memory

Memory is the electronic holding place for instructions and data that your computer's microprocessor can reach quickly.

Memory is the electronic holding place for instructions and data that your computer's microprocessor can reach quickly. When your computer is in normal operation, its memory usually contains the main parts of the operating system and some or all of the application programs and related data that are being used. Memory is often used as a shorter synonym for random access memory (RAM). This kind of memory is located on one or more microchips that are physically close to the microprocessor in your computer. The more RAM you have, the less frequently the computer has to access instructions and data from the more slowly accessed hard disk form of storage.

Memory is sometimes distinguished from storage, or the physical medium that holds the much larger amounts of data that won't fit into RAM and may not be immediately needed there. Storage devices include hard disks, floppy disks, CD-ROM, and tape backup systems. The terms auxiliary storage, auxiliary memory, and secondary memory have also been used for this kind of data repository.

Additional kinds of integrated and quickly accessible memory are read-only memory (ROM), programmable ROM (PROM), and erasable programmable ROM (EPROM). These are used to keep special programs and data, such as the basic input/output system, that need to be in your computer all the time.

This was first published in May 2008

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