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Memory or Storage – What’s the Difference?

A lot of people get confused when asking about memory or storage. They don’t really know the difference between the two. If you are one of those people, don’t feel bad! We’re here to make technology easier and less confusing.

The Basics

Here is a basic analogy to illustrate the difference between what is generally referred to as memory vs. storage. If you think of the computer’s information like facts, you can only remember a limited number of words, facts, etc. at a given moment. A library, on the other hand, has plenty of storage for books with many more words and facts than you can remember. A computer’s hard drive is like a library containing all of that information, but you can’t do much with it until your brain copies it into your memory.

RAM (System Memory)

RAM is the most common component referred to as memory. RAM stands for Random Access Memory. It is a temporary location for your computer to copy data for running programs or in-use files while you are actively working with them. The computer is able to access the data copied into RAM much faster than it would if it was only reading the hard drive. However, unlike the hard drive, RAM is considered volatile (can only contain data while the computer is powered on and running). RAM helps your computer to multitask by increasing the amount of data it has quick access to. The more RAM you have, the more applications the computer can have loaded at the same time without the processor having to temporarily store information on a portion of the hard drive. To simplify, the more RAM your computer has, the more tasks your computer can readily complete simultaneously (limited of course by the speed of the processor).

Hard Drive (Magnetic Storage)

The most common form of storage is the hard drive. A hard drive is a magnetic long term storage device. They are designed to store (read & write) data for the life of the drive. Typically a hard drive is the main form of storage in a computer. Some computers may have multiple hard drives as secondary storage (i.e backups) or other dedicated usage.

CD\DVD (Optical Storage)

Another common form of storage is optical. Optical storage consists of data being written (burned) to a removal media (i.e CDs or DVDs). This type of storage is typically used for archiving information, distribution of data in an easily portable form, or entertainment (i.e. music\movies\games). The main advantage to using optical is it’s low cost, ease of use, and portability. The disadvantage is that they degrade over time, so they shouldn’t be used as the only option for permanent storage of critical data.

Flash Memory (Solid-State Storage)

This form of storage can be a little confusing as sometimes it is referred to as flash storage and other times flash memory. This category includes USB flash drives, computer SSDs and portable memory cards like SD and MicroSD. Flash memory is technologically similar to RAM because the data is saved to semiconductors. In practice, flash memory is used more like a hard drive since the data is safe even when the drive is unplugged or has no power. The technical term for this is non-volatile, meaning that it will retain data written to it even without being connected to power.

Clearing Things Up

As part of our mission to make your technology easier, we like to provide easy to understand information about the devices and tech you use in your daily life. Geek Easy Computers is always available to answer questions or assist you! Stop by our shop, or contact us via this website, or email ( or Facebook\Google+!


Geek Easy Computers – Making Technology Easier!


me_smile Adonis Pointer is a photographer, a collector of vintage razors, and a certified technology geek!
Adonis has been involved in computer technology since well, a LONG time! He has been involved in nearly every aspect of the industry from sales to repair to training to consulting. As the Social Media Manager he writes the majority of the posts on the Geek Easy Computers blog.


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