Computer Skills Course: Hard Drives and RAM





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Published on Apr 14, 2016

Free Computer Skills Course: Hard Drives, RAM, and Solid State Drives.


Let’s talk about Hard Drives and RAM. These are two very important parts of a computer that are often confused with one another, so let’s see if we can clarify the difference and understand the purpose of each one. To start in very general terms, Hard Drives let your computer hold more stuff, such as music, photos, videos, applications, etc. RAM, on the other hand, makes your computer work faster.

That’s the simple version. To understand in a bit more detail, let use an analogy. Let’s say your computer is a workshop, and the CPU, which is the Central Processing Unit, is the woodworker. To do any kind of work, he’s going to need tools and supplies, and he’s going to need some shelves to store all of those tools and supplies. The shelves, in a computer, are like the hard drive. They provide lots of space to hold all sorts of items that he’s going to want to use. In order to use them though, he has to take them off the shelf. He needs a place to put them, where they’ll be right at his fingertips for easy access and immediate use. He needs a workbench. This workbench, in the case of a computer is RAM, which stands for Random Access Memory. It provides a temporary place to store data while the CPU is working on it. So whenever you’re working on something on a computer, whether it’s editing a text document in a word processor or touching up a Photo in an image editor, that item is first loaded into RAM; it’s the computer’s workbench. If your computer doesn’t have very much RAM, it’s like having a very small workbench. If this is the case, it doesn’t matter how skilled the worker is, he won’t be able to work very quickly because he’ll constantly be backing trips back and forth from the shelves to get the items he needs to work. On the other hand, if your computer has a lot of RAM, it’s like having a great big workbench; the worker can put everything he needs on it and he won’t have to make any trips to the shelf. It’s important to know that items cannot be permanently stored in RAM, in fact RAM is wiped clean as soon as a computer is turned off, so that’s why it’s important to save your documents, which is the equivalent of taking them from the workbench and putting them back on the shelves for storage. The amount of RAM that you need will to work efficiently depends on the type of work that you’re doing. If you’re mostly just using a Word Processor, you don’t need a whole lot of RAM, but if you’re editing large images or editing high-resolution video, you’ll need quite a bit in order to work efficiently.

Now let’s take a look at some specific amounts of RAM and hard drive capacity, so that you have an idea of what is a little, what is a lot, and how this has changed over time.

If we look back to the mid 1990s, a typical computer had, on average, about 1 gigabyte of hard drive space and around 8 MB of RAM. 20 years later, those numbers had grown roughly 1000 fold. A typical computer in 2015 included about one terabyte of hard drive space, and about 8 gigabytes of ram. On top of that, the power of a typical CPU, the main processor chip in a computer, had also increased by about 1000 fold. Interestingly, one area that hasn’t increased by such a great margin is the SPEED of hard drives. Even though their storage has increased by 1000 fold, they can only read and write data about 30x faster today than they could 20 years ago. It’s actually this slow read and write speed of hard drives that most handicaps the performance of modern computers. Fortunately, there’s new technology that has emerged as a replacement for hard drives. It’s called a Solid State Drive, often abbreviated as SSD. They’re called Solid State because, unlike a hard drive, they have no moving parts. These solid state drives are able to read and write data about 10x faster than hard drives; and replacing your hard drive with an SSD will give your computer a massive performance boost.

That concludes this video. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and that you have a better understanding of Hard Drives, SSDs, and RAM.


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