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What's the difference between memory and storage?

Confused about memory and storage? We're here to help!

Memory (DRAM) is a component in your computer that allows for short-term data access. Since your system's moment-to-moment operations are performed using short-term data access — loading applications, browsing the Web or editing a spreadsheet — the speed and amount of memory installed plays a critical role in your system's performance.

Storage (whether in the form of a hard drive or SSD) is the component in your computer that allows for long-term data access. It's the component that accesses and stores your files, applications and operating system.

Together, memory and storage work in tandem with your system's processor to access and use data.

Here's how all three components work together.

  1. The storage drive houses programs and files. The speed of the storage drive plays a big role in determining how fast your system is able to boot up, load applications, and access anything that you've saved.
  2. The processor accesses the storage drive and transfers long-term data to the memory for short-term access (moment-to-moment operation). For example, when you go to launch a program, your system's processor has to access long-term data from the storage drive and convert it to usable short-term data that can be accessed via the memory. [show picture of an unbranded processor]
  3. The processor accesses data from the memory to run programs, edit files, and toggle between different applications. The speed and amount of memory installed helps determine how fast applications are able to load and operate, and helps determine how effectively your computer can multitask.

Because of how your system accesses data, the speed of your memory and storage plays a big role in how fast your processor is able to convert data to/from the different data types and make it usable. Since slower memory and storage components often cause data bottlenecks, it's best to upgrade one or both components. If your system seems slow, unresponsive, or sluggish compared to when you first bought it, we recommend upgrading your memory, storage, or both for optimal performance gains. You'll see a big difference!

Two ways to find your upgrades

Crucial Advisor tool
If you know your system's specs, use this tool.

Crucial System Scanner
If you don't know your system's specs, use this tool.