What is the Difference Between RAM Memory and Hard Drive Space?

By December 14, 2015Uncategorized

Before we begin to explain the difference between RAM memory and hard drive space, it’s important to clarify where the general confusion stems from, as it is not necessarily the user’s fault. At one time or another, most computer users have faced the dreaded computer error reading, “insufficient memory.” To any unknowing person, that reads like, “you should delete any unnecessary files on your computer to free up space.” What it really means is that the user has too many files and programs open, depleting the computer’s RAM (or working) memory.
Mac Enthusiasts RAM Memory
RAM (Memory): As you can probably gather from above, that error message is confusing to users, because, although we might think of memory in our computer as general files and items stored on our computer, memory in a computer is temporary. If you must compare your computer to a brain, It’s easier if you think of RAM like “working memory.” It’s the space your computer has for working programs and files, not permanent stored one. You can learn more about upgrading your RAM in our past blog.
Mac Enthusiasts Hard Drive
Hard Drive (Space): Hard drive space may be first thought of as “memory,” but unlike in the human brain, it is never referred to as such. It is probably easier to call hard drive space “permanent storage.” Every computer comes with a hard drive that can be upgraded. To upgrade, you can either change out your internal hard drive or you can add more. The ability depends on the physical space your computer possesses and power required to run a computer with more storage. Hard drives should technically be considered “more permanent memory” than “permanent,” because hard drives always have the potential to fail. This is why it is often recommended that you backup your computer with an external hard drive or to the Cloud.
A great analogy to visualize RAM vs. hard drive is a desk. Your computer is a desk. RAM is the workspace you have (the size of the table top). The hard drive is actual storage space (the drawers it provides). You can add more drawers, depending on the size of your entire desk and the strength of your entire desk to support more weight. Same goes with updating your RAM/ workspace.
Here is a more practical example of data in your RAM vs. hard drive: RAM is the text you just added to an open document. As long as your computer is powered on, it is available. If your computer shuts off unexpectedly, that information is lost. Once you save a document, that information is stored in your hard drive space. That way, it becomes more permanent.
Now that you know the difference, it’s important that you look out for those mistakes from those who don’t. It can be easy to get confused, even if you know the difference, if a lot of people continue to use the wrong terminology. If you’ve gotten the “insufficient memory” error we talked about before, you may be in need of a RAM upgrade. You can come to our store, or give us a call at (800)448-1892 to discuss your options for upgrading.

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