Here at About-Face, we pride ourselves on explaining various computer-y things in layman’s terms so that you can understand them and therefore understand what we’re talking about when we prattle on about gigabytes and megabits and RAM and hard drives. So, we’ve come across a couple of analogies that work to simplify the understanding of a couple of different computer terms.
RAM And Hard Drive
The best way to describe the RAM and the hard drive is to imagine yourself sitting at a workdesk. The tabletop before you is the RAM on your machine—the things that you are currently actively working on. The larger this tabletop is, the more things you can be working on simultaneously as you spread them across the tabletop.
The filing cabinets underneath your desk are your hard drive. You tuck things in them to save them and stash them away, and open your filing drawers when you need to access them and work on them. Therefore, when you need to work on something that’s filed away, you pull it from your filing cabinets and place them on the tabletop. However, fishing something out of the filing cabinet and placing it on the tabletop takes more time, right?
Well, that’s the relationship between RAM and your hard drive. When you need to access the contents of the hard drive, it takes your computer more time, since it has to rifle the data on the hard drive and find the appropriate 1s and 0s to load into RAM before it can be worked on. If, however, you’re accessing something in RAM, it takes significantly less time, since it’s already in the “active work” sections.
It’s possible that you’ve heard before that when you delete things off of your computer, you don’t truly delete things. This is true up to a certain points. Most operating systems have a recycle bin or a trash, and once you delete something, you can venture in there and recover those deleted files if you need them back. But what about when you empty the trash?
Still, the files aren’t truly deleted. Files are only permanently deleted off of a drive until after the drive space that the files used to inhabit has been overwritten with new files. So, here’s the analogy:
Imagine you have a sandbox, and, within it, a finite amount of sand. Over time, you utilize all of this sand to build a variety of sandcastles. Now you want to build a new sandcastle, but there’s no sand left, which means you must get rid of an old sandcastle.
File deletion is not the same as destroying an old sandcastle to build a new one. Instead what you do is you take pieces from an old sandcastle to build the new one—but there is still remaining sandcastle structure left behind after you take pieces off for the use of the sand. This remaining structure would be the files that are left over and can be recovered off of your drive. In order to completely erase the old sandcastle, you must build a new sandcastle by utilizing all of the sand from the old sandcastle. Only once you use all of the previous structure does it become unrecoverable.
So I hope these analogies helped to understand a couple of things, and as ever, feel free to call About-Face Computers at (413) 863-5447 if you want to discuss anything or if you’d like more help understanding your system!