We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more

What is RAM?

RAM is such an crucial component when selecting your next PC, laptop or phone but do you really know what it does and why it's a major factor in performance.

what is ram - corsair vengeance rgb ram kit

What is RAM? Random-access memory, more commonly referred to as RAM, is a major component in any laptop, PC or smartphone you’ve owned. It’s short-term memory that is vital for performing rapid processes that would otherwise take far longer if general storage was required. 

RAM plays a big part in gaming, applications and general operating system tasks. It’s even been the subject of a popular meme which suggests that if your laptop or PC isn’t running too well, you could simply download some more (this isn’t the case FYI). Some of the best laptops on the market will aways ensure you have the right type and amount of RAM, so let’s take a more detailed look at why it’s such an important factor when purchasing your next laptop, PC, or phone.

what is ram - a closeup of a unit of ram

What does RAM do exactly?

RAM, as we’ve already alluded to, is short-term memory within your computer hardware that is designed to help execute tasks quickly and efficiently. Its main purpose is to store memory for tasks you might need at a moment’s notice and stand by, ready to communicate with the necessary hardware when called upon such as the CPU or GPU.

As an example, RAM is called upon when you play games on a laptop or PC. It stores files from the game that it believes you may need and is waiting patiently to be called into action. The moment you trigger an event in relation to the files or processes stored within the RAM, it jumps into action and completes the event as quickly as possible. 

Alternatively, we would have to rely on standard mechanical hard drives or SSDs to handle these requests and their clock speeds simply aren’t quick enough to match that of RAM. Once a program is closed, the RAM will drop any memory or processes related to it in order to free up more space for other applications. what is ram - a corsair vengeance ram kit sitting on a desktop fixed into a motherboard with various small tools around it

How much RAM do we need?

This is a fantastic question but one with an answer that changes depending on your needs or intentions. Gaming laptops and PCs will naturally need more RAM as games are heavily reliant on this memory solution. It’s widely accepted that 16GB-32GB is the sweet spot for gaming although you could probably get by with as little as 8GB in a cheaper laptop.

For general everyday use like watching Netflix and browsing the web, you can get away with as little as 4GB, but 8GB would be ideal due to the way that some chromium based browsers can hoard RAM like it’s super limited resource.

When it comes to smartphones, it’s oddly similar to that of everyday use with a laptop or PC with 6GB-8GB being the ideal number.