Types of storage devices and their characteristics - Know Computing (2023)

The storage device is used to keep a copy of data or information temporally when it is being processed, or permanently for future reference. They store the data which is used by the computer and the user. The storage capacity is calculated in terms of bytes where 1 byte is made up of 8 bits (0s and or 1s).

The main categories of storage devices are RAM, ROM, cache, magnetic, optical, cloud, and solid-state storage methods. Primary storage, they are volatile while secondary stores data permanently.

Types of storage devices and their characteristics - Know Computing (1)

The table below shows the most common unit to measure storage memory.

Memory units in a computer

Representation (Notation)

Memory unit description

0 OR 1bit
4 bitsnibble
8 bitsbyte
1 KiloByte (KB)1024bytes (2^10)
1 MegaByte (MB)1024KB
1 GigaByte (GB)1024MB
1 TeraByte (TB)1024GB
1 PetaBtye (PT)1024GB
NB: Most of today’s ordinary user devices reach a TB capacity but memory size is increasing every day for future devices.

Storage devices are categorized into two main classes: primary and secondary storage hardware.

(Video) Storage Devices

Primary storage devices and their characteristics

They are also known as the main memory of a computer system. Mostly they store data temporally or semi-permanent.

Mostly they are characterized by low memory space, and high cost but high speed of data transfer. They store data that is being processed at the moment by the computer. This reduces the time to fetch the information from secondary storage like the hard disk and hence increases the processing speed.

Characteristics of Main memory

  1. They are volatile (they store data only when they are powered, specifically RAM)
  2. Data is stored temporarily (RAM) and semi-permanently for ROM
  3. They have high access speed compared to secondary storage.
  4. Main memories have a small storage capacity compared to secondary storage.

Primary storage is classified again into 2: Random Access Memory (RAM) and Read-Only Memory (ROM)

Random Access Memory (RAM):

They are the working memory of the device and they are used to store data that is being processed. RAM stores information temporally until it is stored in secondary storage like a hard disk or flash disk.

RAMs are volatile memory since they only store data where they are supplied with power. When power is switched off the data is lost.

(Video) Types of computer storage and storage devices

There are 2 types of RAMs.

  1. Dynamic RAM (DRAM): for this memory to keep data they need to refresh many times hence the term dynamic. They require extra circuits to enable frequent refreshing. DRAM is commonly used in computers since they are cheaper although they are slower. They leak data which necessitates refreshing.
  2. Static RAM (SRAM): they can store data without refreshing. They are more expensive than DRAM and hence not commonly used in most computers. SRAM is also faster than DRAM since they don’t lose data refreshing.

Read-Only Memory (ROM)

They only allow the reading of data in the memory but no addition during normal computer operation. Mostly they store data semi-permanently or permanently. They are used to store firmware software from the manufacturer of the computer, like the BIOS information.

ROM can be divided again into 3:

  1. Programmable Read-Only Memory (PROM): It is a type of ROM that can be programmed to change the content of the information only once.
  2. Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EPROM): They can be programmed by exposing them to ultraviolet light. During programming, you need to delete all data to add more.
  3. Electrical Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EEPROM): The content can be deleted by use of electrical means. Users can delete only a portion of the memory and leave the data in other parts. they can be reprogrammed many times without a problem.

What are cache memory and its importance?

A cache is a special type of memory that is sometimes inbuilt within the CPU. The computer processor operates at a very high speed hence it requires to access data faster. RAM is the main memory where processors access data for processing, but compared to processor speed it is slow. You can read more on functions, architecture, types, and advantages of cache memory.

To increase the access speed cache memory is used. It is faster than the RAM and the first place processor looks for data, if it misses in the cache then it moves to RAM.

(Video) Storage Devices | Theory Lecture No.04 | Complete Computer Training In Urdu/Hindi |

There are two levels of cache depending on the proximity of the memory to the processor.

  1. Level 1 Cache memory: This is the closest to the processor and the first place where it checks data. It is inbuilt within the processor.
  2. Level 2 cache memory: It is a chip close to the processor and it is the second place where the processor checks for data after Level 1.

Characteristics of cache memory

  1. It is the fastest type of memory
  2. It stores data temporally
  3. The technology used to manufacture is expensive.
  4. Inbuilt within the CPU or motherboard
  5. Stores data that is frequently required.

Types of secondary storage devices

They are used for bulky permanent storage of data. Secondary storage is characterized by high storage capacity, relatively low cost, and low transfer speed when compared with primary storage.

Characteristics of secondary storage devices

  1. They have a high storage capacity. They can be used for bulky storage of backup.
  2. Devices are relatively cheap compared to main memory.
  3. Secondary storage devices have low data transfer speeds when compared with primary storage.
  4. Data is stored permanently or until the user decides to delete it.

Secondary storage is classified into 4 types:

  • Magnetic storage devices

They store data in terms of magnetic fields like hard disks, floppy disks, magnetic tape, etc. A hard disk is the main storage in today`s computer. It is made of platters that are divided into tracks and sectors for data storage and a head that reads data from the platters. It retrieves data faster that other magnetic devices and it can hold more data.

Some latest computers mostly portable computers are using solid-state storage devices. This offer even fast data access since there are no moving parts like on a hard disk.

(Video) Storage Devices of Computer | Types of Storage Devices | Primary and Secondary storage devices |2023

  • Optical storage devices

They store information on a reflective surface which requires a beam of laser light to read or write on it. Compact Disks were the first optical disk but are being replaced by DVDs which has higher storage capacity.

Blu-rays are the latest optical disk and they use blue laser light rather than red used on CDs and DVDs to read and write. They also have a higher capacity than the earlier two.

Optical disk requires an optical disk drive installed into the computer or an external drive to read and write on them.

  • Solid-state storage devices

They have no movable parts, unlike magnetic disks. They are small in size and have low storage space but are relatively cheap and convenient for the storage of a small amount of information. Most of them have flash memory. Examples include memory sticks, flash disk smart memory, etc.

They don’t consume a lot of power hence they are powered by simply connecting them to a computer via USB.

(Video) What is Computer Memory? And its types | Primary and Secondary Memory in Computer

  • Cloud storage

With fast internet speed, most organizations are moving operations to the cloud where all data is stored and accessed. The storage is sourced from companies that offer storage space online for different purposes.

The main advantage of this technology is that data can be accessed from any location. It is also very simple to expand the storage capacity since you don’t need to buy any hardware just to pay for extra space. Google Cloud is an example of cloud storage.

It should be noted that still, cloud storage providers use physical storage where their data centers are located.

Comparison between primary and secondary storage devices

S/NoPrimary memorySecondary storage
1Fast data access speed.Low access speed.
3Data is stored temporally.Data is stored permanently or until deleted by the user.
4Working memory of the computer.Backup storage of the computer.
5Low storage capacity.High storage capacity.
6Examples are RAM, and ROM.Hard disk Tape disk, Flash memory, DVD/CD, SD card.
7They are expensive.Relatively cheap.


What are the characteristics of storage devices? ›

Storage devices
  • speed (how quickly data can be accessed)
  • cost per storage unit (i.e. price per gigabyte or megabyte)
  • durability (toughness)
  • portability (how easy it is to move it from one computer to another)

What are the different types of storage devices Answer? ›

Generally speaking there are two types of storage media used as secondary storage in computers: hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs).

What are the 4 types of storage devices? ›

Storage devices in a computer
  • Primary storage devices.
  • Magnetic storage devices.
  • Flash memory devices.
  • Optical storage devices.
  • Cloud and virtual storage.

What are storage devices in computing? ›

A storage device is any type of computing hardware that is used for storing, porting or extracting data files and objects. Storage devices can hold and store information both temporarily and permanently. They may be internal or external to a computer, server or computing device.

What are the different types of storage devices describe and give examples? ›

A storage device is available in various form factors; for case, a computer device includes different storage media such as hard disk, RAM, cache. They also have optical disk drives and externally connected USB drives. Two types of storage devices, primary and secondary are available there to store data.

What are the 5 storage devices and their functions? ›

Some storage devices are also portable, meaning that they can be used to transfer information from one computer to another. Digital data storage media generally fall into one of five categories: magnetic storage devices, optical storage devices, flash memory devices, online/cloud storage, and paper storage.

What are the most common types of storage devices used on computers? ›

The most common type of storage devices are Both Magnetic storage & Flash memory. Magnetic storage devices: Today, magnetic storage is one of the most common types of storage used with computers. This technology found mostly on extremely large HDDs or hybrid hard drives.

What are the 5 types of storage? ›

Types of storage devices
  • SSD and flash storage. Flash storage is a solid-state technology that uses flash memory chips for writing and storing data. ...
  • Hybrid storage. ...
  • Cloud storage. ...
  • Hybrid cloud storage. ...
  • Backup software and appliances.

What are the 3 main storage types? ›

There are three main categories of storage devices: optical, magnetic and semiconductor. The earliest of these was the magnetic device. Computer systems began with magnetic storage in the form of tapes (yes, just like a cassette or video tape). These graduated to the hard disk drive and then to a floppy disk.

What are the 3 main types of computer storage? ›

solid state storage devices, such as USB memory sticks. optical storage devices, such as CD, DVD and Blu-ray discs. magnetic storage devices, such as hard disk drives.

How many types of storage devices are there in a computer system? ›

There are two types of storage devices used with computers: a primary storage device, such as RAM, and a secondary storage device, such as a hard drive.

What are the importance of different storage devices and its uses? ›

The importance of storage devices is that they can retain almost all the data and applications in a device. Depending on its demand or performance, it comes in various sizes and shapes. It can retain information for the short term and the long term. A storage device needs to reserve or store your important data.

What are the 8 units of storage? ›

Units of storage
Megabyte1024 kilobytes
Gigabyte1024 megabytes
Terabyte1024 gigabytes
Petabyte1024 terabytes
3 more rows

What are all the storage names? ›

Data Storage Units Chart: From Smallest to Largest
KilobyteKB1024 bytes
MegabyteMB1024 kilobytes
GigabyteGB1024 megabytes
TerabyteTB1024 gigabytes
6 more rows
Jan 24, 2020

What is the 5 primary storage? ›

read only memory (ROM) random access memory (RAM) flash memory. cache memory.

What are the two 2 main types of storage? ›

Hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid-state drives (SSDs) are now the primary forms of storage.

Which are the basic types of storage? ›

Data can be recorded and stored in three main forms: file storage, block storage and object storage.

What are the characteristics of primary and secondary storage devices? ›

Primary memory is volatile, while secondary memory is non-volatile. Primary memory is stored on semiconductor chips, while secondary memory is stored on external hardware devices. Primary memory is classified into cache and random access memory, while secondary memory has no such categories. Primary memory is faster.

What are the four characteristics of a computing device? ›


Let us identify the major characteristics of computer. These can be discussed under the headings of speed, accuracy, diligence, versatility and memory.

Which of the following are characteristics of object storage? ›

The key characteristics of Object Storage are that:
  • All objects stored in Object Storage have a URL.
  • All objects stored are replicated 3✕ in as-unique-as-possible zones, which can be defined as a group of drives, a node, a rack, and so on.
  • All objects have their own metadata.
Aug 23, 2019

What are the 3 types of storage devices? ›

There are three main categories of storage devices: optical, magnetic and semiconductor. The earliest of these was the magnetic device. Computer systems began with magnetic storage in the form of tapes (yes, just like a cassette or video tape).

What is the characteristic of a secondary storage device? ›

The fundamental characteristics of secondary storage are high capacity and low cost, although speed, reliability and portability might also be important. Longevity and long-term accessibility may also be an issue.

What are three characteristics of secondary storage? ›

Characteristics of Secondary Memory
  • It is non-volatile in nature.
  • It is less costly in comparison to primary memory.
  • The storage capacity is quite high and scalable.
  • It can be removable or fixed as per the requirement.

What is the difference between primary and secondary storage devices in a computer? ›

Primary memory usually refers to Random Access Memory (RAM), while secondary storage refers to devices such as hard disk drives, solid state drives, removable “USB” drives, CDs, and DVDs.

What are the three 3 characteristics of an object? ›

Characteristics of an object

All individual objects possess three basic characteristics -- identity, state and behavior.

What are the two main characteristics of an object? ›

These real-world objects share two characteristics: They all have state and behavior.

What are characteristic of local storage? ›

The main features of localStorage are: Shared between all tabs and windows from the same origin. The data does not expire. It remains after the browser restart and even OS reboot.


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