Why RAM is Called Volatile Memory? (Comparison Guide)

Do you ever find yourself asking why RAM, or Random Access Memory, is called volatile memory?

We often hear this term tossed around when discussing computer systems and their components.

But many of us don’t really understand what volatile memory is, let alone why its designation can be so important for a system’s performance.

In this guide, I’ll explore the unique capabilities of RAM that have earned it the title “volatile memory”—and look at how these features enable incredibly rapid access to stored data.

What is volatile memory?

Volatile memory is a type of RAM (Random Access Memory) used in computers which stores data only temporarily.

This data is erased when electricity is turned off, either manually or due to an outage. In contrast to this, non-volatile memory retains the data even without power supply.

Common examples of volatile memory are SRAM and DRAM. SRAM does not require constant refreshing and is faster at retrieving information than DRAM.

The advantage of volatile memory is that it allows for fast read access, but it’s disadvantage is that it loses stored information when there’s no power supply.

Why RAM is Called Volatile Memory?

Random Access Memory (RAM) is a type of computer memory that is qualified as ‘volatile’ because the data stored can easily be lost when power is disconnected.

In contrast to Non-Volatile Memory (NVM), RAM’s contents get wiped every time the system is restarted – making it unreliable for long-term data storage.

This explains why RAM is also referred to as Primary Memory or Internal Memory – due to information needing to always reside in the device’s primary storage if a specific task needs to be completed quickly.

That being said, RAM is extremely valuable for quick access during power surges, by providing an electric charge that helps re-flash ROM and resume operations quickly.

All in all, RAM has become commonplace are many devices rely on its volatile powers for today’s ever-changing digital world.

How does volatile memory work?

Volatile memory works by utilizing an electrical charge to store data. When power is applied, the RAM stores the data as a series of 0s and 1s.

When electricity is removed, all stored information is lost because the RAM does not have a way to retain this information without constant power supply.

This differs from non-volatile memory which can store data even without electricity, like hard drives or flash drives.

These types of memory are slower than RAM but can make up for the speed difference by storing data permanently.

Volatile Memory Vs Non-Volatile Memory

Understanding the difference between volatile and non-volatile memory is essential for any computer user, particularly when it comes to data storage and retrieval.

Here is a detailed comparison table highlighting the 5 main differences between volatile memory and non-volatile memory:

Volatile MemoryNon-Volatile Memory
DefinitionVolatile memory is a type of computer memory that loses its stored data when the power is turned off.Non-volatile memory is a type of computer memory that retains the stored data even when the power is lost.
FunctionVolatile memory is used for temporary storage of data and instructions while the computer is running.Non-volatile memory is used for permanent storage of data and instructions even when the computer is turned off.
Access speedVolatile memory has faster access times than non-volatile memory, allowing for faster processing and execution of instructions.Non-volatile memory has slower access times than volatile memory due to the need for data to be written and read from a storage medium.
Data storageVolatile memory stores data temporarily, and the data is lost when the power is turned off.Non-volatile memory stores data permanently, and the data is retained even when the power is turned off.
ExamplesExamples of volatile memory include RAM (Random Access Memory), cache memory, and registers.Examples of non-volatile memory include ROM (Read-Only Memory), flash memory, hard disk drives (HDDs), solid-state drives (SSDs), and optical storage media such as CDs and DVDs.

These key differences can help users set up the most effective form of data protection for their computer systems.

Conclusion

Random Access Memory (RAM) is referred to as volatile memory mainly because it is used to temporarily store information the computer needs for quick retrieval.

Unlike permanent memory, RAM does not retain its stored data without a constant source of power.

This means that any data that was stored in RAM is deleted once the power supply to the computer is switched off.

As such, RAM should not be used for storage purposes, but instead as a way of speeding up access times when executing certain tasks such as opening windows and launching applications.

All in all, RAM is rightly categorized as volatile memory due to its inability to maintain data when power is removed from the device.

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