Memory, Hard Disk, Processor and Salad?

Re-posted from 13/05/10

Often people use terms like memory or hard disk without really understanding what they are and how they effect their PC performance. Here is what we hope will help give you a good analogy about their different functions. So let’s start

The hard disk: It is a mechanical device with fast rotating disks, used mainly to store all the different files including your own data (Documents, emails, pictures, etc) and the files required by the different programs including those required by the operating system such as Windows or Mac

The memory: It is a chip that only comes to life when the computer is on. When the power is switched off the memory gets erased. When the computer is “alive” it loads data from the hard disk to the memory so that the processor can work on (or process) it.

The processor: As the name suggests, this is the chip that is responsible for calculating and processing the data. It can work with data on the memory (fast access) or with data directly on the hard disk (very slow, compared with the memory)

So where does the salad get into all of this?
well, imagine needing to make a big bowl of salad. You will need a salad bowl to store your vegetables (In this case imagine you need to store both cut and uncut vegetables in the same bowl because you don’t have anywhere else to put them). You will also need a cutting board and a knife.
So there you are, ready to start cutting. What will happen if the cutting board is too small? well, you’ll have to take one tomato or one cucumber at a time, cut them and then put them back to the bowl and then get another one etc. In the end you will need to start fishing for another uncut piece of veg amongst all the juicy mess 🙁
If however, you had a big enough board you could get all or most of the veg and put them on the board at the beginning, then cut them easier and quicker and finally you wouldn’t need to offload it to the bowl that often…

Now if you start thinking of the hard disk as the salad bowl, the memory as the cutting board and the processor as the hand holding the knife you can see why one of the most important ways to improve your PC performance is to give it enough memory (or cutting board area). Because that way, the processor (you and the knife) won’t need to go forward and backward to the hard disk (Salad bowl)

Of course, you can have a really big cutting board but a blunt knife… That wouldn’t be useful either but you cannot do a lot about your processor as it is usually not economically justified.

A small salad bowl or, more to the point, a salad bowl that is too crowded is also not helpful and if you are using more than 75% of your hard disk you should probably replace it with one that has more space or add another disk to your system to make room to move stuff around. Also, don’t forget to organize it from time to time by defragmenting it, but on that, another time…

So that’s it, we hope it was helpful :).

If you think your computer needs a boost use the link below to visit Crucial, our preferred memory provider

Or if you have any questions just leave a comment.