Difference between Memory and storage – Overview

At the core of every computing device are two invisible yet vitally important components – memory and storage. From phones to PCs to servers, these twin pillars work in tandem to allow us to access data, run programs, store files and more. However, their roles and responsibilities are quite distinct despite often being conflated. In this post, we’ll peel back the layers to understand the key difference between memory and storage, how they complement each other, and why both are essential for powering modern technology.

What is Memory?

Before learning Difference between Memory and storage, lets learn what is memory. In computing, memory refers to volatile memory – a temporary storage medium that only retains data while powered on. The most common types used today are Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) and Static RAM (SRAM). Memory chips store program code, currently running applications, and temporary variables needed for active processing. It acts as the pipeline between the CPU and permanent storage, allowing data to flow freely for maximum speed.

Types and Functions of Memory

  • DDR3 and DDR4 are the prevalent DRAM types, offering fast yet temporary data storage. Speed and capacity have steadily increased through new generations.
  • SRAM caches hold frequently accessed instructions for lightning-fast retrieval by the CPU without disk access delays. It’s faster but more expensive than DRAM.
  • The primary function of memory is to store program instructions, data being actively processed, and the operating system’s core components. This allows computing to feel instantaneous to users.
  • Memory acts as the bridge between the processor and permanent storage. It feeds the CPU a steady stream of data at blazing speeds for seamless multitasking.

What is Storage?

Storage refers to non-volatile storage – devices that retain data integrity even when powered down. Common types include hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs). Unlike memory, storage is designed for long-term retention of files, applications, and backups rather than just temporary use. It serves as the deep repository backing up memory contents.

Storage Technologies

  • HDDs use spinning magnetic platters and read/write heads to physically access and alter data locations. While cheap, they are slower than flash and can be damaged by shocks.
  • SSDs for Desktops have no moving parts, using NAND flash memory like USB drives. They deliver much faster read/write speeds than HDDs but higher per-gigabyte costs, though prices fall each year.
  • Storage capacities continue growing alongside data usage. Multi terabyte external drives let you archive content for years. Cloud storage provides virtually limitless options for offloading files.

Difference Between Memory and Storage

Aspect Memory


Volatile Data is lost when power is cut off. Data is retained even when power is off.
Speed Very fast, allows for quick data access. Slower than memory but still relatively fast.
Capacity Smaller capacity, meant for temporary storage. Larger capacity, used for long-term storage.
Function Stores actively used data and programs. Stores files, applications, and operating systems.
Accessibility Data can be read and written multiple times. Data is read and written, but has limited cycles.
Cost More expensive per unit of storage. Less expensive per unit of storage.

Memory and Storage

Examples for Difference Between Memory and Storage

To understand their practical roles, consider starting up a large application like a game. The program files first load from an SSD or HDD into RAM. As you play, constantly changing level data streams from storage into memory cache for instant access by the CPU. When done, your saved games upload from memory back to permanent storage. This seamless interplay is crucial for modern computing experiences.

Ebuyer’s Blog


While invisible behind the scenes, memory and storage form the Yin and Yang enabling all our digital interactions. By examining their differing characteristics, we gain a deeper appreciation for how they advance technology together despite contrasting strengths. As demands evolve, both storage and memory continue innovating to keep pace with exponentially growing data and workloads. Their partnership ensures computing power remains a ladder ever climbing. Hope you would have understood difference between memory and storage along with examples, types and functions.

Difference Between Memory and Storage

  • What is the main difference between memory and storage?
    The key difference is that memory is volatile and temporary while storage is non-volatile and designed for long-term data retention. Memory holds active data for fast CPU access, while storage archives files in permanent fashion.
  • Why is memory often referred to as volatile?
    Memory is considered volatile because it loses its stored contents when power is removed or lost. Storage media are non-volatile as they retain data even without an external power source.
  • How does memory affect a computer's performance?
    Faster memory with greater capacity allows a computer to rapidly access instructions and data for maximum processing speed. This enhances the experience through quicker load times, smoother multitasking and more responsive applications. Bigger caches also reduce storage access bottlenecks.
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