What is the Difference Between RAM and ROM?

Estimated read time 8 min read

Even experts in the field are unclear on what a ROM memory is. This is all you need to know about RAM memory, ROM memory, their differences, and what they are, regardless of your level of expertise.

Even specialized media have trouble explaining what a ROM memory is. So, no matter your level, here is everything you need to know about RAM and ROM, their distinctions, and what they are specifically.

The truth is that we can gradually learn the specifics of a product that we use on a regular basis and is very similar to the computer, even though one cannot become an advanced computer scientist overnight. And it’s useful to understand what each component of a computer or other electronic device does in order to work with it, particularly when purchasing a new item or component.

RAM, for instance, is a common component that PC users purchase. Additionally, it can be found in almost all smart devices. And the same could be said of ROM memory. Although they share a name, they are not the same. There are two different types of memory, and their names are very similar: RAM and ROM. Their broad designation does not correspond to the presence of two names with similar acronyms.

  • RAM: Random Access Memory.
  • ROM: Read Only Memory.

But let’s go a little deeper into what each type of memory is, and what you have to take into account.

What is RAM (Random Access Memory)?

What is RAM (Random Access Memory)

RAM is the one closest to you. It is a key component in PC performance nowadays, and the ease of changing one for a superior or higher capacity model makes it one of the first aspects to consider when we want to upgrade our equipment. RAM is a volatile memory. It is so called because what it stores is erased. As it works with a series of transistors, when they stop receiving power, everything stored disappears. When the computer is turned off, the RAM is completely erased. It can also be released if you need to store new data. However, this is not really a problem, because a RAM memory is designed to work this way. It is a memory that is used ephemerally.

The role of RAM is to store data that the computer will need to process at the moment. For example, the files we are working with in a running application are in RAM memory, so that we can manage them at all times. This is why a higher capacity RAM memory also means having the ability to run more applications simultaneously, work with multiple files or heavier files, or things as simple as keeping many tabs open in Chrome.

The name RAM memory, Random Access Memory, means Random Access Memory, and is related to the fact that it is a memory that is designed so that the computer can store all the files or resources it needs at the time, whatever they are, at the time we are using them, without a specific pre-established structure, but on demand. This memory is characterized by its high speed. It should be possible to write files very quickly in this memory and also to read them very quickly. However, it is a memory that consumes more energy and does not allow files to be kept for a long time. That is why it is necessary to have other memory units, even if they are significantly slower.

What is ROM (Read Only Memory)?

What is ROM? (Read Only Memory)

The name ROM memory is much more descriptive. It is the acronym that comes from the expression Read Only Memory. It is a read-only memory unit. This memory is designed to always remain the same, and the user cannot modify what is in it. ROM memory should not be confused with the hard disk, the main memory, or the so-called internal memory.

The latter are the data spaces where we store the user’s files, the operating system, or the applications. And we can modify them without problems, reinstall the operating system, or even install a different operating system. However, the ROM memory remains unchanged, always with the same data. In the past, ROM memory had a more relevant role, both in computers and consoles, because many systems were designed to run a set of established functions that were not going to change.

Nowadays, however, ROM memory plays a less important role, since practically everything is at the user’s disposal. Even so, there are ROM memories in today’s PCs. This is the case for some low-level functions that our PC must be able to execute and that must not be modified. This is the case, for example, with the computer’s boot procedure, or some emergency recovery functions.

These memory units are usually soldered to the motherboard. And they usually have a special access system so that they can be reused. While it is true that the idea is that the ROM memory remains unchanged, to be able to recycle the component there is usually a physical access that gives the option to modify the memory and rewrite it, although it is not something that we can do easily or by accident. These memories are recorded in binary code, and remain over time whether they receive electricity or not. Although they are found in computers, they are most vital in microcomputers.

Almost any device that runs on electricity today has a chip, a data input and output device, and a memory unit. From a remote control to a toaster. And that memory unit is a ROM memory. It has recorded the processes to be executed according to the commands it receives. Its level of complexity is low, and in general, we users live quite isolated from this kind of components. While we may have changed the RAM memory in our PC or sometimes a program has been closed due to a lack of RAM memory, the ROM memory has rarely required our attention.

What is Internal Memory?

What is Internal Memory

The term internal memory of an electronic device usually refers to the hard disk or solid memory available to the user. It is in this memory that the operating system, applications or user files are stored today. In any PC, or in a smartphone, we want memory units where we can write and delete files, because what we want is storage.

The increasingly affordable price of these units, and the advances that have led us to more capacity and more speed, mean that ROM memory remains for a much more limited use. Standard memory units are also designed for long-term storage. Files or items are recorded by means of binary code.

However, the memory format can vary, as we have seen hard disks with magnetic disks, and also solid state memories with small memory chips. The files remain recorded over time, even if the memory is no longer supplied with power. In fact, it is possible to read the contents on any other reading interface. The main quality of this memory that differentiates it from ROM memory is that it can be rewritten and is not read-only.


Still today you can see how in many specialized people talk about a cell phone, a PC or any other electronic device as having a certain amount of RAM (e.g. 4GB) and a certain amount of ROM (e.g. 128GB). This denomination is actually erroneous, because when we talk about ROM memory we are almost always talking about internal memory available to the user. Logically, it is not read-only memory.

However, the usage comes from the fact that internal memory currently has the same function that ROM memory once had in older devices, and that is to store the operating systems, programs and files needed by the computer. This is a function that they share and that differentiates them from RAM memory, hence when a modern device talks about ROM memory, it is actually referring to internal memory. Nowadays ROM memory is an element that you can forget about as a user. When you are thinking about memory units for your PC, you will be thinking about RAM memory to give management capacity to your computer, or SSD memory or hard drives to store files.

We have the largest specialized offer of RAM memory units for your PC, as well as SSD disks so that you do not have space limitations. And if we talk about a cell phone, you will find fixed configurations of RAM and internal memory for each model, being able to expand the memory with an external drive such as an SD card. If you want to fill your phone with photos and videos, choose one of the SD cards with more capacity.

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