Common Questions about Memory

Volatile vs Non-Volatile

When talking about memory, it can be one of two things: volatile and non-volatile memory. Volatile memory loses the data it is storing when the computer is powered off. An example of volatile memory is DRAM. Anything not saved will be lost. Non-volatile memory keeps its data when the computer is turned off. If you wonder why all memory cannot be non-volatile memory, the answer is it is too expensive. A computer that runs on only non-volatile memory would be absurdly expensive. Volatile memory is cheap and affordable which allows for cheaper computers.

Memory vs. Disk Storage

A common mistake new computer user make is confusing what is and is not memory on a computer. Even though the hard drive is technically memory, it is more accurate to refer to it as storage. Memory has a much better association with RAM and cache. A more appropriate description of RAM and hard drive is primary memory and storage (or secondary storage).

How Memory is Used

When you open a program on your computer, that program is loaded from the computer’s hard drive and put into RAM. This allows the program to interact with the processor in a fast and efficient manner. Anything that you save on your computer is almost always sent to your hard drive for storage.

How Much RAM Should My Computer Have?

If you ever have tried to build a computer or attempted to buy a new computer, you probably have asked yourself this question. One reason for this is because the more RAM you have, the more expensive your computer will be. To answer this question, you must first determine how you will be using your computer. This means determining what type of programs you will be running and how many programs you might have open at any given time. One way of determining this is figuring out the recommended system requirements for the programs you will be running. If you are still unsure, here is a list of general recommendations for today’s computers.

Minimum: 2GB

Recommended: 4-6GB

Minimum: 8GB

Maximum amount of RAM for my computer?

The maximum amount of RAM that your computer can have is dependent on your motherboard and operating system. In general, motherboards will usually support either two or four memory sticks. Since a large amount of computer users are either Windows or macOS, we will go over these two systems


It is important to first determine if you are running a 32 or 64-bit version of Windows. A 32-bit system permits you up to 4 GB and a 64-bit system permits up to 128 GB.

Apple macOS computer

To determine how much RAM your mac holds, you must first determine the system overview and then look up how much RAM is supported for your mac.