Computer Memory Explained In Five Minutes

Computer Memory Explained In Five Minutes

The most cost-effective way to upgrade a PC is usually to swap out the RAM. If it’s been a while since you last purchased computer memory, the various options available can be a little confusing. This video from TED-Ed breaks down all the random access memory essentials that you need to know about.

This five-minute clip explains everything the layperson needs to know about the language of computer memory. It succinctly covers the basics in a way even the most computer illiterate person should be able to understand, without muddying the essentials with stuff that won’t affect them.

If you work in IT and are trying to get an SRAM or SSD upgrade approved, this clip could provide your luddite boss with the gentle nudge he needs.

[Via Gizmodo]


  • I disagree with, “The most cost-effective way to upgrade a PC is usually to swap out the RAM.”
    You would only swap out RAM if you do not have spare slots in your motherboard, which is sometimes an annoying problem. A new version of memory (e.g. lower latency) will not make a large difference to most users using the same motherboard. If you have enough memory and you are experiencing performance problems a slightly faster RAM will not help much. Adding RAM without checking if you are using all the RAM you have would be just a waste of money. If your machine is using virtual memory you will get a big boost by adding more RAM.

    If you want to upgrade the performance of a PC or laptop that has a spinning hard disk the most cost effective way is to swap out that disk for a SSD. I would even argue that if you are only occasionally running low on RAM, installing an SSD and using virtual memory would be cost effective even if not optimal.

    • I was just about to write this as well. Most average users have more than enough RAM to do what they need to do. An upgrade from Mechanical Hard drive to an SSD is by far the most cost effective upgrade. Unfortunately articles like this continue spreading this misinformation.

      I have so many people ask me if they should upgrade RAM, when the real issue is they have a 5200rpm HDD.

    • Woofwoof!
      you’ve said what quite literally means ‘peeling a hair’ i.e. needless dissection of things. Understand that the columnist is taking about ‘usual’ situations and the article is primarily intended for laymen aka dummies/idiots. So, I’d suggest that you stop woof-woof-ing about it and get on easy dude!
      Had you added your ‘wisdom’ in a more constructive manner, it would have been more welcome

      • Not sure what was not-constructive about the comments. I thought the advice was not the best way to spend money, and I gave reasons that people may find useful.

    • Fair points, but RAM is dirt cheap. SSD prices are coming down, but in most cases RAM is a more cost-effective upgrade. (Emphasis on ‘cost’.)

      • SSD is still a cheaper option for raw performance gains. Most laptops or desktops come with 4gigs of RAM standard (if not more), which for most average users is more than enough if they are not maxing out those 4gigs+ of RAM then any money spent on RAM is a literal waste of money, you gain nothing.

        Whilst an SSD and you can get a 240 gig SSD for $90 – $100 which is a guaranteed massive jump in performance if you are upgrading from a mechanical HDD. There is no comparison, the performance gained from a HDD to SSD per dollar blows any gains you would get from upgrading RAM (unless you are maxing out your current RAM usage, which in most cases is not happening).

        You will find the bottleneck in most systems is the HDD not RAM.

  • And please don’t install 64-bit Windows on a machine with 4GB or memory if you have the option of a 32-bit version. Programs will effectively have a lot more memory on a 32-bit 4GB RAM system even though windows will not address quite the whole 4GB. In a 64-bit program all references to memory take twice as much space, that is the bits of a program that tell the processor where to find the data, the data itself will take the same amount of space, but the overhead gets you.

    • You may have seen the same video on one of our sister sites (Gizmodo, Kotaku, etc.) This is the first time it’s appeared on Lifehacker.

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