Every computer you see has myriad cogs working below the surface to allow for smooth functioning. While we may never see the inner workings of our devices, they are crucial, and all have their own key purposes. An important part of any computer is memory, which comes in different forms, including volatile and non-volatile memory.
So, what’s the difference between these two types of storage?
What Is Volatile Memory?
When you use your computer, you’re always dealing with different kinds of data. And, when you need to access any type of data in the moment at a high speed, volatile memory is at the ready. Volatile memory stores computer programs that are currently being used by a device’s central processing unit (CPU) on a temporary basis. As soon as the device is turned off, the volatile memory is wiped entirely and then starts afresh when the device is turned on again.
The most well-known type of volatile storage is random access memory (RAM). This is where real-time data relating to your current opening apps, CPU functions, GPU functions, system information, and more is stored while you’re using your device. Cache memory is also an example of volatile storage. Cache is much faster than RAM, but is incredibly costly, so isn’t used to store a lot of real-time data, and is typically used to make your CPU more efficient. You will find volatile memory hardware in your device’s memory slot. You can also upgrade your RAM if required, as some devices come with a very limited volatile storage capacity.
Volatile memory has a lower storage capacity than non-volatile memory because it tends to be more expensive per unit and isn’t very cost-efficient. A typical RAM chip won’t exceed more than a few GB in capacity, while super high-capacity RAM sells for hundreds or thousands of dollars.
However, volatile memory is considerably faster than non-volatile memory so that it can write data quickly and in real-time. Data transfer is generally much easier with volatile memory, though the storage of said data will always be short-term. Volatile memory also has the ability to both read and write data, as it has direct access.
What Is Non-Volatile Memory?
Non-volatile (secondary) memory refers to storage that is permanent, meaning it is not altered when a device is turned on or off. Non-volatile memory has no need to be wiped or refreshed and has a higher storage capacity than volatile memory. This permanence and larger memory size are why non-volatile storage relates to the storage capacity of a device, unlike volatile memory, which affects performance.
Non-volatile memory comes in two forms: mechanically addressed systems and electrically addressed systems.
Hard drives, optical disks, and tape drives are both kinds of mechanically addressed systems. These can read and write on a specific storage medium. Electrically addressed systems, on the other hand, use a different writing mechanism. A well-known example of this is flash memory, otherwise known as a USB stick.
In many ways, non-volatile memory is the exact opposite of volatile memory. Not only is it slow in comparison to volatile memory, but it also cannot transfer data as easily. But non-volatile memory is more cost-efficient than volatile memory, which is why its storage capacity per unit is considerably higher. Additionally, while you can get portable non-volatile storage, such as flash drives, non-volatile memory hardware is located on the motherboard.
Volatile vs. Non-Volatile Memory: Every Device Requires Both
Though volatile and non-volatile memory differ in a number of ways, there’s no denying that they both play integral roles in the operation of our computers. Whether we’re using a social media app or accessing a written document, we wouldn’t be able to do so without the presence of these two different kinds of storage.
Source: Make Use Of