What Are Memory Controllers?

When operating a computer system, all active data is stored within Random Access Memory (RAM) chips. As the data that RAM reads and writes is what allows programs and applications to be executed, it is important that there is a system in place to manage these processes. The memory controller is a component that is installed onto a motherboard similar to RAM and other IT hardware, and it manages all reading and writing procedures of RAM as well as is used to supply RAM with electric current for its functionality.

RAM provides read and writing times that far surpass other common forms of data storage or memory devices such as hard drives, but they are volatile components that lose all of their information as soon as they are unpowered. As such, they need to have a continuous supply of current to keep operating, and this is a major role of the memory controller. Known as a “refresh”, the memory controller will send out pulses of electricity to the RAM so that it remains active. As a setting determined by component capabilities and BIOS settings, RAM will often be refreshed every 64 milliseconds or less on average. Due to the role that the memory controller serves for data retention, RAM chips would lose all their information in a fraction of a second without them.

Beyond refreshing RAM, the memory controller is also the component that governs read and write procedures. As data will often need to be routed to specific locations quickly, the memory controller acts as a middleman that determines the correct demultiplexer circuit for data to be stored and retrieved. In some instances, dual-channel memory controllers may be used, and such configurations consist of two memory controllers that work together. Placed on separate buses, the two memory controllers permit an increased amount of read and write operations that can be conducted at the same time. While dual-channel configurations can increase bandwidth, it is important to be aware of the limitations that buses have for speed and the capacity of processors.

Memory controllers can come in the form of a standalone component or may be integrated into another chip. When functioning as an integrated component, the memory controller may be an integral part of the microprocessor or simply be placed on the same die. In some computer systems, the CPU may be specifically designed to have the memory controller as a dedicated external component. When used in such configurations, the memory controller may function as a memory buffer or act as a standard controller.

For increased security, some experimental memory controllers offer the ability to conduct a second level of address translation. In other instances, memory scrambling may also be possible, and such operations are intended to turn written data into pseudo-random patterns. Currently, however, memory scrambling is mostly used to address DRAM electrical problems, rather than mitigating security risks. Despite this, such experimental memory controllers can be useful for the server market for applications in which data protection is a legal requirement.

With the use of a memory controller, RAM can efficiently manage data and information for the execution of system processes. NSN Supplies is a premier purchasing platform for aircraft parts, NSN components, IT hardware parts, and electronics, and we can help you source all the computer parts that you need for your operations. As the only independent distributor with a no China sourcing pledge, we guarantee that purchased items ship out alongside their qualifying certifications or manufacturing trace documentation as applicable. Furthermore, we subject our inventory to rigorous quality assurance testing and inspection so that customers only receive the highest grade products. Get started on the purchasing process today and see how NSN Supplies can serve as your strategic sourcing partner!


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