Memories of a Cisco Router

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Memories Of A Cisco Router
By Dan DiNicolo Expert Author Article Date: 2005-01-25 It may often seem like nothing more than a sleek metal box on the outside, but the internal memory components of a Cisco router represent where much of the real magic takes place. Think of a Cisco router are being really no more than a specialized computer running a custom operating system. In this case, it is a computer optimized to provide routing and related functions. Instead of relying on a hard disk for storage, a Cisco router relies on different types of memory, each with a different purpose. In this article we'll take a look at each of these different storage areas, and the functions they're responsible for. There are four main memory areas within a Cisco router that it's important to be familiar with, namely Flash, RAM, ROM, and NVRAM. Flash Memory Flash memory is implemented (on a Cisco 2500) using two Single Inline Memory Module (SIMM) slots that hold erasable programmable read-only memory (EPROM). Flash memory is used to store and run the Cisco IOS software - the router's operating system. When a router is powered down, the contents of Flash memory are not lost. However, its contents can be upgraded by "flashing" the chip, not unlike one can do with a BIOS in the PC world. While a router is running, the contents of Flash are set to a read-only mode. Flash memory for a Cisco 2500 series router ranges in size from a minimum of 4MB up to a maximum of 16MB. You might consider adding additional Flash memory to meet the space requirements of the IOS version that you have chosen to run. For a Cisco 2501, the base IP version of IOS 12.0 requires a minimum of 8MB of Flash memory. So, if you had a

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the contents of RAM are lost. while the onboard RAM (2MB) will be used as Shared I/O memory. By default. it is not uncommon to require at least 16MB of Flash. These elements are implemented via microcode. Most Cisco 2500 routers will have 2MB of RAM soldered to the system board (this amount. RAM Random Access Memory (RAM) represents the non-permanent or volatile working area of memory on a Cisco router. This should be avoided for performance reasons. If 16MB is added. you would require at least one additional 4MB SIMM. You cannot mix and match SIMMs with different storage capabilities. and is made up of a number of elements. When installing or upgrading Flash using multiple SIMMs. The maximum amount of RAM that can be added to a Cisco 2500 is 16MB. however. the IOS image is now stored in Flash memory (it can also be stored on a TFTP server. that 2MB of on-board RAM will be split between both areas. that provides a maximum of 18MB of available RAM.Memories of a Cisco Router http://archive. or simply add a second 4MB SIMM. if you already have 4MB of Flash and wish to upgrade. depends on the revision number of the router). Main Processor Memory is where the routing table. RAM is broken up into two main areas . Power-on Self Test (POST).com/networknewz-10-20050125Memo.networknewz. and interfaces are capable of functioning correctly. For example. you can either replace the 4MB SIMM with an 8MB SIMM.. When the router is powered down. it is important to note that they must be the same size. In cases where a RAM SIMM is installed. this is no longer the case. In newer models. and running configuration are stored. Bootstrap Program. The bootstrap program is used to initialize the CPU and boot 2 of 5 7/18/2012 1:03 PM . Shared I/O Memory is used as a buffer location for temporarily storing packets prior to processing. As such. as I'll discuss in the next chapter). microcode stored in ROM performs a POST sequence.their storage capabilities must equal. and Shared I/O Memory. As mentioned previously. If no SIMM chip is present. ROM is now used as the memory area from which a Cisco router begins the boot process. ARP tables. ROM In older Cisco router models. its capacity will be used as Main Processor Memory. When the router is powered up. memory. you cannot have one 4MB and one 8MB SIMM installed at the same time . a set of programming instructions that are contained in ROM. This is used to ensure that elements such as the CPU.Main Processor Memory. For IOS versions with more advanced feature sets. providing each with 1MB of working space.. along with one SIMM slot to add additional RAM. Cisco 2501 that shipped with only 4MB of Flash. Read-Only Memory (ROM) chips were used to store the IOS software.

functions of the router.. this mode can be used to transfer an IOS image over a console connection. the contents of ROM are always retained. After the router loads its IOS image. and the managing editor of the free IT learning web site 2000Trainers. A special diagnostic environment used for the purpose of troubleshooting or special configuration. NetworkNewz SmallBusinessNewz ITManagementNews Send me relevant info on 3 of 5 7/18/2012 1:03 PM .just because something can't be seen. RxBoot. About the Author: Dan DiNicolo is a technical trainer.com. When a valid IOS image cannot be found in Flash or on a TFTP server. When changes are made to a router's running configuration.networknewz. ROM Monitor.Memories of a Cisco Router http://archive. NVRAM is a relatively tiny 32KB in size.com/networknewz-10-20050125Memo. the actual chips needs to be replaced on the router's motherboard. When a router is powered down. Dan makes his home in the snowy northern backwoods of Canada. author. ROM is 2MB in size. the settings found in the startup configuration are applied. this limited IOS version is loaded for the purpose of installing a new IOS image into Flash. The bootstrap program is responsible for locating and loading the router's IOS. When he's not busy traveling the world as an IT volunteer with organizations like Geekcorps. consultant. In cases where ROM needs to be upgraded (which is rare). but will also help to determine the source of problems or issues. that doesn't mean it's not important. Remember . boot image. For example.. The command set provided is only a subset of normal IOS commands. or helper image. Knowing what's going on where is an important part of not only understanding how a Cisco router operates. should the need arise. It is also sometimes referred to as the boot loader. they should always be saved to the startup configuration (stored in NVRAM) or they will be lost when the router shuts down. On a Cisco 2500 series router. Remember that the running configuration is stored in RAM. which is erased when the router is powered down. On Cisco 2500 series routers. NVRAM Non-Volatile Random Access Memory (NVRAM) is used as the storage location for the router's startup configuration file.