What Is a Data Buffer?

Malcolm Tatum

A data buffer is a section of the memory in a computer that serves the purpose of providing a temporary holding place for data as it is in the process from being moved from storage in order to comply with a query initiated by a user. In a sense, this means that the buffer creates a temporary place for the data so that it can be processed in a logical fashion and ultimately be used to fulfill that query. This is an important function, since the presence of the buffer helps to minimize the potential for damage to the data while it is being moved.

Adding computer RAM may allow for a larger buffer to improve media streaming.
Adding computer RAM may allow for a larger buffer to improve media streaming.

One of the basic mechanisms found with a data buffer is the fact that information is processed in a logical sequence. This is sometimes referred to as a first in first out or FIFO buffering. Rather than allowing the system to be overwhelmed by multiple requests, the buffer essentially lines up all requests in the order they are received, processes the first request, and then moves on to the next request in the queue. End users are rarely aware of this process, since the requests are managed so rapidly that the system appears to be managing several different tasks simultaneously.

As part of the process, a data buffer performs two key tasks at one time. One task involves writing data into the buffer zone of the memory in preparation for responding to a query. The second task is focused on reading the data, using protocols that aid in making sure the stream of information is arranged properly. Typically, the writing function proceeds at one rate while the reading function takes place as a different rate that helps the two processes to work in tandem without causing any transfer issues.

The use of a data buffer is common with many types of computer-based functions. In the world of telecommunications, buffers help to process audio and other data streams between points, using the read and write functions to keep the transmissions organized and concise. With data communications within a company network, the buffers aid in managing huge amounts of data without corruption of any information as it transmits from a storage area of the memory to the end user. Even with simple tasks such as retrieving documents saved on a hard drive, the data buffer is making sure the information contained in that saved file is protected from corruption during the transfer, and the user will be able to view and work with the document with no trouble.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including EasyTechJunkie, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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