What Is Physical Memory in a Computer?

The physical memory of a computer usually consists of Random Access Memory (RAM) chips and hard drives. RAM is the amount of real storage, and is the total amount of memory installed on a computer.

What Does RAM Do?

RAM is what your computer uses when loading an operating system and other programs and files. Before a program or file is opened, it is loaded into RAM.

How RAM Works

A hard disk and RAM use virtual memory to swap data. This swapping allows a computer to run faster and load much larger programs than it could with RAM alone.


Integrated dynamic RAM circuits were developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Today’s physical memory is composed of integrated circuits, made up of millions of transistors and capacitors.

Increasing RAM Size

Large programs, such as games or business applications, usually require a lot of RAM; close them if you need more RAM space.

Increasing Physical Memory Size

You can increase your available physical memory by either adding more memory chips, called DRAM modules, or by deleting existing software or files.