This is a quick break in the middle of our series about computer basics and making your computer fast and efficient, but it actually fits right in with that topic.
I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who knows that I am a “computer person” but has developed a few perceptions of their own. We were trying to play a game online together over a popular game website, and found ourselves unable to do so because he was unable to load the game.
Frustrated, he started complaining about the website. He’d told me the technical specifications (specs) on his laptop before, and while I couldn’t remember his RAM, I remembered his processor (CPU) being a little on the slow side. I asked him to jog my memory about the specs.
“Does your computer have a dual-core processor, or single?”
“Hmm… But it’s only like 1.6GHz, right?”
As I had thought, he confirmed that his CPU wasn’t exactly running at the speed of light. I remarked, “Yeah, I forgot that your processor is relatively slow.”
He then admitted that it was and mentioned several of the programs he had running, including a popular antivirus. Antivirus programs can strain limited resources, especially when you have real-time scanning on. When you include that atop an already slower processor and a more resource-heavy operating system (Windows 7) – it’s understandable how a computer could have issues.
After talking about how these programs on an already taxed processor could be causing issues, he proclaimed that he needed more RAM.
And this is where I was blown away…
After reiterating that his processor was already being pushed, implying that the problem lies in the processor and not necessarily the RAM, he disagreed.
“Nah, it is the RAM. At least, that’s what I was told when I bought it.“
I couldn’t believe that he was disagreeing with me in favor of what he was informed by a salesman.
Further confirming my suspicions, he remarked that he “only had 4GB of RAM”. Instead of this supporting the idea that more RAM would make a whole world of difference, this confirmed that it was his processor.
My computer has the exact same amount of RAM and did not share the same problems he was describing – because my processor’s speed is much faster.
However, that brought to my attention just how common this misinformed logic really is. Many people get the processor mixed up with the RAM and the RAM mixed up with the hard drive.
It’s extremely common that people think that their computer runs slow because they need more space on their hard drive. Or that more RAM would fix everything on their computer.
The reality is that hard drives, CPUs, and RAM all have different functions and purposes. They all work together and share some similar characteristics, but like most things in life – you must have balance.
You could (hypothetically) have 100GB of RAM in your computer. If you had a slow processor, all that extra RAM would ultimately be wasted.
Likewise, you could have a lightning-fast CPU but with not enough RAM, the computer would still be held back significantly.
Let’s say you have a top of the line processor – it’s super fast, quad-core, one of the most modern models available. You also have 10GB of RAM. Just an absurd amount. You can do everything with this computer! But you only have a 20GB hard drive.
Windows 7 64-bit version takes up 20GB. If you had a 20GB hard drive, you could have the operating system – and absolutely nothing else. You’d have the most awesome PC and you couldn’t do anything with it.
The point is, computer specifications should be balanced. Sure, you can lean a little to this side or that, but overall the numbers should be within a certain range of each other. You may get a little more out of your computer with a higher number on either end (than having a equal keel) but it probably won’t be what you’re hoping for.
Think of this for a moment – a hard drive is a long drawer, RAM is the hanging folders to organize documents, and your CPU is a secretary trying to file 100 documents away. Your documents that needed to be grouped together alphabetically and kept in order.
- Your secretary is fast, but you only have 6 hanging folders, not clearly marked.
- Your secretary is slow, but you have 26 hanging folders clearly marked in alphabetical order.
- Your secretary is fast and you have 26 hanging folders clearly marked in alphabetical order.
OK, that’s a little goofy – I admit it. But out of that scenario, which would you envision working the best?
A fast secretary with an inept filing system couldn’t do her job to the best of her ability. Her speed would be hindered by the lack of folders. In the same way, a fast CPU would be relatively inefficient without enough RAM to support it.
A slow secretary with a great filing system would be hindered by her own speed. She’d 27have the folders she needed to do the job well, she just couldn’t move fast enough. A slower CPU simply wouldn’t be as fast, even if supported by plenty of RAM
A fast secretary with a good filing system – would be fast and efficient. And there’s our answer:
A CPU can be fast, but only with enough RAM can it be efficient.
You simply can’t have one without the other.