When a computer is powered up, a number of processes occur. Specific programs begin to run. The data and instructions necessary for executing the programs are temporarily stored in the computer memory. For most people memory and RAM mean the same thing. However, they are relatively different as you’ll discover in this article.
RAM or Random Access Memory is a type of computer memory. It comes in the form of computer chips that give fast and temporary storage for computer data. The RAM holds the data and instructions the computer is currently working on. For example, if you’re using Microsoft Word to type, data and instructions for executing the program are temporarily held in the RAM. When you close the program, the data and instructions for running it are also removed from the RAM.
Memory is a generic term referring to the components and devices that the computer uses to store data and instructions. It’s subdivided into cache memory, primary memory and secondary memory. Cache memory is high speed memory that’s installed on the motherboard. It’s fixed in nature. Primary memory is divided into ROM (read only memory), and RAM (random access memory). It’s here that data and instructions needed to execute a program are stored. Secondary memory is used to store data and information permanently and includes the hard disk.
|Is a type of primary storage||Is a generic term referring to three computer storage types|
|Temporary storage for data and instructions the computer is currently working on.||Includes both temporary storage and permanent storage for data and instructions.|
|Fast storage but limited data can be stored.||Cache memory and primary memory are fast. Secondary memory is slower.|
|Can be extended by installing high capacity chips.||Can be extended although cache and RAM are expensive.|
Let’s take a look at them closely in terms of their type, purpose, speed, and extendibility.
- RAM is a high speed form of primary storage. It’s here that the data and instructions of a currently executing program are stored. Memory on the other hand is a generic term used to refer to all devices and components installed in a computer for storing data and instructions.
- RAM is volatile. That is, it only stores data and instructions temporarily when the computer is on. If a program isn’t executing, data and instructions that relate to it aren’t stored in the RAM. Memory on the other hand can be temporary (cache and primary memory) or permanent (secondary memory).
- RAM is fast. Effective program execution depends on the RAM speed. This ensures speedy access of data for processing by the computer processor. With regard to memory, cache and primary memory are fast. Secondary memory is relatively slow.
- RAM can be extended using high capacity chips. Memory can also be extended. However, extending cache and primary memory is a bit expensive compared to extending secondary memory.
Here is a video to further properly differentiate Ram and Memory.