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What Is a RAM Limit?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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A random access memory or RAM limit is a term used to describe the degree of access that an end user has to the total random access memory built into a desktop, laptop or other type of computer device. While many consumers assume that they have complete access to the total memory included in the device, this is not the case. A percentage of that memory is always kept in check for use in running essential programs in the background. In addition, specific applications may have a limit on the amount of RAM that can be used at any given time, effectively preventing one application from utilizing all available memory and causing other applications to lock or shut down.

The concept of RAM limit can be seen as a means of allocating controlled portions of the random access memory to certain functions. This is actually to the benefit of the end user, since this type of controlled allocation prevents the system from being overwhelmed and triggering a shutdown. Since important data can be lost when this type of event takes place, the configuration of the RAM limit serves as a way of protecting not only the integrity of the hardware but also avoiding the chance of losing information that may be hard to recover.

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Along with allocating limited portions of memory to various applications, the RAM limit is also governed by the capabilities of the hardware itself. Here, the focus is on the ability of the device to support larger amounts of random access memory without overloading the system. For example, older desktop and laptop computers will only support a certain amount of memory, and will usually not recognize memory cards that are inserted into the machine if they are not configured to operate with that make and model of system. In order to expand the RAM limit of a system, make use of an external hard drive that provides some additional memory to work with.

It is important to remember that even when additional memory is installed, either by the use of memory cards attached to the system motherboard or by way of an external drive, fail-safe measures in the system will still only allow so much of that memory to be in active use at any given time. For example, if the total memory available on a device comes to 4 gigabytes of random access memory, system settings may only provide access to a maximum of 3.5GB. Within the scope of that limitation, the settings may also reserve only a maximum of half the accessible memory for any one application at any given time. For most users, RAM limit is not an issue, since the percentage of memory that is free for use typically exceeds the actual usage at any given point in time.

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