Secondary Storage Devices of Computer 

            Secondary storage devices refer to computer hardware that allows permanent or non-volatile storage, retrieval and use of data in a computer. Unlike Primary storage and Secondary storage does not lose its data when the device is powered off. Some common examples of secondary storage devices are hard disk drives, solid-state drives, USB flash drives, SD cards etc.

             Secondary storage allows computers to have persistent memory – the ability to retain data even when powered off. This enables users to store programs and data permanently. The large capacity affordably available makes secondary storage an integral part of computers.

What is Secondary Storage?

            Secondary storage, also known as external memory and auxiliary storage, refers to computer data storage devices that can retain digital data even when not powered. It is primarily used for persistent storage of data that needs to be used in the future.Secondary storage            The data in secondary storage devices can be accessed, modified and deleted much like in primary memory such as RAM. But unlike volatile RAM, secondary storage retains data without electrical power. Secondary storage devices are non-volatile.
           Common examples of secondary storage devices are hard disk drives, solid-state drives, optical disc drives, USB flash drives, memory cards and magnetic tapes. These provide much higher data storage capacity than primary memory.
           Modern personal computers have secondary storage devices that can store terabytes of data while also having speed comparable to that of RAM. This had enabled secondary storage to not just be used for backup, but also regular computing tasks.

Types of Secondary Storage

There are different types of secondary storage devices and technologies available. Some major categories are:

Types of secondary storage


Hard Disk Drives (HDDs)

          Hard disk drives contain round platters with a magnetic coating that is used to store data. HDDs use read/write heads to access and modify data on the rotating disks.

             HDDs are non-volatile, provide high capacity storage from hundreds of GB to tens of TB, and have become very affordable. HDDs remain the predominant secondary storage device for computers because of their favorable cost per byte.

Solid State Drives (SSDs)

          Instead of rotating platters, solid-state drives use integrated circuits to store data. SSDs use flash memory and have no moving parts. Compared to traditional HDDs, SSDs are typically more reliable and faster.

            SSD adoption has steadily grown thanks to plunging prices and capacity increases. For the same storage capacity, SSDs consume less power than HDDs. Durability, compact form factors and improved speeds have made SSDs the preferred choice in many computers.

Cloud Storage

            Cloud storage refers to storing data on remote servers operated by Cloud computing providers. It allows access to the stored data over the internet.

             Cloud storage provides benefits such as high availability, easy data sharing across devices, offsite backups and data mirroring. Leading cloud storage providers include Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive and Apple iCloud.

Optical Disc Drives

           Optical storage devices store and read data from discs. CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs are inserted into optical disc drives which scan tracks and bits on the disc to access data.

               Recordable optical media also allows users to write data to them. But their capacity tends to be lower compared to HDDs and SSDs. Durability of burned optical discs can also be lower compared to magnetic or solid-state storage.

USB Flash Drives

            USB flash drives are small solid-state data storage devices integrated with a USB interface. Their compact form factor, ease of use and durability have made USB drives a ubiquitous secondary storage device.

              Cost per unit storage on flash drives has also rapidly declined while capacities have ballooned to multiple hundred GB. Easy portability has enhanced the utility of flash drives for transferring and sharing data across devices.

SD Cards

             Like flash drives, Secure Digital (SD) cards provide solid-state secondary storage in compact sizes. They are commonly used in smartphones, digital cameras, handheld consoles and other portable devices to store photos, videos, music and other media.

             SD cards offer storage capacities comparable to smaller SSDs along with fast read/write speeds. Their durable form factor also suits mobile use cases. SD cards are available in micro, mini and regular sizes based on device compatibility.

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Use of Secondary Storage in Computers

              Because of secondary storage’s non-volatile nature and large capacities, computers utilize it for crucial functions:

use of Secondary storage

             permanent Storage of Data: Primary memory in computers is too small and volatile to store data permanently. Secondary storage Safely allows long-term retention of files, photos, software installers media etc. needed in the future.

             Installing Software & Operating Systems: Application software like MS Office, Photoshop, games etc. get installed once on secondary storage instead of loading every time. The OS also gets installed and booted from secondary storage.

             Archival Storage: Older rarely accessed data gets shifted from primary storage into secondary storage for long term preservation while freeing up working memory.

             Backup & Recovery: Secondary storage provides the means for system and file backups that become invaluable in case of data loss, disaster recovery or hardware failures.

             Transferring Data Between Devices: Portable secondary storage devices facilitate easy transfer of data from one device to another without internet connectivity.

Benefits of Secondary Storage

             Secondary storage devices deliver valuable advantages:

  • Non-Volatile Storage: Data is retained even when powered off. This enables permanent storage of data.
  • High Capacity: Secondary storage offers vastly larger capacities compared to primary memory and can store terabytes of data.
  • Persistence: Data and software does not need to be reloaded each time the system boots up.
  • Portability: External and removable secondary storage options like USB drives facilitate easy transfer of data between devices.
  • Durability: Most secondary storage media provides reliable long term retention of data for decades if stored properly.
  • Backups: Secondary storage enables backups critical for data and system recovery in case of failures and disasters.
  • Archiving: Old and rarely used data can be moved to secondary storage without cluttering primary storage.
  • Cost Effectiveness: Large capacity secondary storage is available economically compared to volatile primary memory.


             Secondary storage has become an indispensable component of modern computer systems and user workflows. Non-volatile high capacity secondary storage devices uniquely satisfy the persistent data storage and portability needs.

                 Secondary storage capacity, speed and affordability has radically improved over the years while use cases have diversified. Emerging solid state and cloud storage technologies continue to further the capabilities of secondary storage. Users now rely extensively on secondary storage for installing software, archiving data, enabling backups and transporting data.

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Secondary Storage Devices of Computer

  • What are 5 storage devices?
    The 5 most common storage devices are:
    1. Hard Disk Drives (HDD)
    2. Solid State Drives (SSD)
    3. USB Flash Drives
    4. SD Cards
    5. Optical discs (CDs, DVDs, Blu-Rays)
  • What is a secondary memory example?
     Some examples of secondary memory are hard drives, SSDs, USB drives, CDs, DVDs, Blu-Ray discs, SD cards, etc. Essentially, any storage device that is non-volatile (does not lose data when power is removed) counts as secondary memory.
  • What is main and secondary storage?
     Main storage refers to a computer's volatile memory like RAM which loses stored data when powered off. Secondary storage refers to non-volatile storage devices that retain data even when powered off. Examples: Hard drive (secondary) vs RAM (main).
  • What are the 3 types of computer storage?
    The 3 main types of computer storage are:
    1. Primary Storage (e.g. RAM)
    2. Secondary Storage (e.g. hard drives)
    3. Tertiary Storage (e.g. magnetic tapes)
  • What is secondary storage?
    Secondary storage refers to non-volatile computer data storage devices and media capable of retaining data when power is switched off. Examples include hard disk drives, solid state drives, USB flash drives, CD/DVD discs, Blu-ray discs, SD cards etc


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