Can a Computer Run Without RAM?

A lot of people are wondering, ‘Can a computer run without RAM?’ As it turns out, RAM, or Random Access Memory, is an essential component of a computer. Having the right amount and type of RAM makes a direct impact on your PC’s performance. A computer without RAM is not a computer at all, as a PC’s memory is an integral part of how it functions. In this article, we will explain exactly what RAM is, why every computer needs at least some of it, and what type of RAM is best for gaming.

A computer will not run without RAM. A PC requires at least enough RAM for the system BIOS to be loaded when the machine is powered on. Without performing some rather extreme hardware modifications, no computer is going to turn on without RAM. Usually, when no RAM is detected on POST (Power On Self Test), you will hear an error beep that repeats about once every second. When this happens, the PC cannot go any further in starting up.

Without having any RAM in your PC, you are basically at a standstill. There is no way around it, you are going to have to put some memory in those DIMM slots.

There have been some (very) recent acceptations to this rule. Very recent PC motherboards have started including a few Megabytes of RAM so that the BIOS can be configured without any RAM installed, but nothing else can be done.

Why Do You Need RAM?

RAM is the core feature in a computer. The performance of a device relies directly on the combined effort between your RAM and CPU. Computers with more RAM perform faster and typically come with a higher price tag.

The less RAM available, the harder a computer has to work to access and transfer data requests. RAM also directly supports the software within a device. Without RAM, the operating system within a computer does not have enough memory to run. This makes the device unusable.

RAM is needed by all types of computer users. Gamers need RAM, workers need RAM, everybody does. All programs currently running on your device require RAM to function. 

What Is RAM?

RAM is the random access memory of a computer. RAM is there to address this problem of slow memory processing. It serves as a place for data to be temporarily stored for faster read and write capabilities.

RAM uses multiplexing and demultiplexing circuitry. The use of this circuitry is to connect data lines with storage. RAM devices have multiple data lines. For example, a device most popularly is an 8-bit or 16-bit device. 

The best way to think about RAM is as a short-term memory of a device. Everything it stores is temporary. It holds temporary memory only because it provides faster speeds without sacrificing the total memory available.

RAM is a volatile technology. This term means that once RAM loses power, it forgets everything it stores. Because it acts as temporary storage, it can handle tasks at such high speeds. But for the same reason, it is why a computer cannot run without it.  

How Much RAM Do You Need? 

The amount of RAM you need will be impacted by your budget too. With more RAM comes higher performance. This leads to higher prices for devices with more RAM capacity. The amount of RAM in a device ranges between 2GB and 32GB. 

 2GB: Used for cheaper tablet designs. For a laptop or desktop computer, you will need more. 

  • 4GB: Usually the amount of RAM in cheaper/budget notebooks. Best used for basic Windows and Chrome functionality. Limited beyond this. 
  • 8GB: Very good choice for Windows and Macs. One of the more standard amounts of RAM and works well for lower level gaming too. 
  • 16GB: Desktop users should aim for this range. Provides the most performance and value for both workers and gamers.
  • 32GB and more: This is a bit extreme but required for more intense gamers and engineers. Other usages include high quality video editors in need of extra performance. 

Just because you have the most RAM doesn’t mean that was the best decision. Unused RAM is a waste of money especially since you paid a premium to acquire it. You can always upgrade your RAM in the future if the speed isn’t at the level you require. 

Different Types Of RAM

There are two popular and highly used types of RAM. They differ in a few ways, including the function of the memory, integration with computer software, and the level of memory technology they use. 

The first type is Static Random Access Memory (SRAM) or static RAM. SRAM is the faster and more expensive option to handle cache and other internal registers within a CPU. SRAM is made up of four to six transistors. 

The primary function of SRAM is to store data with memory as long as power lasts. Because of higher costs, DRAM is more widely used across devices. 

DRAM or Dynamic Random Access Memory is used for the computer’s main memory. Unlike SRAM, it only requires one transistor with a much simpler design. This contributes to the lower costs compared to SRAM products. 

Other key features include better density levels, higher storage capacity, and better memory optimization while running. Memory is able to be both refreshed then deleted with a program running.

It is slower than SRAM with a much more volatile memory. The power consumption is also higher compared to competing options. Because the storage cells hold data that need to be refreshed, the manufacturing is more complex too.

DRAM was created as the new successor to SRAM as a way to cut costs and reduce the necessary features to optimize run times.  

How Is RAM Different From Storage? 

The common misconception is that RAM and storage are the same element. This is not the case and they both have distinct differences that make them vital to a computer’s construction and performance.

When you operate on your computer and open something, RAM kicks in to provide you with the necessary memory to complete the task at hand while your device is running. The document or page you are viewing cannot last indefinitely using RAM. 

This is where storage comes in. If you need to save this document for use later on, it gets added to your storage.

The easiest place to spot this is when you view the specifications on your device. There is a memory and a storage section. They both have different available space left for you to use. The memory is your RAM, differing from the storage. 

Remember, RAM is volatile. Storage is non-volatile. Storage mainly acts in the form of a driver or drive. No matter the drive, storage will always be slower than RAM.

When your computer begins to slow down, the first place to look is at your RAM. As it begins to fill up, performance will slow. The next place to look would be the available storage. Computers will slow down significantly when they have no more space to store new information and data.  

Can A Laptop Run Without RAM?

A laptop without RAM installed with switch on but nothing will appear on the screen. For older generation laptops with a motherboard speaker, there would be a beeping sound when this occurred. This is a signal to troubleshoot the laptop.

Newer generation laptops without a motherboard speaker would typically have an LED light on the caps lock key. This is the way to communicate a Power On Self Test error. POST errors are a way new laptops can troubleshoot.

Laptops are built with BIOS. BIOS blocks the startup process when it detects a lack of RAM in the system. All modern laptops require RAM so BIOS was implemented as a detection protocol. 

BIOS also blocks startups when the RAM doesn’t match the speed. RAM and speed can be misaligned and throw off the BIOS. There are internal settings to change this function. By unlocking the BIOS, this feature is disabled.

Laptops cannot run without RAM due to the importance of the component. All major functions a laptop is used for requires RAM to complete. 

How Do You Test Your RAM?

There are warning signs to look for if your RAM is going bad. One of the signs is a blue screen of death. This indicates that the RAM may be overworked or out of date.

If none of these signs have occurred yet, you can test your RAM to see how it is doing. 

The first way to test your RAM is with the HCI Design Memtest. This is very simple and requires no setup to get started. Simply run it and wait for the results. 

Another way to test your RAM is with the Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool. If you operate in Windows, click your start menu and search for the tool. A window will pop up now prompting you to restart and check for problems with a recommended text next to it. Choose this option. After the restart, a menu will pop up with the results. 

The last option we recommend is using the Passmark Memtest86. Start by downloading this tool and following along with the prompts. After running, it will ask to restart the device. Following the restart, a configuration will occur that provides results. 

If any results are negative, consider upgrading your RAM to improve your device’s performance.  

Leave a Comment