A computer needs several things to run correctly. The central part is the motherboard, which connects all other parts of your computer. Next in line is the computer’s central processing unit (CPU), which takes all inputs and provides the corresponding output.
CPU, in turn, needs to lay down all the information it needs to process somewhere. It also requires a place to store the results of its work. That place is commonly known as random access memory or RAM. Without a CPU, a motherboard, and RAM, your computer is practically non-existing. Therefore, your computer does need RAM.
RAM Is Essential for Your Computer
Ever since computers appeared, they needed some sort of RAM to operate. Although there are theoretical ways to make a computer work without RAM, in practice, you wouldn’t have much use of such a construct at all.
If you powered up a computer without RAM, it wouldn’t move past the POST screen (Power-On Self-Test). If you’ve experienced a faulty RAM module or a bad connection on the motherboard’s RAM slots, the corresponding error would appear on the screen. Several beeps coming out of your computer case would accompany it. This way, your computer would tell you that it lacks RAM and that it can’t boot up.
Sometimes, your installed RAM may not be sufficient for the task at hand. That’s why computers can take advantage of ample space you have on your hard disk drives, whether it’s a standard HDD or a much faster SDD.
As you use up your RAM, you might notice that your computer starts to slow down. That’s because a portion of your hard disk now stores parts of RAM’s registers, allowing it to keep up with the demand. The slowing of the system comes from the fact that your hard disk runs significantly slower than RAM.
So to answer the question from the title, no, you can’t run a computer without RAM.
Types of RAM
Modern desktop computers use DDR4 RAM. Released in 2014, DDR4 superseded DDR3, which has been around since 2007. DDR RAM’s full name is DDR SDRAM. DDR stands for “Double Data Rate,” while SDRAM is an acronym for “Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory.”
Before 2000, when first DDR modules appeared (basically DDR1, although they’re called just DDR), computers used “Single Data Rate” (SDR) modules, commonly known as SDRAM. These memory modules worked almost at half the speed of comparable DDR modules.
One more thing to notice when talking about RAM is the memory’s operating frequency measured in transfers per second. Since recent memories are quite fast, a standard unit is one million transfers per second, or mega-transfers per second (MT/s).
DDR4 memory modules start at 1,600 MT/s and go all the way up to 3,200 MT/s for the latest generation. When purchasing RAM, you can notice these speeds designated in the module’s name. Prominent options include DDR4-1,600, DDR4-2,400, or DDR4-3,200, with a couple of other speed variations in between with increments of approximately 266 MT/s.
The physical format in which RAM modules appear is called DIMM – Double In-Line Memory Module. It’s worth noting that there’s also another type of module, called SO-DIMM, which stands for “Small Outline Dual In-Line Memory Module.”
As suggested by their name, SO-DIMM modules are smaller than their DIMM counterparts. Standing at almost half the size, they are there for systems with limited space, such as laptops, notebooks, or small desktop computers that use Mini-ITX motherboards.
Other Crucial Components
Besides a motherboard, a CPU, and RAM, your computer can’t run without several more components. The most obvious one is a power supply unit (PSU).
Usually installed inside the computer case, a PSU directs power from a wall outlet to your motherboard, CPU, graphics card, and hard disks. It also powers the CPU cooler fan, as well as any other set of fans you might’ve installed.
For example, a water-cooled system needs power as well. That way, it can cycle the cooling liquid and take heat from a processor or graphics card. The heat then goes over to the radiator, where a set of fans cools it.
Other crucial components include your graphics card and the monitor. The graphics card takes instructions from the CPU, processes them in its GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), and finally sends the picture to the monitor. So, without a graphics card and a monitor, you wouldn’t be able to see anything your computer does.
Your computer’s hard disk drive is the final piece of the puzzle. If you have all the previously mentioned components up and working, without an operating system stored on your hard disk, your computer couldn’t do anything significant for you.
You Can’t Do Anything Without RAM
Hopefully, this article helped you realize how important RAM is for your computer. Also, if you miss any of the other components mentioned above, you won’t have much use for your computer.
Have you tried running your computer without RAM? Have you ever had any trouble with a faulty memory module? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.