Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The difference between Memory and Storage

Many computer users are confused by the difference between memory, provided by your computer's RAM, and storage, provided by your computer's hard drive. I know because a week doesn't go by when someone comes into our shop and tells us they're "running out of memory" when they really mean their hard drive is almost full.

While both the computer's memory and hard drive can contribute to overall performance, I thought it was important that everyone understand the difference between these components.

The RAM in your computer is used to store information the computer needs to retrieve quickly: primarily information about the programs you are currently running and the files you are currently working with. If there isn't enough room in memory, the computer will temporarily store this data on the hard drive, where it takes much longer for it to access. That is why increasing the amount of RAM in your computer can often have an immediate impact on how your computer performs. The more memory you have, the more information your computer can store for quick retrieval and the less it has to temporarily store on the hard drive.

Another big difference is that information stored in memory is lost after the computer has been turned off. That is why we save our files to the hard drive.

The hard drive is used to store data that does not need to be retrieved quickly and must be maintained even after the computer has been shut down. That is why we save files to the hard drive. Over time, though, the hard drive can get too full. When this happens, it can have a dramatic impact on how the computer performs. As a rule, it's generally a good idea to always have at least 15% free space on your hard drive.

To see how much RAM you have in your Windows computer:

Windows 7/Vista/XP

  1. Click on the Start button
  2. Right-click on Computer (or My Computer for Windows XP)
  3. Click on Properties

To see how much free space you have on your Windows hard drive:

Windows 7/Vista

  1. Click on the Start button
  2. Click on Computer

Windows XP

  1. Click on the Start button
  2. Click on My Computer
  3. Right-click on the C drive
  4. Click on Properties

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