Base memory refers to the minimum amount of random access memory (RAM) that a computer needs to function. The term is actually applied to several components inside the computer system and the basic input/output system (BIOS), the motherboard, and the video card each have their own base memory value. While additional RAM would allow the system to function more efficiently, the base is the minimum requirement for each individual component to function. These amounts normally come preinstalled by the manufacturer and remain independent of any other component.
Manufacturers install base memory to allow PCs to load faster, remain more secure, and to ensure that each critical system device can always have enough resources to process tasks. These tiny sticks of RAM are hardwired directly to each component for quick sharing times. Since they are a permanent hardware component that is vital to the system, if they are damaged the computer will fail to load properly.
While BIOS has a very low base memory, a computer system could not operate without it. This is where all of the initial startup data is stored within a personal computer (PC), along with the user's preferred settings for the way each hardware option loads. The base memory for BIOS is installed into the motherboard on a tiny microchip that is not much larger than a thumbtack. It is independent from the system memory to protect the area from becoming infected by a virus.
Most video cards come preinstalled with a base memory of 32 or 64 megabytes (MB), with the top-of-the-line cards having a much greater amount. In this instance, the preset memory allows the computer to generate images on a computer monitor without any outside assistance from other systems. Some PCs utilize what is called shared memory, which would include a low base memory solely for the video card. Within this configuration, the memory installed on the motherboard could be borrowed by the video card when system resources could allow it.
The motherboard does not usually have base memory under the practical definition, but each computer and operating system (OS) has minimum requirements for the programs to be able to load. Many experts would consider the first stick of RAM to qualify as this type of memory even though it can easily be removed. Most PCs have between two to four memory slots and at least one of them has to have RAM inserted into it for the computer to function.