RAM that Memory
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RAM that memory into your storage system unit (or - What is he talking about?)


When a program or someone tells you that you need more "storage", what are they talking about?


Terminology can be as confusing as it is important.  If you get a message on your screen telling you that you don't have enough memory to use this program, don't go out and buy a 120 GB hard drive.

Let's learn what all this stuff means...


In the dark ages of computing, way back in the 1950's and 1960's, the number of people involved with computers was relatively small.  Everyone knew that to be in that business, you had to learn the correct terminology.

Fast forward to the 1980's where computers first started to become widely available to the general public.  If you went to buy one, you had to deal with things like "system unit", "monitor", RAM, diskettes, hard drives, etc.  You had to make sure you had enough of each to do what you needed to do.

These days, different programs and operating systems have different requirements to be able to run.  You'll find things like "16MB RAM and 100MB available disk space needed to run this program."  You're out of space -- Well, is that disk space, memory space, and what's the difference.

Generic term for anyplace that data or programs get stored, either temporarily, semi-permanently, or permanently.  See below...
So called "Random Access Memory" is the temporary storage that your computer has on its motherboard to hold the operating system while it's in use.  It also has to be able to hold any application programs like Microsoft Word that you wish to use.  It is temporary because when you turn off the computer, the contents are lost.  This is the memory that gets plugged into the motherboard, and these days it is measured in Megabytes (MB) or Gigabytes (GB).  It can also be called EDO memory, SDRAM, DDR ram, and a bunch of other things that don't make a lot of sense.  The more you have, the better it is.  These days, you'll need at least 128MB, but many people are installing as much as 1GB so they can run a lot of programs at once.
Hard drive, fixed disk, or simply disk space
The high speed, spinning, multi-plattered non-volatile (semi-permanent) storage inside the computer.  This is like a permanently installed floppy that holds tons more that a floppy can.  This is the place that your operating system, your programs, and your data are stored for fast retrieval when you use your computer.  Hard drives today are measured in Gigabytes (GB).  A GB is 1024 times bigger than a MB.  Typical drive sizes these days are 40 to 260 GB.
Floppy disk, diskette, or removable media drives
These devices are the things that sit inside the front panel of your computer, and can hold removable, rewritable media for archival storage, temporary storage, or offline storage of programs and data.  Floppies are slower than hard drives, and hold less.  Some other drives of this type are the ZIP drive, LS/120 drive, and JAZ drive. They hold 100 or 250 MB, 120 MB, and 1 or 2 GB respectively. A typical diskette is 1.44 MB.  Most removable media drives are becoming obsolete because they hold so little compared to hard drives.  A newer alternative is the
Writeable Optical Drive, CD-R or DVD-R drives
These drives use media that look like CDs or CD-ROMs, but you can write to them.  A blank CD-R will hold as much as 700MB, and a DVD-R will hold 4.7GB or more. There are many different flavors of these drives, each with a different ending letter or two.  CD-RW for example is re-writeable, and can be erased many times.  The same holds true for DVD-RW.  DVD drives can also be DVD+R (which is just a different format, but still compatible), DVD-RAM, DVD+RW, etc. 

If this doesn't clear up your memory/storage questions, it's not your fault.  Some programs and messages are unclear about which type of storage they are talking about.  But, before you go out and buy anything to add to your computer, make sure you know how much of what kind of storage you have now.  Knowing that you have 256MB of RAM and a 40GB hard disk should make your visit to a computer store more productive.



Every precaution has been taken to insure that the procedures presented here will not cause damage to your computer system.  However, Mind Over Machines Inc. will not be responsible for any damage caused directly or indirectly by any advice and/or procedures given anywhere on this web site.  Likewise, we cannot be responsible for malfunctions caused by defective hardware, or unforeseen problems which arise from use of the standard Microsoft tools.  If problems do arise, we may attempt to assist in the diagnosis and eventual remedy, but cannot be held liable or bound to do so.

Contents Copyright (c) 2001-2004, Mind Over Machines Inc.

Page last updated 08/28/04.