Difference Between Memory and Storage explained

Memory is what your computer uses to store data temporarily, while storage is where you save files permanently


Memory and Storage are two essential components that work together to store and retrieve data on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Memory refers to RAM (Random access Memory) or primary memory on your computer, while the term storage refers to a Hard disk drive or SSD (solid state drive). Memory is used to store data that is being actively used by the CPU, while Storage is used to store long-term data that needs to be accessed on a regular basis. Both are technically store data and measured in the same units: bytes, kilobytes, megabytes or gigabytes, however, functionally both are quite different in the way they store and retain data. In this article we’ll explore the difference between memory and storage, and how they work together in a computer system.

Memory and storage both store data, the difference is in how long the data is stored.

Memory (RAM) Is “Volatile”

Memory, also known as RAM (Random Access Memory), temporarily stores data and instructions that the CPU (Central Processing Unit) needs to access quickly. It’s considered volatile memory means its contents are lost when the computer is turned off or restarted. RAM is a critical component of a computer’s performance, as it enables the computer to quickly access data and execute the instructions.

The term ‘memory’ refers to the component within your computer that allows for short-term data access.

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When you open an app or file on your computer, it copies the data from the storage device (such as a hard drive or SSD) into memory, where the CPU can quickly access it. This data can be anything from a Word document to a website you’re browsing right now. That’s why the more RAM a computer has the more data it can store in memory and reduce the amount of time it takes to load applications and files.

How to check the memory on PC

  • Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc at once to open up the Windows Task Manager.
  • Move to the Performance tab and Open the Memory sidebar.

check the memory on PC

Also, you can Navigate to your PC’s Settings, Click through to System, and About to pull up your PC’s specs.

Storage Is “Non-Volatile”

Storage refers to a hard drive or a solid-state drive, its non-volatile memory is used to store data and programs permanently. Storage houses your applications, operating system, and files for an indefinite period. Unlike RAM, storage devices retain their data even when the power is turned off.

Storage is the component within your computer that allows you to store and access data on a long-term basis

Your storage capacity determines how many files you can save on your computer.

How to check the storage on PC

  • Press the Windows key + R, type diskmgmt.msc and click ok.
  • This will open the disk management window and display the details for each drive on your PC and all partitions for each drive.

disk management windows 11

In addition, you can Press Win+E to open File Explorer, on the left sidebar, select This PC to display storage devices on your computer.

How is memory different from storage?

Now take a look at the differences between memory and storage, the main difference is memory temporary storage that holds data and instructions that the CPU needs to access quickly. Well on the other hand Storage is permanent storage that holds data and files even if your computer is turned off.

Memory is volatile means its contents are lost when the computer is turned off or restarted, while storage is a nonvolatile memory that its contents are not lost when the computer is turned off.

Another difference between memory and storage is the speed, Memory is much faster than storage. it uses electronic circuits to store and retrieve data. while storage uses mechanical parts that are slower to access data. This is why the computer copies data from the storage device into memory, where the CPU can access it quickly.

Memory clears when the computer is turned off, On the other hand, storage remains intact no matter how many times you shut off your computer.

RAM and storage are different in terms of their function and characteristics, they work together to enable the computer to function properly


  • Memory (RAM – Random Access Memory): It is used for temporary data storage that the computer or software is actively using. It allows quick read and write access to a storage medium, providing fast data retrieval for running programs and processes.
  • Storage (Hard Drive, SSD, etc.): It is used for long-term data retention. Data stored in storage devices persists even when the computer is powered off. It holds the operating system, applications, documents, and other files.


  • Memory: It is volatile, meaning it loses its contents when the power is turned off. RAM is cleared when the computer restarts.
  • Storage: It is non-volatile. Data remains intact even when the power is off, making it suitable for long-term storage.


  • Memory: It provides fast access to data, allowing the computer to quickly read and write information during its operation.
  • Storage: While storage has higher capacity, it is generally slower compared to memory.


  • Memory: It has a smaller capacity compared to storage. Its primary purpose is to provide quick access to frequently used data.
  • Storage: It has a larger capacity, storing the operating system, applications, and user data for the long term.


  • Memory: Examples include RAM (Random Access Memory), Cache memory, etc.
  • Storage: Examples include Hard Disk Drives (HDD), Solid State Drives (SSD), and external storage devices.

In summary, memory is used for quick access to data during the computer’s operation, while storage is used for long-term data retention. They serve different purposes in the overall functioning of a computer system.


Do you need both memory and storage?

Yes, a computer, laptop, or smartphone needs both memory and storage to run properly. However, when it comes to choosing between memory and storage during an upgrade, your choice really depends on what you need your device to do. If you plan to run a lot of programs and need more space for temporary files, you’ll need more memory. If you just need a place to store software, games, files, etc., you should focus more on storage.

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Steve Ballmer
Steve Ballmer
With over 7 years of experience in the IT industry, I have experience in IT support, helpdesk, sysadmin, network admin, and cloud computing. Certified in Microsoft Technologies (MCTS and MCSA) and also Cisco Certified Professional in Routing and Switching.

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