Computer Storage Devices

There are different types of computer storage devices which are used for storing data, either temporarily or permanently. In this Buzzle article, we shall look at some of the most common types of devices that are used for storing digital data.
Data storage devices are mainly classified into three types - primary data storage devices, secondary storage devices, and tertiary storage devices. This classification is made on the basis of the particular task performed by these different devices.

The amount of data stored on primary storage devices is less, and this memory is volatile in nature, while secondary storage devices have larger storage space, and this type of memory is non-volatile in nature.

In the following sections, we shall examine the different types of computer storage devices in greater detail.

Primary Computer Storage

Primary storage devices for computers are actually a part of the computer's main memory. They are the Random Access Memory (RAM) and Read Only Memory (ROM).

Random Access Memory
Random Access Memory is used for storing information temporarily. When the computer is switched off, the information on the RAM is wiped off and hence it is said to be a volatile form of memory. The access rate of RAM is much higher and it is more expensive than the other types of primary storage devices.

Read Only Memory
ROM is used to store data permanently. Data is typically stored on it at the time of manufacture or later by the computer user. The main disadvantage of this type of memory is that the data stored on ROM cannot be changed. Also the data access rate of ROM is much lesser as compared to that of the RAM. On the positive side of things, a ROM costs much less compared to RAM.

Secondary Computer Storage

Most storage devices that we are acquainted with come under this category. These devices are not a part of the processor, and are typically used to increase the storage capacity of the computer. Like the ROM, the secondary computer storage is also a non-volatile type of memory. The information stored on these devices is retained, even if the computer is switched off.

Hard Drives
The hard drives are one of the most important secondary storage devices. In the initial days of computers, hard disks were available in the form of removable mass storage devices. However, with time, they evolved to be a part of the central processing unit of the computer. Presently there are external hard drives available as well, which connect to the computers via USB or similar interfaces.

Floppy Discs
These are magnetic storage devices, which are set inside square plastic shells. They are available in different sizes, including 8 inches, 5 ¼ inches and 3 ½ inches. Previously floppy discs were very popular as a means of portable storage, however, with technological advancements, they got overshadowed by the other devices, which provided greater storage capacities and higher data transfer speeds.

Compact Discs
Previously compact discs (abbreviated as CD), were used only for recording and storing audio files. Subsequently along with audio, video and other data was also stored on them. Data is stored optically on the CDs, and prevails for a long time. They are mostly used to back up data, and also for distributing copies of software programs.

Digital Versatile Disc
The digital versatile discs (DVD) employs a similar format to that of a compact disc, for storing data. The difference between them lies in the storage capacities, as there is nearly six times more storage space in a DVD as compared to a CD. Like the CDs, DVDs are also used as backup devices and also for distributing high quality video files and movies, and large software and games.

Flash Memory
These storage devices are similar to the read only memory, with the main difference that data from a flash memory can be erased in a matter of few seconds, which is not possible in a ROM. Also with improvements in semiconductor technology, flash memories having greater storage capacities and higher transfer-rates are being developed.

Blu-ray Discs
Blu-rays discs, abbreviated as BD, are mainly used for high-definition video storage and also for distributing games. Blu-ray discs appear similar to the CDs and DVDs and also store data optically. However, they possess much larger storage capacities than both.

USB Flash Drive
A USB flash drives comprises a flash memory that is accessible via an integrated Universal Serial Bus (USB) interface. It is a non-volatile form of storage, which allows data to be rewritten several times on it.

Most flash drives are very small in size, but have very large storage capacities. Modern USB drives can typically handle up to 1 million erase and write cycles, and can also retain data for as long as 10 years.

Memory Cards
Memory cards can be used in various electronic devices including hand-held computers, mobile phones, cameras, etc. Similar to the USB flash drives, memory cards are also re-writable forms of storage which can store a high amount of data in a very small space.