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Difference Between Memory and Storage in Computers

Understandably, many computer users consider memory and storage to be the same thing. Those who realize that there is a difference between the two often cannot identify this difference. If you are unsure about the difference between memory and storage in computers, this article will enlighten you.


The term memory refers to the component within your computer that allows you to access data that is stored for a short term. You may recognize this component as DRAM, or dynamic random-access memory. Your computer performs many operations by accessing data stored in its short-term memory. Some examples of such operations include editing a document, loading applications and browsing the Internet. The speed and performance of your system depends on the amount of memory that is installed on your computer. If you have a desk and a filing cabinet, the desk represents the memory of your computer. Items you will need to use soon are kept in your desk for easy access. However, not much can be stored in a desk due to its size limitations.


Whereas memory refers to the location of short-term data, storage is the component of your computer that allows you to store and access data on a long-term basis. Usually, storage comes in the form of a solid-state drive or a hard drive. Storage allows you to access and store your applications, operating system and files for an indefinite period of time.

While the desk represents the computer's memory, the filing cabinet represents the storage of your computer. Items that must be kept yet won't necessarily be accessed soon are stored in the filing cabinet. Due to the size of the filing cabinet, many things can be stored.

An important distinction between memory and storage is that the former clears when the computer is turned off. On the other hand, storage remains intact no matter how many times you shut off your computer. Therefore, in the desk and filing cabinet analogy, any files that are left on your desk when you leave the office will be thrown away. Everything in your filing cabinet will remain.

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