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What Is a Screen Buffer?

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  • Written By: M. McGee
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 04 September 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A buffer is a portion of a computer’s physical memory that is used to store information as it moves from one location in the system to another. A screen buffer is a buffer that specifically holds information that is going to the system’s display screen. Buffers as a whole are used to organize data and ensure that it moves from place to place efficiently. The screen buffer shares many similarities with both video memory and the system cache, but is separate from both.

When a computer is operation, it has several types of memory. The majority of these fall into two categories: virtual and physical. The physical memory is actually located in a memory storage system, such as the random access memory (RAM) modules connected to the motherboard. Virtual memory is low-priority, but still important, information that the system writes to the hard drive to free up room.

Buffers is a generic term that describes a portion of physical memory where information is stored for later movement. This information is important, but is not in use yet. Since a computer system can contain information in many different places, the buffer allows all those system to send important information to one spot in anticipation of its need. Then, when the information is called into use, it is all together and ready to move into active memory.

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A screen buffer gathers up all of the information to describe what will display on the system’s screen. This information comes from a large number of sources, such as the system itself, user input devices, cameras and running programs. There is often more than one screen buffer being assembled to allow for progressive images to display with no delay.

The screen buffer is easy to mix up with two other key systems: the system cache and video memory. A system cache is active information that the computer is keeping handy for constant use. The cache has the same basic properties as a buffer, but the buffer is disposed of after use while the cache is not. The computer assumes that once the buffered information is used, it won’t need it again.

Video memory is the physical memory used by a video card to gather information before sending it into the main system. In order to remove stress from the computer’s processor, modern video cards are able to process and collect video information without interacting with the main computer. This information is stored on the card until needed and then it is sent on to the screen buffer.

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