What’s The Difference Between RAM and ROM?

The differences between ROM (Read Only Memory) and RAM (Random Access Memory) are:

  1. ROM is a form of permanent storage while RAM is a form of temporary storage.
  2. ROM is non-volatile memory while RAM is volatile memory.
  3. ROM can hold data even without electricity, while RAM needs electricity to hold data.

If you’re not an alien reading this from a galaxy far, far away, then you probably hear these terms on an almost daily basis: RAM and ROM (albeit, of the two, RAM is more commonly used in daily life). You would have heard mentions of their purpose and even read at least a little about them to know that these are related to computers. However, there’s a fair amount of the populace that doesn’t know a RAM from a ROM and wouldn’t be able to tell if a ROM jumped up and hit them in the face!

As we always do, let’s brush away the cobwebs surrounding these common, daily-life tech terms.

What is RAM?

Random Access Memory, often abbreviated as RAM, is a hardware element of a computer where programs, operating systems and data that’s currently being used is stored so that the processor can retrieve it quickly.


RAM: Random Access Memory

If you ever open up your computer cabinet (computer tower), you will find one (or two) oblong chips installed in a slot in the motherboard. That’s the RAM. These days, motherboards come with more than one RAM slot, which gives you the flexibility to increase your RAM capacity to achieve better operational speed.

What is ROM?

ROM, on the other hand, is a type of memory where data has been prerecorded and contains the programming that helps the computer ‘boot up’.


ROM: Read Only Memory

Commonly referred to as Read Only Memory, ROM retains its contents even after the computer is turned off; that’s the reason a computer can be switched on in the first place. It’s fair to say that if not for ROM, you wouldn’t ever be able to fire up your computer.

These are the quick definitions of RAM and ROM, respectively, but since both of them are types of memories, they both help in running a computer and may also sound somewhat similar, people often get confused between the two.

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the key differences between RAM and ROM:


Data retention

This is the most noteworthy difference between these two forms of memory. ROM is a form of non-volatile memory, which means that it retains information even when the computer is shut down. RAM, on the other hand, is considered volatile memory. It holds data as long as your computer is up and running. After that…

poof meme

Working type

You can retrieve and alter data that is stored in RAM, but you cannot do so in the case of ROM. Data in ROM can only be read, but not altered or modified, hence the name ‘read-only memory’.


Information stored in ROM is not as easily accessible as information in RAM. Information stored in ROM is not easily altered or reprogrammed either, whereas in the case of RAM, data can be accessed randomly, in any order, from any location.


RAM trumps ROM in terms of speed; it accesses data much faster than ROM, and boosts the processing speed of the computer.

Physical appearance

ram versus rom

RAM is a thin rectangular chip that you can find inserted in a slot on the motherboard, whereas ROM is typically an optical drive made of magnetic tapes. Furthermore, RAM is usually bigger than ROM.

Storage Capacity

A ROM chip usually stores no more than a few megabytes of data (4 MB ROM is quite common these days). In contrast, a RAM chip can store as much as 16 Gigabytes’ (or more) worth of information.

Ease of writing data

It’s easier to write data in RAM than in ROM, since the latter is a place for storing very limited, albeit immensely important and permanent information.

The next time you find yourself in a circle of computer geeks, make sure that you bring this information to the table. They might already know it, but they’ll certainly be impressed!

Suggested Reading


  1. IUPUI Computer Science
  2. FIU Computing & Information sciences
  3. Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering
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About the Author:

Ashish is a Science graduate (Bachelor of Science) from Punjabi University (India). He spends a lot of time watching movies, and an awful lot more time discussing them. He likes Harry Potter and the Avengers, and obsesses over how thoroughly Science dictates every aspect of life… in this universe, at least.

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