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What is computer memory?

memoryComputer memory handles information storage on your device. It can be categorised into volatile and non-volatile memory.

Non-volatile memory provides storage capacity by retaining data after your computer is switched off, and therefore acts like a computer's long-term memory. Hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs) are types of non-volatile memory responsible for storing data that can be saved and deleted (i.e. they are read/write).

Another type of non-volatile memory is ROM. This is hardwired with important information, like the instructions for booting up your computer, which cannot be changed (i.e. it is read-only).

Volatile memory allows you to access and change data much faster, but can only store data while your computer is switched on. It acts like your computer's short-term memory. RAM is the main type of volatile memory.

 

RAM

Volatile

Read/write

ROM

Non-volatile

Read-only

HDD

Non-volatile

Read/write

SDD

Non-volatile

Read/write

 

A common analogy used for computer memory is a desk:

  • The RAM is like your desktop, determining how many documents you can efficiently view and work on at once.
  • The hard drives are like the drawers, offering a permanent storage solution for your documents.
  • The ROM is like a locked drawer containing some of your most important documents.

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