Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between RAM and CPU


When it comes to choosing the specs of a computer, the two most important components are the CPU, also known as the processor, and the RAM, more commonly known as memory. The main difference between the RAM and the CPU is the roles they play in a computer. The CPU is the actual part that does the computing while the RAM only holds the data. To illustrate the point; if a computer adds two numbers, say 5 and 8, the CPU takes the two numbers from the RAM. They are then added and the result, which in this case is 13, is then returned to the RAM.

The CPU is the actual component that dictates the speed of the entire system as it does the processing. In the old days, not having enough RAM would simply mean that your program would not run. But nowadays, operating system use page files to extend the RAM so that programs will still run. But page files, which are stored on the hard drive, are very slow and can cause the CPU to wait for the data; thereby slowing down the entire computer.

In most computers, with the exception of multi-processor systems, the only way to upgrade a processor would be to replace it with a faster one, mainly because you only have one slot for the processor. In contrast, there are two or more slots for RAM in a motherboard. Because of this, it is common practice for people who are tight on budget to splurge on the processor then just get a single RAM module. They can later add more RAM modules when they have the budget.

It is also worth noting the processors and the motherboard they use are specific to a certain manufacturer. A motherboard that takes Intel processors cannot take an AMD processor and vice versa. You should take that into consideration in building your system as you cannot switch brands without replacing your board and CPU. On the other hand, RAM can be used with either brand. So if you want to switch from AMD to Intel, you can still use your RAM and just get the board and CPU.


The CPU executes the instructions while RAM
The CPU dictates how fast the system is while RAM dictates how much data can be held
The CPU can only be replaced while RAM can often be augmented
The CPU is specific to a certain manufacturer while RAM isn’t

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