The building of a killer gaming computer, entry 8!

Whew.  Just 4 days away from being able to play lag-free games on this computer.

When I first consulted my mentor on computer components, he told me the most important were the video card and the RAM.  So today we’re talking about RAM! – Random Access Memory.  RAM is used for storing files that the CPU needs to access frequently to run the program smoothly.  Say you need to run Mozilla Firefox.  The program files for Mozilla Firefox would then be copied to the RAM for fast access.  Once you’re finished using the program, it’s data is wiped from the RAM.  The thing with RAM though, is that without power, it doesn’t retain data!  So if you turn off your computer, that unsaved document you were working on is lost!  =/

Say you are working on a document in Microsoft Word.  If you’re working on an unsaved file, right now the document and the program data for Microsoft Word are saved onto the RAM.  When you save that file, it saves a copy on to your hard drive.  Like I said above, if you don’t save that unsaved file somewhere, it will disappear if MS Word closes or your computer is shut down.  The current copy of file you are working on is saved to your RAM, and all the files you don’t have open are saved to your hard drive.

I know this sounds odd to some, so I have a metaphor that makes it easier.

RAM is your conscious thoughts and your hard drive is your unconscious thoughts.  When you’re thinking about something, you are very aware of that information and things relating to that thought are very easy to recall.  If you try to remember something you ate for dinner on Sunday, it might take you a while.  Much the same for RAM and hard drives.  If you run out of RAM for program data, the computer needs to use it’s hard drive to recall the remainder of the program data.  This decreases performance, because RAM sticks are much, much faster than any hard drive.

Why is RAM important for gaming?

In gaming, RAM helps reduce loading times.  Even better, if you have enough RAM, your game doesn’t need to load!  You see, when you start up a game of Grand Theft Auto 4, the map is quite big and takes up a lot of RAM space.  For people playing GTA4 on less than 2gb of RAM, the games sometimes needs to take some time to load the portion of the map you are currently in, because it’s so big.  For a game like Team Fortress 2, the maps are smaller and require less RAM.

Video cards also have their own RAM, called vRAM or video RAM.  Video RAM is used only for components related to video such as textures.  If you are playing a game that requires a large amount of vRAM, more than you have available, your computer will use its regular RAM when it runs out of vRAM.

Crysis Warhead on high settings, 1680x910. If you look closely, the trees all look very real. To get more detailed trees, you need more detailed textures. More detailed textures take up more space. A larger capacity of RAM means you have space for higher quality textures.

For gaming, good quality RAM helps reduce load times and ensures your video card gets the game data fast enough to provide smooth gameplay.

I’m in the market for some RAM. What do I want to look for?

Quality Brand Name – Again, a quality brand name seems to be a big thing in computer parts.  Good manufacturers generally perform well, are reliable and have good customer support.  Some good manufacturers that I know of are Crucial, Kingston, Corsair, OCZ, Geil and G-Skill.

Capacity – How much capacity each RAM stick has is a big factor.  If you have more capacity, your computer can handle bigger programs.

Speed – Measured in MHz.  The higher the better, but make sure your motherboard can support it.

RAM with a heatspreader.

DDR 1/2/3 – DDR2 RAM is what’s present in most modern computers.  The computer market is starting to move towards DDR3.  DDR1 is old technology.

(Optional) Heatspreaders – Heat spreaders are casings on the outside of the RAM that help to disperse heat generated by the RAM.  Most often a heat spreader is a material such as aluminum or copper that disperses heat easily.  Some more expensive RAM sticks have fans designed specifically for the purpose of cooling down the RAM.

So, what RAM do I need for my system?

Everything else has been predetermined by my CPU, OS and motherboard.  My CPU only supports DDR3 RAM, my motherboard can handle RAM speeds up to 1600MHz and my OS requires a minimum of 4gb.

The model i’ve chosen is OCZ3G16004GK.

Each package is a kit of 2x2GB sticks, totaling 4GB of RAM.  This RAM runs at speeds of 1600MHz, and is of the DDR3 specification.

Each stick has a gold coloured basic heat spreader.  You might think I need more of a cooling system on this RAM, but my computer case already has 4 fans, which should keep the entire setup quite cool.

My motherboard currently has 4 slots for RAM.  When I install these sticks into my motherboard, I still have two slots left over.  If I ever want to upgrade in the future, I have enough room for 8gb total RAM.

There are only a few things left for me to talk about!  My last four entries on parts will detail networking, the computer case, the power supply and the CD Drive.

Just four more days.  Can you feel the excitement!?


8 thoughts on “The building of a killer gaming computer, entry 8!

  1. I’m pretty impressed I had enough ram to get through that post :P. I agree with Clare, you’re really good at explaining this stuff to technology illiterate people.

    I can’t wait to see your excitement when you finally assemble it. You should take a video of at least parts of the assembly. That would be really awesome to see!

  2. Jordan, I can definately feel the excitement! 😛 I think it’s great that you’ve found something you’re so passionate about.

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