The computer requires a place to store all data being entered by the user as well as processed information from the CPU. This is made possible by various types of computer storage devices. It’s important to understand the different types of computer memory so as to be able to select the right computer for different usage. The term computer storage and computer memory are used interchangeably, although some people refer to primary memory as computer memory. In this article, we shall use both computer memory and computer storage to mean anything that is used to store data and information in the computer.
Types of Computer Storage Devices
There are typically two types of computer storage, primary storage, and secondary storage. Primary memory also called internal storage, is a type of memory that is directly accessible by the processor, unlike secondary memory which is not directly accessible by the processor.
This is because primary storage has a high data access speed while secondary storage has a low data access speed. Data access speed simply means the speed at which data is read or written from the storage medium. This is meant to increase the processor efficiency by trying to match the processor speed with the memory speed.
That means the fastest memory is set closest to the processor for direct communication, while the slower memory is set to supply data to the fast memory and in this case, the secondary memory feeds the primary memory which in turn feeds the processor. I hope you are not lost.
Let’s look at the specific types;
There are two types of primary memory; Random Access Memory (RAM) and Read-Only Memory (ROM).
As the name suggests ROM is designed to allow the user to read the content but not to write on to it. However, some modern ROMs allow for the modification of contents. Rom always retains it’s data even when the computer is switched off, hence it’s referred to as non-volatile memory. Rom is used to storing programs mainly used to operate the system for example the instructions needed during booting.
That makes sense because if you store booting instructions in volatile memory like RAM, the computer would not boot again after going off and would require to be taken to the manufacture for resetting. This is because, in the computer, most content in ROM is added by the manufacturer of the device.
RAM on the other hand is volatile memory, meaning its data will be wiped off immediately it’s switched off. RAM is used to store temporary data that is being used during processing. Since the user is the one who initiates most processing tasks, it means that every time you open a program in your computer, you are simply loading some data onto RAM. So, if you continue loading data until you fill it up, that’s when the computer will stop responding and you say it’s hanging.
There are two types of RAM storage, i.e. Static RAM (SRAM) and Dynamic RAM (DRAM). SRAM is more expensive, faster, and consumes less power than DRAM. SRAM is commonly used in cache memory and registers while DRAM which requires constant refreshing is commonly used in main memory.
Secondary storage sometimes referred to as auxiliary storage provides the user with long term storage for data, information, and also programs. Some secondary storage is fixed inside the system unit, e.g. Hard Disk Drive (HDD) or Solid State Drive (SSD), while others are connected from outside of the system unit, e.g. flash drive.
Secondary storage are made using different technologies; i.e.
- Magnetic disks that store data using magnetic field e.g. HDD and other obsolete storage like floppy disks and zip disks. This type of storage can be affected by strong magnetic fields and hence should be kept away from such sources to prevent loss of data. HDD is a large-capacity storage device mainly used to store most of the data on the computer.
- Optical disks that use light as the name suggests e.g. Compact Disk (CD), Digital Versatile Disk (DVD), and Blu-ray disks. This type of storage is mainly prone to getting scratches on the surface and hence causes data loss. DVDs have much higher storage capacities than CDs while Blu-ray disks allow much higher storage capacities with higher definition than CDs and DVDs.
- Solid State storage which makes use of integrated circuits to store data e.g. Flash drive, memory card, memory stick, Solid State Drive (SSD) e.t.c. This type has the advantage of being very fast in data access speed and very portable.
Effect of Different Types of Memories on Computer
RAM stores running programs and as such it’s a major consideration when purchasing a computer. Special consideration especially if you are purchasing a computer for gaming and other heavy-duty use, needs to be made to avoid slowing down the computer. You can think of RAM as your working bench, the bigger the bench the better since you can fit more tools and access them faster and with ease.
The smaller bench would require you to keep going back to the store to pick your tool assuming that you are not allowed to put the tool anywhere else except on the bench, which will lead to time wastage. Likewise, a small RAM would waste time while the processor waits for the data to be fetched from the slower secondary storage like SSD.
Something else that may affect the RAM operation is the speed of the RAM, this may be affected by the types of RAM used in main memory including SDR, DDR1, DDR2, DDR3, and DDR4. With DDR4 being the fastest RAM and also more expensive. Computer with higher memory capacities also tends to be more expensive and hence requires careful consideration.
Fixed secondary storage like HDD and SSD affects the amount of data and information that can fit in your computer all at once. The higher storage will be better for storing more user data although it will be more expensive. Since most applications in the computer including operating systems are installed in fixed storage, a very small free space can affect the way those programs run and hence the computer overall performance. That means you should always leave some free space for use by applications.
Removable secondary storage devices like flash drive are very useful when you want to move data from your computer to other devices or computers. Storage with higher capacities and more data transfer speed like solid-state drives might be more appropriate for your daily tasks. Optical disks require to be handled carefully to prevent it from breaking and getting scratches which will lead to data loss. You can also consider getting a high capacity external HDD or SSD which can act as your backup.
Cloud storage allows users data to be managed remotely and made available to the user over the network. This makes it safer especially in case of a disaster there is always a backup. However, the basic features may not be adequate for the majority and one may require paying for the advanced package in order to get more storage.
Final Thoughts- Your Power
Now you have the information and power to select the most appropriate type of storage device next time you shop around. In case, you have challenges with your current storage, you can upgrade to a better one after consulting an expert. If you need more information you are free to contact me