Random access memory is used to store temporary but necessary information on a computer for quick access by open programs or applications. The data stored in RAM can be accessed randomly, meaning a computer does not need to search through large blocks of data to find what it needs. This targeted access makes it possible to run complex programs quickly and efficiently.
Random access memory stores information in a grid of memory cells. This grid allows a computer to access specific information by locating the row and column for the cell containing that information. This is unlike serial access memory. SAM has a series of memory cells that can only be accessed in order requiring a search through the entire block of information to find specific data. In essence, searching SAM for specific information is like searching for 3 seconds of a song on a full cassette tape by fast forwarding from the beginning. RAM is more like finding data on a large spreadsheet. If the column and row numbers are known, the information is easy to access. Because RAM is so easily accessed, it stores the information a computer needs to run open applications and programs. As programs demand the data, the computer can quickly find and supply it. RAM is short-term memory, and all information on RAM is lost when a computer is shut down. Essential data is stored on a hard drive and moved to RAM when a program or application is opened.