#664 – Physical Memory vs. Virtual Memory

When writing software, you’ll often come across the terms physical memory and virtual memory.  Here’s a quick explanation.

Physical memory refers to the actual random-access memory (RAM) installed in your computer.  On newer desktops and laptops, this is typically from 4-16GB.  RAM is a place to store data.  It allows the operating system and programs running on it to read and write data while the computer is running.

Virtual memory is an area of memory that an application can read from and write to which behaves like a chunk of physical memory.  The application can freely read from and write to this memory without worrying about affecting other applications.  This chunk of virtual memory may be smaller or larger than the actual physical memory on the machine.