Why do printers need RAM and a Hard Disk Drive (HDD)?

18. September 2012 06:00 by Calvin Yu in Technology News  //  Tags:   //   Comments

If you think your printer simply relies on your computer's memory, think again. Modern printers are equipped with memory (RAM) of their own. In some cases, they even have their own hard disk drives (HDD). To understand how your printer works and make the most of its capabilities, you need to understand RAM and HDD. RAM refers to random access memory, and HDD refers to a hard disk drive. Both components are found on computers, but they are also found on printers. The amount of RAM that your printer has can have a profound effect on how well it performs. Whether or not it has its own HDD plays an important role too. Learn more below.

All About RAM

Memory Chip (RAM) When you print a document, the file that needs to be printed is sent to your printer. In the old days, it was sent in small increments because the printer had little or no RAM. These days, most printers have a decent amount of RAM. For that reason, most reasonably sized documents can be instantly transmitted and stored onto a printer, which allows them to be printed quickly. You don't have to wait for the file to be sent, which can be very frustrating.

The key thing to know about RAM is that it is designed to store files temporarily. That's the case with computers and with printers. As soon as the file has been printed, it is erased from your printer's RAM. Similarly, files that are stored in a computer's RAM are erased after the machine is turned off for the day. In the case of a printer, you will need to resend the file if it doesn't print properly the first time. This usually isn't a big deal because the file can be zipped over again quickly. However, it also means that you should never close a document without saving it. You should never assume that it will print properly.

HDD and Printers

Hard Disk Drive (HDD) On a computer, HDD refers to the hard disk drive. It's also known simply as the hard drive or hard disk. This is where files go when you actually save them to your computer. Files that are saved to a computer's HDD can be accessed again later. They aren't erased after the computer is shut down for the day. The same thing holds true for HDD on a printer, but a hard drive isn't a standard part of a modern printer. Entry-level models don't usually come equipped with hard drives.

Printers that do have hard drives are useful because they reduce the risk of losing a print job entirely. You should still be careful about making sure that the document has printed properly, but you will be able to access it again and print it again if something goes awry. This is an especially useful feature for very large documents, and it comes in handy in offices and other places where multiple users send print jobs to a single printer. If someone's print job doesn't print, they can find it again on the printer's HDD and print it.

A Word of Caution

If you elect to purchase a printer that has an HDD, make sure to wipe it clean before disposing of it or selling it. If you don't, the next person who owns the printer will be able to access its files. Confidential or sensitive documents could fall into the wrong hands.

With these points in mind, you should look for a printer that has a decent amount of RAM. A hard drive is nice, but it typically isn't necessary. Whether you need one or not will depend on how you're going to use the printer.   

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