5 February 2013
Memory Management and the Computer Operating System
The computer operating system could be considered the brain of the computer collective. Like the human brain, it manages programs and oversees activities inside the computer. It also manages computer system resources and performs operations effectively and efficiently with consistency, and facilitates connections to the Internet and other networks. One function of the operating system is memory management, which is optimizing the use of main memory, known as Random Access Memory (RAM). RAM is allocated by the operating system to affected programs as required and then recalls the memory allocation when the program is completed. (However, although RAM used by a program or process is supposed to be released when no longer needed, this does not always happen. This is called memory leaking. The result is the computer temporarily running out of useable memory. Current systems can detect and automatically re-allocate memory; whereas earlier systems would require a computer reboot to refresh RAM.) Today’s programs are typically memory intensive (such as Windows XP, and Windows 7, which require anywhere from 64 to 128 MB of RAM), and need additional RAM. Effective management of memory helps increase efficient system process responses. An example often utilized is virtual memory. This is where the operating system uses the computer’s hard drive as supplemental RAM. Programs and data in potentia are stored in the “virtual memory” (an allocated area of the hard drive). This is referred to as the swap file. Virtual memory is divided into pages or segments, depending on the operating system’s design. These are separated sections of a program’s collective whole, which are downloaded into RAM as needed during the execution of the program. Though RAM will overwrite “pages or segments” with new ones, virtual memory maintains all program sections intact...