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Difference between Memory and Storage

In computer terminology, memory and storage are the two most important components involving computer’s storage system where everything happens. While memory has something to do with the primary memory of the computer or RAM, storage refers to the physical component which stores digital information. Memory is basically made of RAM chips, while storage, in general terms, refers to hard drives or solid-state drives. Both terms are technically the same and it can be confusing at times because they are measured in same units: bytes, kilobytes, megabytes, etc. However, functionally speaking, both are quite different in a way they store and retain data.

Difference between Memory and Storage

What is Memory?

In technical terms, the memory refers to the RAM (Random Access Memory) which is sort of the main workspace where all the work is done. It’s like an internal storage system that identifies storage of data in the form of chips. Just like a human brain, the computer memory is used to store data and instructions temporarily or permanently.

In simple terms, memory is referred to as any electronic component that is capable of storing data and information on a temporary basis. Thus, in a computer, memory goes by RAM, which is kind of a storage media which stores temporary data. When you click on any application, or access a document, or do anything, for that matter, the computer stores the data in the RAM (chips actually hold the data).

Every machine is equipped with a certain amount of physical memory which refers to the main memory or RAM. Everything we do like running a program or accessing a website, it’s stored in RAM. It contains everything that happens on your machine. The data is lost when the computer reboots or freezes in the middle of something. That’s why RAM is referred to as a volatile memory.

Primarily, there are three type of memory:

  • Cache Memory – It refers to the CPU memory which acts as the buffer between the central processing unit and the main memory. It’s a volatile memory which provides high-speed data access to frequently used programs and data.
  • Primary Memory – This refers to RAM and ROM. RAM is the same as the main memory which holds the data on which the machine is currently working on. ROM, on the other hand, is the read-only memory which means you can only read but cannot write on it.
  • Secondary Memory – It refers to the external memory which stores permanent data and information. The CPU cannot process the contents of the secondary memory directly. Instead, the data must be copied into the main memory (RAM) so that the CPU can access it further. Hard disk drives, floppy disks, compact disks (CDs) are a few examples of secondary memory devices.

Difference between Memory and Storage-1

What is Storage?

Storage mainly refers to physical storage devices that are capable of storing data and information on a long-term, such as a Hard Disk Drive (HDD). It’s a medium of storage which holds permanent and high capacity data that aren’t in the computer main memory. Storage is a core component of any computing device which stores all the information that the computer knows.

Unlike memory, storage devices can be unplugged at any time and the data will still be intact the next time the device is plugged in. Data remains the same and nothing changes in the hard disk drive: everything gets pulled off into the main memory. As long as the data is in the RAM, only you can access or modify the data, which gets back to the hard drive when you save it.

Technically, more storage means more data can be stored on the machine and it doesn’t affect the machine’s performance. For example, a machine with 2 GB of RAM will function at the same speed regardless of whether it has 64 GB of storage or 1000 GB. Hard disk storage capacity has nothing to do with the speed of the computer.

Memory vs. Storage

1. Definition

In simple terms, memory refers to random access memory (RAM) which is used to store everything that is happening on your computer at the moment. It stores temporary data for instant storage. Storage, on the other hand, refers to permanent high-capacity memory which can hold information both temporarily and permanently.

2. Composition

The memory is a collection of computer chips installed in memory modules that go into your computer’s main logic board. Storage is a technology consisting of core components of a computer that are used to store and access data.

3. Data Access

The data and information stored in the random access memory can be accessed instantly regardless of their location in the memory. RAM has a direct access to the brain of the computer – the CPU. Storage devices such as hard drives are usually slower than RAM, so they cannot directly access the data as fast as the memory does.

4. Speed

More the RAM, more complex programs and applications can be run simultaneously. It means adding more RAM to a system increases its performance on a core level. Adding more storage, on the other hand, won’t affect the system’s performance whether it has a 256 GB storage or 1000 GB storage.

5. Cost

Memory modules can be a bit expensive depending on the capacity of the RAM (8 GB, 16 GB, or 32 GB). Hard disk drives are relatively less expensive than the RAM chips, however, prices can get a little higher as you go higher with the storage capacity.

Memory Storage
Memory refers to Random Access Memory (RAM). Storage refers to physical storage devices such as hard drives.
Everything the computer thinks about is stored in RAM. It is a long-term storage solution which stores all the data and information on the computer it knows about.
Data is lost when the computer loses the power. Data stays intact even after power failure or if the computer freezes in the middle.
RAM is faster than storage. Storage is relatively slower than RAM.
RAM can access data and information instantly. As mechanical devices, they cannot access or modify data as fast as the memory.


People often confuse the term memory with storage and in computer terminology, they both refer to computer components that are used to store and access digital data and information. However, in general, memory refers to primary memory, or RAM, while storage means physical storage devices such as hard disk drives. Functionally speaking, both the terms are very different from each other in many aspects such as storage media, data access, computer performance and speed, and more. The term storage refers to any computing hardware that is used to store and extract data and information. Memory, on the other hand, is everything that is running on your computer while it’s on. The data is lost when the system loses power.

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References :

[0]Patterson, David and John Hennessy. Computer Organization and Design: The Hardware/Software Interface. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1994. Print

[1]Nishi, Yoshio. Advances in Non-volatile Memory and Storage Technology. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2014. Print

[2]Campardo, Giovanni. Memory Mass Storage. New York City: Springer, 2011. Pr

[3]"Image Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:DRAM_DDR2_512.jpg"

[4]"Image Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_disk_drive"

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