When building a computer or replacing parts, it is important to understand the difference between various components and what they do. One crucial concept that those working with computers should be aware of when purchasing parts is the distinction between primary and secondary memory. It is also useful to be aware of the various types of storage that fall under the two categories such as ROM, RAM, hard disk drives, solid state drives, and more. In this blog, we will discuss the differences between primary and secondary computer memory as well as the common memory options that are available for use.
To distinguish between the types of computer memory, primary memory is often called system memory and secondary memory is referred to as system storage. While both types of memory can utilize computer data, the primary differences between the two lay in their speed of data access and how they use such data. Primary memory often comes in the form of RAM and ROM, and such components are typically placed near the CPU on the motherboard. This allows for the CPU to quickly read data from the memory so that it may be stored without delay. Secondary memory, on the other hand, is typically a separate device that may be connected to the memory board or computer by the means of cabling or USB connection, and these storage devices include hard disk drives, solid state drives, flash memory, and more. Due to their connection method and internal components, such devices are typically slower in their data speeds.
RAM, or random access memory, is a type of computer memory that stores data in a random order, allowing for any part to be accessed with the same speed. As compared to secondary memory, RAM is volatile. This means that any data that is stored on the device is lost when power is cut from the system, thus it is mostly reserved for keeping data that needs to be accessed by the CPU extremely quickly. Once data is not needed by the CPU, it can be transferred from the RAM to a secondary storage device. Due to its speed and use, the cost per gigabyte of RAM is much higher as compared to secondary memory.
ROM, or read-only memory, is memory that cannot have data written to it. Like RAM, ROM computer memory is kept close to the CPU for speed of access. Despite this, ROM differs from RAM in the fact that it is non-volatile, thus data remains even after the loss of power. Generally, ROM is used to store various code to allow for the computer to carry out basic system operations such as starting up, loading the operating system, and allowing the computer to be used.
Secondary memory is composed of a variety of storage that can be connected to a computer, and common types include hard disk drives (HDDs), solid state drives (SSDs), optical drives, tape drives, pc card memory, and flash memory. Secondary memory will often be used to store all of the data that the computer may use such as operating systems, applications, documents, and more. Hard drives and solid state drives are typically the most common types of computer memory for storage, and they may be attached either internally or externally depending on the need. Hard drives are well-known for their cheap price per gigabyte, though they often are slower than solid state drives. Memory cards and flash memory are most often smaller devices that can be easily transported and connected to multiple computers, facilitating the easy transfer of documents and applications.
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