Definition

cache memory

Cache memory is random access memory (RAM) that a computer microprocessor can access more quickly than it can access regular RAM. As the microprocessor processes data, it looks first in the cache memory and if it finds the data there (from a previous reading of data), it does not have to do the more time-consuming reading of data from larger memory.

Cache memory is sometimes described in levels of closeness and accessibility to the microprocessor. An L1 cache is on the same chip as the microprocessor. (For example, the PowerPC 601 processor has a 32 kilobyte level-1 cache built into its chip.) L2 is usually a separate static RAM (SRAM) chip. The main RAM is usually a dynamic RAM (DRAM) chip.

In addition to cache memory, one can think of RAM itself as a cache of memory for hard disk storage since all of RAM's contents come from the hard disk initially when you turn your computer on and load the operating system (you are loading it into RAM) and later as you start new applications and access new data. RAM can also contain a special area called a disk cache that contains the data most recently read in from the hard disk.

Contributor(s): Abdo Sharif
This was last updated in September 2005
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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