Volatile vs. Non-Volatile Memory | How They Differ

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The memory of a computer interface is divided into two categories- primary storage and secondary storage. Further, there are two kinds of primary storage- volatile vs. non-volatile memory. Volatile memory is used for accessing data directly by the microprocessor and the operation is carried out very quickly. On the other hand, the microprocessor cannot access data directly from the non-volatile memory and it is mainly used for long-term storage.

A comparative analysis between the volatile and the non-volatile memory is made in this article. But before that, a short description of defining these two types of memory is provided for your better understanding.

What is Volatile Memory?

As the name implies, volatile memory of a computer system is a kind of unstable memory that loses its information written to it as soon as power is off. When we start our computer, the operating system is loaded into volatile memory; the operating system uses volatile memory for quick memory storage in course of its working period. The most common types of volatile memory are Random Access Memory (RAM) and Cache memory. Cache memory is even quicker than RAM in terms of storage of information.

What is Non-volatile Memory?

Non-volatile memory is quite the opposite in its working method when compared to volatile memory. It does not lose memory even if the power is switched off in the computer system. Non-volatile memory is used by the operating system for a larger volume of information storage. Read-Only Memory (ROM) is the most common type of non-volatile memory. Although hard drives, flash drives, optical discs, magnetic drives, HDD, etc. are mainly secondary storage, they can be categorized as non-volatile memory as they also store information permanently as ROM does.

Volatile vs. Non-volatile Memory

We will try to figure out the differences between volatile (or RAM) vs. non-volatile (or ROM) memory in this section. The comparison between these two phenomena is shown here in terms of 10 different points or topics.

1. Stability

Volatile memory is most likely unstable; whereas non-volatile memory is stable in storing information.

2. Memory Lose

The memory of volatile memory is lost when power is gone; while non-volatile memory can retain its memory even when power is gone.

3. Example

Volatile memory- RAM, Cache Memory. Non-volatile memory- ROM, hard drive, magnetic drive, HDD, etc.

4. Memory Capacity

Non-volatile memory or ROM generally has got a larger amount of storage capacity compared to volatile memory or RAM. That’s why non-volatile memory is sometimes called secondary storage, used as data backup methods; on the other hand, volatile memory is used for a quick and small amount of memory storage.

5. Speed

Volatile memory is much faster than non-volatile memory. The size of volatile memory is also comparatively smaller which contributes to its faster speed.

5. Location

Non-volatile memory is mounted on the motherboard circuit; whereas volatile memory is located outside of the motherboard, usually on memory slots.

6. Types

Volatile memory (or RAM) can be classified as Static RAM (s-RAM) and Dynamic RAM (D-RAM). While s-RAM is quite simple in its working method, d RAM is a complex one that needs a regular refresh.

On the other hand, several modified versions of non-volatile memory (or ROM) are now available like- PROM (Programmable), EPROM (Electrically Programmable), EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable). These ROMs not only can read data but also can modify and write data as per the requirements of the users.

7. Cost

Volatile memory is more expensive (per unit size) in comparison to non-volatile memory.

8. Significance

Volatile memories have great implications for enhancing system performance. Non-volatile memories have got nothing to do with it; they only serve for large volume storage applications.

9. Data Transfer Rate

The data transfer rate of volatile memory is higher than that of non-volatile memory.

10. Other Name

Volatile memory is also known as ‘temporary memory’. Non-volatile memory is sometimes known as ‘permanent memory’.


The volatile vs. non-volatile memory both are integral parts of the computer system. Although they have got some differences, a computer system cannot function at all without either of them; that’s the reason why these are called primary memories. As of now, both the volatile and non-volatile memories are going through various technological evolutions so that they can contribute to making a computer system more user-friendly.

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