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The Difference Between RAM vs Storage and How Much You Need

The Difference Between Ram vs Storage and How Much You Need

The original Apple II computer came with 4K of RAM. Compare that to modern Macs, which start at 8Gb. That’s 2 million times as much memory.

And the original Apple II didn’t have any built-in storage at all. It used old-fashioned floppy disks to store data.

Not sure what the difference is between RAM vs storage? Let’s look at the two and how they affect the way you use your computer.

What is RAM?

RAM is short for random access memory. This is the memory where your applications run, the operating system loads, and your computer processes information.

RAM is the faster of the two types of memory, partly because of its random nature. Information in RAM doesn’t get stored sequentially – the computer can “jump around” freely from one location to another.

RAM is only saved as long as the computer is running. When you shut it down, you need to save anything you’re working on because the RAM gets wiped.

What is Storage Memory?

Storage memory, known as the hard drive or SSD, is the larger of the two types of memory. This is where you save all your data, applications, photos, and anything else you load into your computer.

While modern SSD storage is much faster than the older spinning hard disks, it’s still considerably slower than RAM.

Storage is persistent memory, which means it gets saved even when the computer gets turned off.

Their Effects on How You Use Your Computer

RAM and storage both affect the use of your computer in different ways. RAM has the biggest impact on the computer’s performance, especially if you’re running a lot of apps at once or using more processing-intensive apps like photo or video editors.

Having more RAM lets you have more apps open without causing your computer to slow down. It also means the computer can keep more information in RAM without having to offload it to storage, improving the overall performance.

Storage memory dictates how many applications and how much data you can store on your computer. Photos, videos, music, documents, and everything else you create or download needs storage space.

How to Free Up RAM

If your computer seems to be running slower than normal, it might be due to the RAM getting full. There are a few ways to free up RAM to help speed things up.

  • Close any applications that you don’t need at the moment
  • Close extra documents that you don’t need to have open
  • Don’t open too many browser tabs in your web browser as each one uses RAM

If all else fails, restarting your computer will clear out the RAM and usually gets things back to normal.

How to Free Up Storage Memory

To free up storage, you need to delete files. This could mean getting rid of files you don’t need any longer or saving them to a USB stick or some other external storage to free up the space on your computer.

In some cases, you may have more than one copy of the same file. If that’s the case, you can delete all but one to free up some storage space. You can find duplicate files on Mac or Windows that sometimes take up quite a bit of room.

With cloud storage services like iCloud, OneDrive, and Google Drive, you can also save your files to the cloud and remove them from your computer to reclaim some of that space. Most of these services offer a feature that will “offload” files until you need to access them, then download them into your local storage again.

Similar to RAM, restarting your computer will often free up some storage space as well. Operating systems like macOS and Windows create logs and cache files while they’re running and if they run for a while without restarting, those files can get quite big.

How Much of Each Do You Need?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how much RAM and storage you need. It depends on how you use your computer.

In today’s world, you need at least 8GB of RAM to run modern apps but you may need more than that if you use your computer for more memory-intensive things. And as time goes by, apps get bigger and operating systems more RAM-hungry so the simple answer is to get as much RAM as you can afford.

Storage is a little less black and white. With cloud storage, you can get away with less local storage on your computer. You can simply save your data to the cloud and remove it from your computer.

But similar to RAM, the amount of storage you need will depend on how you use your computer. If you work with video and images, you’ll need a lot more space than if you work mostly with word processing documents and spreadsheets, for example.

As with RAM, get as much storage as you can afford when you buy a new computer.

Ram vs Storage – Can You Upgrade Them?

What if you’re running into problems because your computer doesn’t have enough RAM and/or storage? Can you upgrade them?

That depends on your computer. Some computers, especially laptops, have the RAM and storage built into the mainboard of the computer. In that case, there’s no way to upgrade them internally. You can always add external storage but there’s no way to upgrade RAM externally.

If you’re running a desktop or tower PC, chances are you can upgrade both the RAM and the storage. This is one of the advantages of this type of system compared to a laptop – expandability.

Computer Memory Is Constantly Getting Bigger

As we pointed out at the start of this comparison of RAM vs storage, modern PCs have 2 million times the RAM of a computer from 40 years ago.

We may not see as much of a jump 40 years from now but there’s no doubt that today’s RAM and storage will seem like a pittance when the time comes. Computers evolve constantly so don’t be afraid to get more memory than you think you can use.

Was this post helpful? Be sure to check out the Technology section of our blog for more tips and tricks for getting the most out of your tech equipment.

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