Sometimes known as a real address, machine address, or direct address, an absolute address is the specifically fixed address in the memory of a computer system. This is different from a relative address, which uses the distance between a point of origin and a point of destination as the means of specifying the location. An address of this type helps make it easier for a computer to reference the exact location in the memory where data is stored.
The absolute address is only of several different types of memory addresses. Essentially, a memory address is a location in the memory where a software program or some type of hardware device can place data and later retrieve it with relative ease. An address space like this is normally expressed as a binary number with a finite or limited sequence that helps to describe the memory. The space itself may involve a single byte, or multiple successive bytes in the memory location, depending on the size of the data that is stored.
With an absolute address, the process of retrieving data is greatly simplified. When the user begins the process of accessing the stored information, the system automatically begins to look for that data at the address previously assigned. The exact speed with which the retrieval is achieved depends on the size and power of the address bus. Often, the design of the hard drive will also impact the speed of retrieval, as well as the actual construction of the address itself.
Over the years, the design of systems to accommodate the use of an absolute address has become more sophisticated. This is in part due to the need to provide storage space for a wider variety of data, including programs essential to the basic functions of the system. With most systems today, the absolute address and the relative address take on various search functions that work in tandem, or address specific types of data retrieval. For the most part, the absolute address will relate to a location on the actual hard drive memory, while a relative address will refer to a more generalized location in the virtual memory. There are situations in which the configuration of the system also makes it possible to utilize a relative address for data stored in the hard drive memory.
When functioning properly, a system can identify an absolute address in real time and make the retrieval with no delays at all. As with any type of computer function, the potential for damage to components or compromising of the programming that drives functions can in turn increase the difficulty of the retrieval process. In many cases, it is possible for a systems expert to identify the origin of the problem, replace or repair the necessary components, and allow the retrieval process to once again function at full capacity.