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I want to know the difference between RAM and Hard Disk Memory and why some say I can't call my hard disk space: memory?

asked Oct 19 '10 at 05:59

Patxi's gravatar image


You need to get their definition of "memory". Computer memory by definition is where data is stored. Ask them what their definition of "memory" is. You may get one of the two following answers. These are both incorrect:

  • Memory is where data is temporarily stored. This is the answer given by those who don't understand volatility. There are two extremely common examples that contradict this definition: ROM and flash (which is a form of EEPROM). Ask them what ROM stands for. What RAM and hard disk memory is used for depends upon the user. I could load an operating system entirely into RAM and operate without a hard drive, or use my hard drive for temporary storage which is also extremely common; educate them about Paging.
  • Memory doesn't have moving parts. This is the answer given by those who don't understand the difference between primary and secondary storage. The easiest way to convince these is to ask them what CD-ROM or DVD-ROM stands for.

The following was extracted from wikipedia:
"Primary storage (or main memory or internal memory), often referred to simply as memory, is the only one directly accessible to the CPU. The CPU continuously reads instructions stored there and executes them as required. Any data actively operated on is also stored there in uniform manner. ... Main memory is directly or indirectly connected to the central processing unit via a memory bus. It is actually two buses (not on the diagram): an address bus and a data bus. The CPU firstly sends a number through an address bus, a number called memory address, that indicates the desired location of data. Then it reads or writes the data itself using the data bus. ..."

"Secondary storage (also known as external memory or auxiliary storage), differs from primary storage in that it is not directly accessible by the CPU. The computer usually uses its input/output channels to access secondary storage and transfers the desired data using intermediate area in primary storage.


The secondary storage is often formatted according to a file system format, which provides the abstraction necessary to organize data into files and directories, providing also additional information (called metadata) describing the owner of a certain file, the access time, the access permissions, and other information."

answered Oct 19 '10 at 06:47

Seb's gravatar image


edited Oct 19 '10 at 21:40

ill tell you his question again, so you are clear on it:

I want to know the difference between RAM and Hard Disk Memory and why some say I can't call my hard disk space memory?

u didnt really answer his question

(Oct 19 '10 at 18:16) James58321 James58321's gravatar image

Let the person who asked the question be the judge of that. I think I did a fairly good job of explaining that RAM is primary storage and HDDs are secondary storage. If I had said anything more, I'd be incorrect. I also think I did a fairly good job of explaining why HOW you can convince others that HDD memory is memory (which addresses the second part of the question).

(Oct 19 '10 at 21:34) Seb Seb's gravatar image

Exactly, memory is still space, and space is still memory. It's just that one is VERY fast and volatile, and the other is slower but permanent and bigger. But if you take HDD's to the current read/write limit as in SSDs, the difference narrows as well as the usage of the term "memory" only for RAM :) Take flash drives for example, even though the technology used is different, it serves the same purpose: memory/space/storage. Then you must specify: how much space? how fast? does it matter if it goes away when the power is off? Does accessing order to the memory registries matter?

(Oct 20 '10 at 01:29) Alekz Alekz's gravatar image

Seb did a really good job explaining and more importantly I understood it.

(Oct 20 '10 at 05:28) Patxi Patxi's gravatar image

You're making a categorical error by insisting that one type of drive is faster than another type of drive. Types of drives don't have speed. It's the models that have speed. If I take the slowest SSD and compare it to the fastest HDD on the planet, which will perform better?

(Oct 20 '10 at 20:02) Seb Seb's gravatar image

i would have to disagree with Seb, memory and had drives are not the same... they are two very different things with two very different uses. it always pains me to see someone refer to had drive space as memory. To me that is a sign of some one who is uneducated with computers. and please... you cite Wikipedia? give me 5 minutes and ill change what that says to say what i want... my point is that's not very reliable.

(Nov 07 '10 at 08:44) trueb trueb's gravatar image
showing 5 of 6 show all

Long story short: SPEED! and you CAN call a PART of your HardDiskDrive(HDD) memory, you can also call it page file or virtual memory! your CPU has also memory and it's called cashe memory that is the fastest memory in your PC after that is RAM and then the PAGE FILE/VIRTUAL MEMORY. For further information on how they interact look above!

answered Oct 19 '10 at 11:35

JohnK's gravatar image


The Hard Disk Drive is where everything is stored like your Documents, Pictures, Videos and so on. Including the Operating System files.

The RAM which stands for Random Access Memory means when you run applications on your computer - there is a specific type of RAM on there. This uses the RAM to actually use the computer.

If you don't have a HDD then your computer will not turn on and if you don't have RAM your computer will not turn on also.

If you have limited RAM then you can add virtual RAM as well - Here is a link to my video on how to do this: My video on how to do this!! You should use this if you have less than 3GB or 4GB RAM so your computer will run faster.

So here is the summary:

  • RAM = Random Access Memory - Making applications actually work
  • HDD = Hard Disk Drive - Where you store all your Documents and the Operating System files
  • Add more RAM = Click Here to add more RAM for FREE
  • Add more HDD Memory = Buy a flash drive

Hope this helped you learn what RAM and HDD means. Thanks allot!!

answered Oct 19 '10 at 11:46

thecomputergeek01's gravatar image


some people will argue this question to no end... I along with every computer engineer, computer scientist i know, refer to them as different things, memory is for placing of information while it is in use (ram.) Storage is for keeping information long term

think of it this way, if you have a bunch of tax papers and you are filing taxes right now, you probably have all that information on your desk to quickly refer to it, because you are working on it. You may keep some investment information in a filing cabinet because your not always working on it that is storage, you will pull it out when your doing taxes to get information from them. When you are done with taxes you will put them all into the filing cabinet for your records.

i wish to also cite "memory" pg 311 of "Barron's Business Guides Dictionary of Computer and Internet Terms 8th Edition (c) 2003: "The space within a computer where information is stored while being actively worked on..." and many websites out there

if one where to call hard drive space memory, it is my educated opinion as a student in computer engineering that i am prepared to back up with reliable sources that that individual is incorrect in saying that.

answered Nov 07 '10 at 01:31

trueb's gravatar image


I'm not an expert on it but I believe that when you use your hard drive as virtual the only time that it doesn't increase the performance of your computer is during boot up.

answered Nov 07 '10 at 12:07

FilipinoPower's gravatar image


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Asked: Oct 19 '10 at 05:59

Seen: 10,026 times

Last updated: Nov 07 '10 at 12:07