RAM vs. Memory: Understanding the Key Differences for Better Computing


By Jack Lin

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Ram vs. Memory
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You must be wondering if RAM and memory are the same? The answer is no. These two disks are not the same, and there are many reasons to justify this answer. Both components serve a different purpose.

Many people confuse these two as similar computer components. What are the differences between RAM vs. Memory? To have 16 GB RAM of laptop, notebook, or mobile phone is the best choice. However, only 16 GB of memory (storage device) is quite worrisome. 

You must have heard of hard drives. Memory is the best example of hard drives in a computer. So, if storage memory is considered a hard drive, then what RAM is? Although both the components are united by typology, they both serve a different purpose and different functionality.

It’s okay if you are unable to grasp the topic right now. As you move further in this article, you will understand the definition, functions, purpose, and difference between RAM vs. Memory.

Remember to read every topic carefully for a better understanding. Without further ado, let’s dive straight into the topic of RAM vs. Memory. 

Difference Between RAM and Memory

Let’s first talk about RAM. RAM is an acronym of ‘Random Access Memory.’ This one line must have given you the idea of the basic difference between RAM vs. Memory. RAM is the memory of your computer system.

Whereas hard drives are another important component of your computer. Hard drives are also referred to as storage devices. These devices help in storing the data and files that you can use later. All the important data and files, generally including pictures, documents, general files, system files, etc, are stored on hard drives.

Today there are two kinds of hard drives that are commonly used by people. These drives include solid-state drives (SSD) and hard disk drives (HDD). Both serve the same purpose; however, they both work differently.

Most computers all over the world incorporate HDD as internal storage. The base mechanics of HDDs are different than SSDs. A hard disk drive works on a mechanical plate and reads and writes data by using a moving head.   

On the other hand, a solid-state drive (SSD) works on memory chips that are quick in reading and writing data. It makes the process of transferring data from one drive to another easier. 

Difference Between RAM and Memory

RAM vs. Memory: Difference Between Temporary Storage and Secondary Storage

Okay, so we have discussed the basic difference between RAM vs. Memory. In this section, we will go one step further and will talk about the latter part of the difference. A Random Access Memory or RAM is also known as temporary storage. On the contrary, a hard drive is known as secondary storage. 

As mentioned above, hard drives and memory are united by the same typology. However, the purpose and functionality of both components are different. RAM only retains data until the operating system is running. As soon as the computer system shuts down, RAM removes all the earlier stored data. This is why it is termed as memory or storage.

RAM vs. Memory: Functionality

Now, that we know the typology, let’s talk about their functionality.

What is Memory?

Memory is a bridge between the central processing unit (CPU) and stored data. The computer’s memory is a composition of two different memories main memory and cache memory. The main memory is further broken down into two different memories. 

  • Random Access Memory (RAM)
  • Read-Only Memory (ROM)    

The alternative name for computers memory is Random Access memory. Whenever users talk about a computer’s memory, they are referring to RAM. Read further to know the reason why it is called so?


In this section, you will learn in-depth about the difference between RAM vs. Memory.  


As we have mentioned earlier, Random Access Memory or RAM acts as a bridge between the CPU and your data. Now, let’s discuss the functionality of RAM with the help of an example. 

Let’s say you are doing your assignments on your computer system. The deadline is of three days, and you are rigorously working days and nights to match the deadline. On Day 1, you completed your targeted work and want to save your work permanently on your computer system.

So, what choice do you have? Where will you keep your files? Will you leave them on your desk? You cannot pack it in your file holder and keep it in your bag since it’s on your computer system. In such a case, you will store those files on hard drives. The computer’s memory or RAM acts as a desk, and storage memory or ROM acts as a file folder.

Then again when you need files or want to transfer them to another device, RAM accesses the data and temporarily stores it, and allows you to process the data according to your preference. As long as you use that file, it is processed, accessed, and stored from RAM. 

Nonetheless, you need to keep in mind that RAM is volatile memory. It only stores data until you are continuously processing the same file or till the operating system is at work. As soon as you shut down your PC, RAM loses all the earlier stored data. If you want to save your file permanently, you need to save it in your storage or hard drives.

Again take the above assignment example. When you complete your work, you arrange it in a proper file folder and keep it in a safe place. Isn’t it? Similarly, you must save the file or document on your computer’s hard drives after completing your work, so you can access it later.

Now, you must be wondering why CPUs don’t access the storage memory and save data directly? The process of accessing data directly from the hard drive takes a long time. It is easy to take files from your desk rather than finding them in a folder amidst your work. 

Collecting data from RAM and processing it is an easy and quick method. The time taken is much less than storage memory.

There are two functions that RAM is mostly used for: 
  1. It is used for multitasking which means you can process different files at a time, and it is easy for the system to extract data from.
  2. Enhances the speed of the computer system. The work performed is much faster. 

A RAM responds quickly to the system and enhances the performance of the computer system through capacity and speed. In addition, the size of the RAM makes a big difference in accuracy in your PC. The RAM size is directly proportional to the processing time of your PC. 


ROM is an acronym for ‘Read Only Memory.’ As the name suggests, ROM only reads the data. It is a non-volatile memory. This means that once the data is stored in ROM, it can’t erase automatically or be altered with other data.

It provides the storage for folders or files and instructions that the system uses to run the PC. The data in ROM incorporates BIOS and other firmware. 


What is Storage Memory? 

Let’s take the help of the earlier example once again to understand it better. Suppose it’s day 3 of your work and you have finished your assignment successfully. Now what? Will you left it on your desk and leave? No, you would arrange it systematically in a folder. This will help you to access the files easily later plus, it frees up the desk space.

Similarly, after completing your work on your computer, you need to store that file permanently on your PC to use them later. Remember that storage is non-volatile memory. It keeps your data even after you shut down your computer. The data is stored in a hard drive until and unless you delete it by yourself.

Additionally, secondary or permanent storage can either be external or internal. Internal storage is installed in your computer system whereas, you need to buy external storage separately. External storages are helpful when your internal storage runs out of free space.

External disk drives include many options. In the past, the hard drives that are used were magnetic disks, floppy disks, compact disks (CDs), and Digital Video Disks (DVDs). Today the list of hard drives is updated, and it includes USB flash drives, Blue-Ray drives, memory cards, or memory sticks.

These updated hard drives are mobile and serve the purpose of storing a huge amount of data in one drive. However, you cannot easily store your applications or programs on external hard drives. There are a few ways to do this, but we won’t delve into this topic.

Significant Difference Between RAM vs. Memory

Till now, you must have a clear idea of what is RAM and memory and how they are united with similar typologies but have different functionalities and purposes. In this section, you will learn about some significant differences between RAM vs. Memory.

Significant Difference Between RAM vs. Memory

Data Storage

  • RAM: The data stored in RAM is solely for its own purpose. The system store the data in RAM till it is required. RAM is a volatile memory, and as soon as the computer shuts down, the data stored also vanishes. RAM only stores that much data which you want to process at that time.
  • Hard drive: On contrary to RAM, memory stores data permanently. The data stored in memory or hard drives are accessible even after you shut down and restart your computer system again. This indicates that memory is non-volatile. 

Size Capacity

  • RAM: The size of both memory RAM or ROM must be large for the efficiency of computer system. The RAM and ROM sizes are totally different. The size of the RAM ranges from 2 GB to 32 GB. The amount of data you need to process determines the size of the RAM.
  • Hard drive: All data are eventually stored on a hard drive. Whether it is documents, files, programs, applications, etc, everything is stored on hard drives. This indicates that you must have a huge memory size to bear all these data in one drive. The hard drives size ranges from 2 GB to 2 or 3 TB.


  • RAM: The cost of RAM is comparatively higher than hard drives. The size of RAM determines its cost. 
  • Hard drives: The cost of hard drives is lesser because it’s demand and usability. People generally do not buy RAM, but they surely buy hard drives to store their data. Hence the difference between RAM vs. Memory in terms of cost is so vast.            


  • RAM: The whole purpose of the computer system of using RAM is speed. RAM reads and writes data much quicker and faster than hard drives.
  • Hard drives: The hard drives read and write data slower than RAM.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What happens if my computer doesn’t have enough RAM?
    • If your computer doesn’t have enough RAM, it will run slower, especially when running multiple applications or large programs.
  2. Is it better to have more RAM or more storage memory?
    • It depends on your needs. If you often run heavy programs or multitask, more RAM is beneficial. If you need to store a lot of data, more storage memory is needed.
  3. Can I add more RAM to my computer?
    • Yes, in most cases, you can add more RAM to your computer, but it depends on your specific model and its maximum RAM capacity.
  4. Is RAM more important than the CPU?
    • Both are important. The CPU is like the brain of the computer, and RAM is like its short-term memory. Without either, the computer wouldn’t function well.
  5. Why is RAM faster than other types of memory?
    • RAM is closer to the CPU, which allows for quicker data access. It’s designed to be faster to improve the overall speed and performance of the computer.


In the article, we have covered in detail the difference between RAM vs. Memory. We have talked about every aspect of RAM and hard drives and the reasons that make these two components of a computer different from each other.

Do people also ask whether you need both hard drives and RAM? If you are also confused, then the answer is yes. Both components are important in a computer system to work properly.


10 years of experience in information and computer technology. Passionate about electronic devices, smartphones, computers, and modern technology.