While computers come in a staggering array of sizes, from enormous desktops to portable laptops to pint-sized tablets, most of the internal components are surprisingly similar across all models. In fact, the hardware of a computer — processor, motherboard, hard drive, and memory are standard.
However, when people purchase a computer, they are most concerned about the amount of memory it holds. A computer’s memory allows it to retrieve and store data it needs to function at its highest capacity.
Technically speaking, computer memory refers to any kind of electronic storage; however, computers process memory in a very specific hierarchical manner. No matter where the data is coming from — your keyboard, hard drive, or through an internet connection — most data will end up in the random-access memory, or RAM, first.
What is Random Access Memory?
Random-access memory, better known as RAM, is one of the most common forms of computer memory.
RAM stores the data and programs your core processing unit (CPU) is using in real-time. That means that data stored in RAM can be read, written, and erased multiple times. But this storage is only temporary. Once the power to your CPU is cut, RAM memory is lost.
There are two types of RAM: static and dynamic.
Static RAM (SRAM)
SRAM is a type of random-access memory that will store data in its memory cells as long as power is supplied to your computer. It doesn’t have to be refreshed periodically, and it allows you to access data at a faster rate. As such, it’s more expensive than DRAM. Generally, SRAM is used in video cards as part of the RAM digital-to-analog converter, as well as being part of your computer’s cache memory.
Dynamic RAM (DRAM)
DRAM, on the other hand, needs to be refreshed now and then, or it forgets the data it’s holding. This constant refreshing can cause slowdowns if the memory chip is rated too slow.
No matter which you choose — DRAM or SRAM, RAM storage is meant to be temporary.
What is Read Only Memory (ROM)?
Read-only memory, or ROM, is a type of memory storage medium that works with permanent data that can only be read as opposed to written to. It’s mostly used in firmware, and it’s unique in that it holds onto its information, whether or not there’s power to your computer.
There are many subtypes from PROM (programmable read-only memory) to EEPROM (electronically erasable programmable ROM), among others.
The Critical Difference Between RAM and ROM
The difference between RAM and ROM is vast. In a nutshell:
- RAM data is volatile and can be overwritten multiple times; ROM data is permanent
- RAM memory is high speed; ROM memory is much slower
- RAM can be accessed by the CPU; ROM data cannot
- RAM is larger with a higher capacity; ROM is smaller with less capacity
- RAM is expensive; ROM is much more affordable.
- RAM chips can store larger quantities of data (1 to 256 GB); ROM is much smaller (4 to 8 MB)
While these facts may make it seem like these two types of memory are virtual opposites, there are similarities between RAM and ROM. On their basis, they are both a type of memory chip that allows you to store data on your computer.
Keep Your Computer Running Smoothly with Properly-Sized RAM and ROM
To keep your computer operating at a quick pace, you need to have appropriate amounts of RAM and ROM installed. If you’ve recently downloaded new games, programs, or other data and noticed a lag in your system, you may need to update your RAM and/or ROM to allow your computer to keep pace with the way you’re using it.
Adding larger RAM chips or faster-rated ROM chips can increase your productivity (or gaming abilities) and help your computer run smoother.