Why is RAM Called Volatile Memory?

RAM is called volatile memory due to the way that data is stored on it. The data is stored in a specific way that makes it so that the data is deleted once you remove power from the RAM.

My name is Anthony, and I have been working with computers and computer components for 8+ years. During this time I have worked with different forms of RAM, from graphics card memory and desktop/server memory to laptop memory. 

Today we will discuss what RAM is, some different storage types, why RAM is called volatile memory, and some questions you may have.

Key Takeaways

  • RAM stores data, but only temporarily.
  • Volatile means it erases data when it loses power.
  • Non-volatile means the data stays after losing power.

What is RAM?

RAM stands for Random Access Memory and is used by your computer to complete various tasks. Sometimes when a computer is performing operations, there may be little pieces of data that it wants to store. Many times, those pieces of data are temporary rather than long-term.

That’s where RAM comes in. Rather than having to write the data to the larger storage device, the computer can put the data onto the RAM and take up less space on your storage device. There are some other benefits to having RAM as well.

Sometimes when the data needing to be stored is temporary, this means that the computer may want to quickly recall that data later as needed. RAM assists in this by providing quick access to its contents, much faster than larger storage devices.

The other point to consider is that often larger storage devices have write limits in regards to data. This means that when you write data to it too many times, the device may begin to malfunction. RAM alleviates this by providing a separate space to read or write temporary data.

RAM connects directly to the motherboard through slots that the sticks are inserted into. In comparison to other forms of storage that connect through a SATA cable to a port in the motherboard, this means almost instant access for the processor vs a delayed access.

Other Types of Memory

There are several other types of memory that may be helpful to understand so you can see the difference between volatile memory and non-volatile memory.

Hard Drive Disks

Hard drives or HDDs are probably the oldest form of storage that will be mentioned here. They have been around since the beginning of computers, and are used to store the largest amount of data for the lowest price.

Hard drives use disks and magnets to store data across different sections of a disk. These can range from Gigabytes to multiple Terabytes in size. They are also probably the slowest method of accessing data.

Solid State Drives

Solid state drives or SSDs are a newer form of large data storage. They have been around for the last decade or so, but really became popular in the last few years. They have become much more affordable and can offer similar sizes to an HDD for a little more money.

These drives come in several different forms. There is the 2.5-inch form, which connects to the motherboard using SATA cables the same way HDDs do. However, there are also some connection standards known as M.2 or NVMe.

M.2 and NVMe SSDs connect directly to the motherboard using a slot similar to a RAM stick. This is popular for holding the operating system data of a computer, as this can reduce startup times to seconds rather than minutes. 

Cache Memory

Cache memory is the memory inside the processor of a computer. Its function is the same as RAM, however, it is much faster and much smaller. It is usually MB in size rather than GB. The processor will check the cache memory prior to checking the RAM.

This is because the cache memory is inside of the processor itself, rather than across the motherboard like RAM is. This means it is much, much faster than RAM is.

Volatile vs Non-Volatile

RAM is a volatile memory. This means that when the power is removed from the RAM or the computer is shut off, all the data on it will be erased. This is due to the fact that RAM stores data on electronic transistors, rather than a chip or disk.

Another example of volatile memory is cache memory. This is also volatile as when the power is lost, the data is erased immediately. Volatile essentially means that when there is no power, the data that was stored is gone.

This is why it is essential to turn off your computer occasionally. Some people leave laptops on in sleep mode, but this does not clear the RAM or cache memory. Occasionally rebooting your computer will make it work faster.

Non-volatile is the exact opposite. This is where data stored on a device like an HDD or SSD comes into play. The data will remain even after power is lost, because it is stored either on a chip or physically on a disk

That is also why storage on a RAM stick comes in much smaller sizes. The RAM should be cleared more often, resulting in a need for less size. The larger storage device should not be getting cleared as often, and because of that need higher storage sizes.


Here are some other questions you may be wondering about RAM.

Why is RAM Called Random Access Memory?

Ram is called Random Access Memory due to the fact that this is where the computer stores data that it may call back at random. It is also because the computer stores data there randomly, or not at specific set times.

Why is RAM called Primary Memory?

Primary memory is a type of computer storage that the processor accesses first or directly. In this case, the RAM stick is plugged directly into the motherboard, and the processor can access it directly.

What Are The Types of RAM?

There are several different types of RAM. These include DDR2, DDR3, DDR4 and more recently, DDR5. These classify the speeds and slots the RAM will fit into. There is also graphics card RAM, which have the same name with a G in front (GDDR5). 

Wrapping Things Up

RAM is an essential component of any modern-day computer. This little piece of hardware provides you with the capability to work faster and do more with your time.

If you have experience with different kinds of RAM, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

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