Difference Between Volatile Memory and Non-volatile Memory

Computers feature two different kinds of hardware-based memory: volatile and non-volatile memory. The difference between the two lies in what happens to the memory once the computer is turned off. More specifically, volatile memory holds onto data when a computer is turned on, but it disappears after the computer is turned back off. Non-volatile memory stays in the computer, regardless of whether it is turned on or off. 

Volatile memory works incredibly quickly to grab and store data once the operating system loads that memory. Once the system shuts down, that memory is automatically deleted. There are several benefits of using volatile memory, including that it can access data at very fast speeds for easier data transfer, and it protects that data by getting rid of it upon the operating system’s shutdown. Despite these advantages, volatile memory has a relatively low storage capacity and is pricey in comparison to its counterparts. For example, a high capacity Random Access Memory (RAM) chip could cost more than hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Non-volatile memory is also called static or permanent memory because when its operating system shuts down, it holds onto the data it stores. This type of memory does take much more time to get to, but it has more memory ability than volatile memory. Since the data does not disappear when the operating system is powered off, you can store a great deal of information over a long period of time with less costs when compared to volatile memory. Non-volatile memory is typically used for lengthy periods of secondary storage. Despite its benefits, non-volatile memory is known to take the operating system a long amount of time to load the memory. Overall, non-volatile memory is slower and has lower data transfer rates than its counterpart.

Examples of non-volatile memory include read only memory (ROM), devices where memory stored cannot be altered, as well as flash drives and hard drives. The thing that makes them non-volatile is the fact that they store data permanently, even when the operating system is turned off. There exist two different kinds of non-volatile memory: mechanically addressed systems and electrically addressed systems. First, mechanically addressed systems, which include hard disk drives, are able to read and write on a storage medium, also known as a contact structure. On the other hand, electrically addressed systems like solid state drives utilize electrical mechanisms to read and write the data at hand.

Other differences between non-volatile and volatile memory include the kind of data stored on these devices, their CPU access, and their position of memory. To start, volatile memory stores real-time data that is used frequently, while non-volatile memory stores all the permanent data necessary from the computer’s basic input and output systems. Moreover, data is also accessed easily on volatile memory, while with non-volatile memory, the system has to copy data onto volatile memory for the CPU to be able to access it. Volatile memory chips are typically located on the memory slot, and non-volatile memory chips are located on the motherboard. 

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September 20, 2021

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