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RAM or Random-Access Memory is a type of computer memory. This particular memory is used to store data and programs that are being used in real time or at that particular moment the user is operating the computer. Like its name suggests, the data stored in RAM can be accessed randomly. It implies that any byte of storage can be accessed without touching the preceding bytes.

RAM is volatile, meaning it requires power to maintain the stored information. In other words, when the computer is turned off, all data stored in the RAM is lost. Therefore, RAM holds data temporarily and is cleared once the power is off. It's because of this characteristic that RAM is often understood as a computer's "working memory."

In a nutshell, the more RAM a computer has, the more data it can handle at a given instant, thus improving computer performance. It enables your computer to work with more information at the same time which can have a substantial effect on total system performance.

RAM is instrumental in the overall speed and efficiency of a computer's function. Applications are run directly from RAM because accessing RAM is much quicker than a hard drive, which is slower to access. When you start a program, whether it's a web browser or a video game, that program's executable file is loaded into RAM.

While RAM and disk storage like hard drives or SSDs may function to store data, they are fundamentally different. Disk storage is non-volatile, reserved primarily for longer-term storage of data. Unlike RAM, information in these systems isn't necessarily lost if the power source becomes disconnected.

It is also vital to note that RAM, being a physical component, it occupies space. Given how critical RAM's role is in a computer's function, its physical design and development have evolved over time to meet the demands of increasingly sophisticated technologies. There are several types of RAM including DRAM (Dynamic Random-Access Memory) and SRAM (Static Random-Access Memory), each of which has its own unique specifications and applications, but they all serve the same fundamental purpose – to provide your computer with a highly efficient temporary storage system that enables it to process information more rapidly.