Main memory for PCs: everything you need to know about RAM with a market overview

Gigabyte B650M DS3H

Some users are still unclear about the topic of working memory. DDR5 RAM is now becoming the standard. It is even mandatory for the AMD AM5 socket. With Intel’s Socket 1700 it is provided, but not mandatory. Because there are also suitable mainboards that offer DDR4 RAM slots. We give you tips on which RAM is suitable for your existing or new PC or a planned CPU mainboard upgrade. We also clarify general questions about RAM: What is RAM anyway? What’s up with the clock values, latencies, designs and more? We have also prepared an overview of currently readily available DDR4 and DDR5 RAM bars, with a kit capacity of 16GB.

What exactly is RAM?

If you talk about RAM in a PC, you mean the main memory or main memory. This is the short-term memory of a PC, so to speak, which holds the data loaded from the hard drive or SSD as well as data that the system has created based on running programs for the CPU. RAM performs this task particularly quickly, which is the main difference to storage drives such as hard drives, SSDs, USB memory sticks, memory cards or – as the elderly will remember – floppy disks.

The abbreviation RAM stands for Random Access Memory, which literally means “memory with random access”. Although the word does not really describe the function, it had become so established early on that attempts at renaming failed.

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Storing data in RAM has nothing to do with coincidence. It would be more appropriate to speak of random access. With RAM, a program or processor can access the individual memory cells individually, i.e. according to free choice, and does not have to do this in sequences or in blocks.

However, the direct, addressed writing and reading of data is now also common with some non-volatile memory components and is therefore no longer a unique selling point of RAM.

The four vertically running components in the upper right half are the RAM slots, here on a Gigabyte B650M DS3H.
Source: gigabytes

A second criterion for defining RAM more precisely also almost always applies to the RAM in PCs, laptops and other devices – but only almost. What we mean is that the memory is “volatile”.

This means that the data will be lost as soon as the device in which the RAM resides is powered off. Because there are also types of RAM that still keep their data. But it’s never about the kind of memory that we call RAM in PCs or laptops.

RAM: The short-term memory of the PC

Nevertheless, the most important property of RAM in modern PCs or smartphones, tablets, laptops and other devices is the fact that it is used in the device used as a particularly fast memory so that the CPU can use the data with a minimal delay.

CPUs are only as powerful as they are today thanks to fast memory. Gaming is also only possible thanks to RAM. If the CPU had to access a hard drive in real time, for example, modern applications and games would be unthinkable. Graphics cards have their own RAM soldered in the form of chips so that the GPU can act particularly quickly and independently of the CPU.

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Our special is about the forms of RAM that can be built into computers or laptops, i.e. working memory in the form of a bar. We will not go into specific other types of RAM, regardless of whether it is a CPU cache or soldered RAM modules, for example in SoCs used in smartphones and tablets, or other types.