9 Key Things to Know Before You Buy a New Computer

3. RAM isn’t just a type of goat

Source: Gskill.com

Before you buy a computer, know how much RAM you need | Source: Gskill.com

Just as the number of processor cores in a computer affects its speed and ability to multitask, the amount of Random Access Memory, or RAM, in a computer can affect just how much multitasking it can handle and how fast it will be. RAM is basically a small, extra-fast form of memory (like L1, L2, or L3 cache, but bigger and slower).

Basic: Nowadays most RAM is measured in gigabytes, and as is often the case, the more, the merrier. By having more RAM, your computer is able to keep more data close at hand, rather than having to go digging around through the slower hard drive for the information it needs. Of course, because RAM is smaller, there is only so much room for data. That’s why it’s useful to have more RAM if you want to keep multiple tasks going at the same time, and to be able to jump between them relatively quickly. If you’re also guilty of having too many web browser windows open at the same time, more RAM will make that a lot easier.

Advanced: There is, of course, a bit more to RAM than just the size of it. If you check out the specifics of the RAM in a computer and see that it’s DDR2-800, you can get a quick sense that this is a faster memory than one labeled DDR2-400, as that last number signifies how many millions of data transfers the RAM can make each second. RAM also has clock speeds, similar to processors, and the faster, the better. However, that speed is limited to the speed of your computer’s motherboard, so if you’re buying RAM separately from your computer, figure out the speed of your motherboard and don’t buy RAM that’s any faster — as it will probably cost you more for no reason — and don’t buy RAM any slower — as it will force your motherboard to run at the slower speed. One final number you can note is in the module name, where you may see something like PC3-8500, which indicates that the memory can transfer around 8,500MB per second — once again, the bigger, the better.

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