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Computer screen with Memory vs Storage image

Difference Between Memory and Storage in Computers

Understandably, many computer users consider memory and storage to be the same thing. If you are unsure about the difference between memory and storage in computers, this article covers the differences between the two.

Memory

Two RAM modules next person’s hand on a laptop

The term memory refers to the component within your computer that allows for short-term data access. 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 immediately are kept in your desk for easy access. However, not much can be stored on a desk due to its size limitations.

Storage

SSD storage drive on top of a disassembled laptop PC

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 houses your applications, operating system and files for an indefinite period. Computers need to write information and read it from the storage system so the speed of the storage determines how fast your system can boot up, load and access what you’ve saved.

While the desk represents the computer's memory, the filing cabinet represents the storage of your computer. It holds items that need to be saved and stored but are not necessarily needed for immediate access. Due to the size of the filing cabinet, many things can be stored.

An important distinction between memory and storage is that memory 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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