Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Hard Drive and Memory

Hard Drive vs Memory

Random access memory and hard drive are often the most confused buzz words in the IT world. People often confuse the error message “system out of memory” thinking that their hard drive is full but, in reality, it is the RAM that is getting full.

Both the hard drive and RAM are used for storing data. The RAM is typically smaller than the hard drive. The storage capacity of RAM ranges between 128MB to 1 MB. The hard drive has a large storage capacity ranging from 1GB to 1TB.

The type of storage in RAM is temporary. When a user tries to access some information on the Internet, the files get downloaded temporarily to the RAM. The data downloaded by the user from the Internet gets stored in the hard drive permanently. The files downloaded onto the RAM get erased when the computer is shut down. The data stored on the hard drive remains permanently.

The memory modules are made up of chips and microprocessors. The hard drive is made up of disks and platters. The data on the RAM is stored in the form of bits (0’s and 1’s). The RAM needs a continuous power supply in order to hold the data on the chip. The data on the hard drive are stored on the magnetic disks. The hard drive doesn’t require a continuous electrical power supply to hold the data.

When a user modifies a particular file, the changes are first stored in the RAM. Once the user saves the changes, the content gets copied to the hard disk. The original copy of the file is untouched in the hard drive until the changes made to the file are saved. Once the file is saved, the original file is replaced by the new version of the file on the hard drive.

The memory can be accessed several hundred times faster than a hard drive. Since all the programs are first loaded to the RAM, the memory usually becomes full. When the computer comes up with an error message saying “not enough memory to run this program,” it means that the RAM is full.


1. The memory refers to the random access memory installed on the system board

whereas the hard drive is a spindle of magnetic disks also referred to as a hard disk.

2. The capacity of RAM is smaller than the capacity of the hard drive. The RAM capacity

ranges from 128 MB to 4 GB whereas the hard drive capacity ranges from 320 GB to 1


3. The storage type in RAM is temporary whereas the storage type in the hard drive is


4. RAM can be accessed faster than the hard drive. The RAM is made up of chips

whereas the hard drive is made up of disks and platters.

5. Any changes done to the file will be present in the RAM whereas once the changes are

saved, it is copied to the hard drive permanently.

6. The RAM needs a continuous power supply to hold the data whereas the hard drive

doesn’t need a power supply to retain the data.

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