Storage and memory are terms people often get confused when they talk about computers. Some people even use these terms synonymously. Although both storage and memory are used to store information, they differ significantly.
Storage holds the information permanently until the user deletes that information. However, the memory holds the information temporarily until the processor is using that information or until the system is powered off.
Storage and memory are two of the major holding areas of any computer; both store programs and data. The interplay between these two units forms the fundamental architecture of the computer’s processing.
Suppose you still consider storage and memory in a computer the same thing, and you are still determining the differences between them. In that case, this content will uncover the differences between storage and memory.
Content: Storage Vs Memory in Computer
- Comparison Chart
- What is Storage?
- What is Memory?
- How Memory & Storage Works?
- Key Differences
|Basis of Comparison||Storage||Memory|
|Basic||Storage saves data permanently.||Memory stores data temporarily.|
|Referred as||Secondary memory||Primary memory|
|Speed||Storage is slower.||Memory is faster.|
|Volatility||It’s non-volatile.||It’s volatile.|
|Made of||Storage made of magnetic strips or flash memory chips.||Memory is made of silicon microchips.|
|Size||Storage is large in size and is measured in GB and TB.||Memory is small in size and is measured in MB and GB.|
What is Storage?
Storage is a device in the computer where we can store data and information permanently on a long-term basis. Storage devices in a computer include a hard drive and SSD (Solid State Drive); USBs and the optical disk also lie in the storage category. We refer to storage as the secondary storage of the computer as we use it for bulk storage of data and programs indefinitely.
So, whenever you install any program, software or app on your computer, the OS will copy the program files direct to your storage. The storage devices are non-volatile, i.e. they retain their content even when the computer’s power is switched off.
Not only the program, software and apps the storage is even used to store your important documents, photos and videos. But how much your storage can hold totally depend on its size. The storage capacity in your computer can range from GB to TB.
Storage such as hard drives or SSD is slower as they are not internal to the computer and cannot be directly accessed by the processor. Also, a hard drive has mechanical parts, which makes accessing data from a hard drive slower. Even if you are using SSD, which does not contain any mechanical part, it is slower as the way OS accesses it is different.
What is Memory?
Memory is a device internal to the computer which holds the data temporarily for a short-term basis. Memory in a computer includes cache memory and all kinds of RAM.
RAM is the most important memory of your system, and hence we refer to it as primary memory or the computer’s main memory. This is because the memory holds the data that the processor is currently using.
Whenever the user opens an app, software, or even a Word file, the operating system loads the same from storage to memory, where the processor can access it directly.
The more memory your computer has, the more programs it can run simultaneously. So, the memory capacity in a computer decides the degree of multiprogramming. The capacity of memory in a computer ranges from MB to GB. A computer’s memory is volatile, which means it loses all its data as soon as the system’s power is switched off. As memory is internal to the computer, it can be directly accessed by the processor. Thus it is faster as compared to storage.
How Memory & Storage Works?
Initially, when the computer is turned on, all the data and programs reside in the storage device, even your operating system. The memory of the computer is completely empty at this moment. The CPU first runs the BIOS, which activates POST, i.e. Power-on-Self-Test.
POST performs an initial check on peripheral devices to check if any error occurs. In case of errors, the computers stop booting up. If no error occurs, the system loads the operating system from storage to memory (RAM).
After the operating system, the device drivers are loaded from storage to memory – device drivers drive the functioning of peripheral devices.
Then the OS loads system utilities from storage to memory which drives the functioning of utility programs, and with this functioning of the system starts.
Once the system starts full fledge whatever data is requested, the OS access the storage drive and transfers the data from storage to memory. So, whenever data is requested for the first time, the OS accesses the data from the storage device and loads it to memory. If it’s not the first time the processor accesses the data from the memory itself.
So, this is how the interplay between storage and memory forms the fundamental architecture of computer processing.
Key Differences Between Storage and Memory
- The storage present in the computer saves the data or information permanently until the user deletes the data or information from the storage. On the other hand, the memory in a computer stores data temporarily until the processor is using that data or until the system is powered on.
- We often refer to storage as the computer’s secondary memory or secondary storage. However, we refer to memory as the computer’s primary or main memory.
- As memory is internal to the computer (embedded on the motherboard), accessing data from memory is faster. On the contrary, the storage is an external memory access; data from storage is slower.
- Storage is a non-volatile device; it retains the stored data and information even if the computer power is off. Meanwhile, the memory is volatile, which means when the computer’s power is switched off, it loses all its data.
- Usually, the storage of a computer is made from magnetic tapes or flash memory chips, whereas the memory is made up of silicon microchips.
- A computer always has large storage and a small memory size. The storage of a computer is measured in GB and TB, whereas the memory of a computer is measured in MB and GB.
- Storage is available at a reasonable price in the market. However, memory is expensive.
So, these are the differences between the memory and storage of a computer that serve different purposes. Memory holds the program file and data that the processor is currently processing. At the same time, storage holds the files, programs and data on a long-term-basis.
Both storage and memory are important for a computer to run, but in what amount, it totally depends upon your use. However, the proportion of memory compared to storage will always be less.