Memory and Hard Drive

Memory and Hard Drive

I know from the questions I get that people get confused about these. Many people will refer to the “memory” when they are really talking about their hard drive.

Memory refers the the RAM, Random Access Memory. Think of this as the working space for your computer. This is where it puts the programs it needs so that it can read and perform the instructions. It would be a bit like the desktop where you spread out a project or a kitchen counter where you spread out the ingredients and utensils for a meal you are preparing. The more space you have the more stuff you can spread out and the easier and faster you can operate. If you don’t have enough space you are slowed down by having to move things out of the way to free up space.

Memory for the computer is specified in gigabytes, or gb. It is a much smaller number than the hard drive number. 2 gb is adequate for general use; 4 is better and now we are seeing more than 4 with the latest 64-bit operating systems. The information in RAM is maintained by electric current and vanishes when the computer is turned off. So you need to put your newly written document somewhere else before you turn the computer off. . . . Enter the hard drive.

Hard Drive space is also specified by gb, so that’s where some confusion starts, no doubt. Hard drive may be abbreviated as HDD or HD. This is the storage space on you computer. Your programs and work are stored there when the computer is not actively using them. Think of it this way: you (hopefully) can store many more ingredients and utensils than you can use in one meal project. Your filing cabinet has many more documents and copies than you can spread out on your desk. Nowadays hard drive space starts at or above 120gb. This is ok for light use but if you have music, movie, or picture collections you cloud easily need 300 gb or even 1000 gb, or 1 terabyte – tb. The information on a hard drive is encoded magnetically and survives if the power is turned off.

One note on the hard drive capacity.  To operate effectively, a drive needs a certain amount of free space to work with.  A drive is effectively full at about 75-80% of capacity. I’ll get into the reasons in a future article.

To summarize,  the RAM or memory is working space.  The more of it you have, the faster the computer can work.  The hard drive is storage space.  You will need a lot of storage if you have music, video, or picture collections.

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