble shoot RAM issues.

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