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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

What is RAM (Random Access Memory)?....Types of RAMs?

Random-access memory (RAM) is a form of temporary computer data storage.A type of computer memory that can be accessed randomly, that is, any byte of memory can be accessed without touching the preceding bytes.RAM is the most common type of memory found in computers and other devices, such as printers. It is a volatile memory storage, that is, data is lost when power is turned off.

Some other uses of RAM:-
In addition to serving as temporary storage and working space for the operating system and its applications, RAM is used in numerous other ways.

1) Virtual memory
Most modern operating systems employ a method of extending RAM capacity, known as "virtual memory". A portion of the computer's hard drive is set aside for a paging file or a scratch partition, and the combination of physical RAM and the paging file form the system's total memory. (For example, if a computer has 2 GB of RAM and a 1 GB page file, the operating system has 3 GB total memory available to it.) When the system runs low on physical memory, it can "swap" portions of RAM to the paging file to make room for new data, as well as to read previously swapped information back into RAM. Excessive use of this mechanism results in thrashing and generally hampers overall system performance, mainly because hard drives are far slower than RAM.

2) RAM disk
Software can "partition" a portion of a computer's RAM, allowing it to act as a much faster hard drive that is called a RAM disk. A RAM disk loses the stored data when the computer is shut down, unless memory is arranged to have a standby battery source.

3) Shadow RAM
Sometimes, the contents of a relatively slow ROM chip are copied to read/write memory to allow for shorter access times. The ROM chip is then disabled while the initialized memory locations are switched in on the same block of addresses (often write-protected). This process, sometimes called shadowing, is fairly common in both computers and embedded systems.As a common example, the BIOS in typical personal computers often has an option called “use shadow BIOS” or similar. When enabled, functions relying on data from the BIOS’s ROM will instead use DRAM locations (most can also toggle shadowing of video card ROM or other ROM sections). Depending on the system, this may not result in increased performance, and may cause
incompatibilities. For example, some hardware may be inaccessible to the operating system if shadow RAM is used. On some systems the benefit may be hypothetical because the BIOS is not used after booting in favor of direct hardware access. Free memory is reduced by the size of the shadowed ROMs.


Two most common types of RAM are:-

SRAM :- 
Static random access memory uses multiple transistors, typically four to six, for each memory cell but doesn't have a capacitor in each cell. It is used primarily for cache. It is made up of flip flops due to which no refresh cycle is needed, due to this SRAM is faster than DRAM. SRAM can give access times as low as 10 nanoseconds.Each bit in an SRAM is stored on four transistors that form two cross-coupled inverters. This storage cell has two stable states which are used to denote 0 and 1. Two additional access transistors serve to control the access to a storage cell during read and write operations. A typical SRAM uses six MOSFETs to store each memory bit.The most prominent use of SRAM is in the cache memory of processors where speed is very essential, and the low power consumption translates to less heat that needs to be dissipated. Even hard drives, optical drives, and other devices that needs cache memory or buffers use SRAM modules.

Dynamic random access memory has memory cells with a paired transistor and capacitor requiring constant refreshing. As DRAM requires constant refreshing, therefore these RAMs are slower than SRAMs. DRAM supports access times of about 60 nanoseconds. It requires more power. The advantage of DRAM is its structural simplicity: only one transistor and a capacitor are required per bit.Because of its lower price, DRAM has become the mainstream in computer main memory despite being slower and more power hungry compared to SRAM.


Other types of RAM are :-

Fast page mode dynamic random access memory was the original form of DRAM. It waits through the entire process of locating a bit of data by column and row and then reading the bit before it starts on the next bit. Maximum transfer rate to L2 cache is approximately 176 MBps.EDO DRAM: Extended data-out dynamic random access memory does not wait for all of the processing of the first bit before continuing to the next one. As soon as the address of the first bit is located, EDO DRAM begins looking for the next bit. It is about five percent faster than FPM. Maximum transfer rate to L2 cache is approximately 264 MBps.

Synchronous dynamic random access memory takes advantage of the burst mode concept to greatly improve performance. It does this by staying on the row containing the requested bit and moving rapidly through the columns, reading each bit as it goes. The idea is that most of the time the data needed by the CPU will be in sequence. SDRAM is about five percent faster than EDO RAM and is the most common form in desktops today. Maximum transfer rate to L2 cache is approximately 528 MBps.

Double data rate synchronous dynamic RAM is just like SDRAM except that is has higher bandwidth, meaning greater speed. Maximum transfer rate to L2 cache is approximately 1,064 MBps (for DDR SDRAM 133 MHZ).

Rambus dynamic random access memory is a radical departure from the previous DRAM architecture. Designed by Rambus, RDRAM uses a Rambus in-line memory module (RIMM), which is similar in size and pin configuration to a standard DIMM. What makes RDRAM so different is its use of a special high-speed data bus called the Rambus channel. RDRAM memory chips work in parallel to achieve a data rate of 800 MHz, or 1,600 MBps. Since they operate at such high speeds, they generate much more heat than other types of chips. To help dissipate the excess heat Rambus chips are fitted with a heat spreader, which looks like a long thin wafer. Just like there are smaller versions of DIMMs, there are also SO-RIMMs, designed for notebook computers.

Credit Card Memory:-
Credit card memory is a proprietary self-contained DRAM memory module that plugs into a special slot for use in notebook computers.

PCMCIA Memory Card:-
Another self-contained DRAM module for notebooks, cards of this type are not proprietary and should work with any notebook computer whose system bus matches the memory card's configuration.

CMOS RAM is a term for the small amount of memory used by your computer and some other devices to remember things like hard disk settings,sytems clock settings,etc. This memory uses a small battery to provide it with the power it needs to maintain the memory contents.

VideoRAM, also known as multiport dynamic random access memory (MPDRAM), is a type of RAM used specifically for video adapters or 3-D accelerators. The "multiport" part comes from the fact that VRAM normally has two independent access ports instead of one, allowing the CPU and graphics processor to access the RAM simultaneously. VRAM is located on the graphics card and comes in a variety of formats, many of which are proprietary. The amount of VRAM is a determining factor in the resolution and color depth of the display. VRAM is also used to hold graphics-specific information such as 3-D geometry data and texture maps. True multiport VRAM tends to be expensive, so today, many graphics cards use SGRAM (synchronous graphics RAM) instead. Performance is nearly the same, but SGRAM is cheaper.
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