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The terms RAM and Memory Module are occasionally used interchangeably, but in fact they're two different ways of looking at computer memory.

I see text talking about RAM but it also talks about a "memory module". I know what RAM is,but what is a memory module?

RAM is, of course, the Random Access Memory in your computer; the memory in which programs and data reside when they're actually in use and running.

Memory modules are typically ... the memory in which programs and data reside when they're actually in use and running.

OK, so they're the same thing, only different. And since that doesn't help at all, let me explain with a picture or two.

Memory modules are nothing more than the physical cards on which one or more RAM chips reside.

Portion of a RAM Memory Module
Portion of a RAM Memory Module

If you were to open your computer, you would likely find one or more memory modules inserted into slots similar to those colored red and yellow near the top of this picture:

"What you might actually have or how much your computer will actually support depends on the specific motherboard installed."

Computer Motherboard
© Bedo | Dreamstime.com

As you can see there are typically multiple slots for memory modules.

Your computer might have, for example, 2 gigabytes of RAM, but that could consist of a single 2 gigabyte module, two 1 gigabyte modules, or perhaps 4 - 512 megabyte modules. What you might actually have or how much your computer will actually support depends on the specific motherboard installed.

In addition, there are different types of memory modules, varying by both connectivity (Single and Dual Inline Memory Modules, or SIMMs and DIMMs) as well as specific size and capacity. Again, the type of memory module used on your computer is determined by the type of memory module used by the motherboard.

As always, if your computer has the capacity for it, adding RAM, by adding memory modules or replacing memory modules with modules of greater capacity, remains one of the easiest and most effective ways to speed up Windows.

Start by checking with your computer's manufacturer to see what your machine's capacity is, and what types of memory modules might be required.

Article C3429 - June 29, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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