RAM vs. Storage Memory: What’s the Difference?

Computer memories can be confusing. It’s hard to keep track of different types of memories, plus further subcategories included in each type. 

Let’s take RAM and storage for instance. Both of them are a kind of “memory” — but serve entirely different purposes. 

RAM and storage memory are two of the most commonly misdefined terms in the computer industry, mostly because both have the term “memory” in their names. However, this article is going to clear out all the confusion. 

But before we get started, let’s tell you a bit about Computer Memory Solutions (CMS). We started out as a simple computer store more than 15 years ago, but have grown tremendously since then. Today, we are one of the most reputed providers of all types of computer storage and memory, including RAMs, SSDs, and HDDs. 

Now, let’s dive deeper into what is RAM and storage memory, and what’s the difference between the two. 

What is RAM?

RAM is the abbreviation of Random Access Memory, also commonly known as the “memory”. It’s a set of integrated circuits that are either directly soldered into your computer’s motherboard, or attached to a memory module that’s connected to the motherboard separately. 

The storage capacity of RAM is much smaller than an HDD or SDD — and there are good reasons for that. The data stored in RAM is volatile, meaning it’s not stored there permanently. When you open an application on your computer, it’s loaded into the RAM temporarily. It stays in the RAM as long as you keep the app open or it keeps running in the background. If the app is shut down, it’s cleared from the RAM. 

The typical RAM capacities used nowadays are 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB. You may see computers with more or less RAM than that, but these are the most commonly RAM capacities in today’s computers. 

RAM is one of the fastest pathways to the computer’s Central Processing Unit (CPU), meaning the data stored in RAM can be accessed by the CPU almost instantly. That explains why the running programs are loaded into the RAM and not on an SDD or HDD: to get the maximum performance. 

The CPU can access the contents of the RAM at random points at any given moment.

If you keep multiple apps and documents open in the background, all of them stay loaded into the RAM. If your computer doesn’t have sufficient RAM capacity, it won’t be able to hold as many apps and files before going slow and force closing apps. 

If your computer is having problems keeping things running in the background, upgrading your RAM might solve the issue. However, be noted that upgrading the RAM might not help you improve the general performance of your PC or laptop. 

What is storage?

The storage is where you keep your digital data like files, applications, and games. The data stored in storage devices isn’t volatile, meaning it doesn’t go away automatically after the computer is shut down. The user has to delete the data manually to get rid of it. 

Storage devices are typically used to store data that you want to keep for later access. For instance, the games you install, the photos you store, the movies you download — are all stored in your computer’s storage. 

Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) and Solid State Drives (SDDs) are the two most popular types of storage devices. HDD is an older technology and is substantially slower than an SDD. An SSD, on the other hand, is a newer technology and is much, much faster — explaining why it’s so much expensive than an HDD. 

Storage devices typically have a much larger capacity than RAM. That’s because the data stored on them is kept permanently until the user deletes it. They come in anywhere between 32GBs and several TBs. 

The difference between RAM and storage memory

Both these hardware components have the word “memory” in them — but their functionality is very different. 

RAM is used to temporarily load up files and programs for quicker access by the CPU. A storage device, on the other hand, is used to permanently store important information by the user — that’s until the user deletes the data themselves. 

 A RAM’s capacity is usually much smaller than a storage device because it doesn’t have to store large chunks of data permanently. Storage devices are much larger in size and are generally used to store large chunks of data into the computer. 

The bottom line

People often get confused about the types of memory and storage their computers use, and RAM vs. storage is one of the most popular topics on the internet. This article gives you all the information you need to resolve the confusion and differentiate between the two terms. 

If you need new RAM sticks or storage devices for your PC, laptop, or Mac, you should check out Computer Memory Solutions. We sell all kinds of storage and memory modules at the best, cheapest prices.