Difference Between Primary and Secondary Memory

By Mohit Uniyal|Updated : April 26th, 2022

Difference between Primary and Secondary Memory: The memory of any electronic device is the storage capacity of that device. It is primarily used to save the information or perform tasks efficiently. The memory of a computer is divided into two categories first is primary memory and the second is secondary memory. The basic difference between primary and secondary memory is that the primary memory is directly accessible by the CPU while the secondary memory is not directly accessible to the CPU of the computer. 

The Primary memory is the main memory of the device/computer where the processing data exist and the secondary memory of a device/computer is an auxiliary memory that stores the data permanently. Here, we will first briefly explore Primary and Secondary Memory and then we will discuss the complete explanation of the difference between Primary and Secondary Memory. We have elaborated on some more differences in various parameters below.

Table of Content

What is Primary Memory?

The Primary Memory is basically the main memory of the computer system. Because primary memory is an internal memory of the computer, accessing data from this memory is faster. This memory is the most volatile because the data in primary memory does not reside if data is not saved when a power cut occurs. Primary memory is costlier as compared with secondary memory. Its capacity is very much limited and is smaller than the secondary memory.

There are two types of Primary Memory:

  • RAM (Random Access Memory):- This memory is known as the main memory of the computer system. It is also called the temporary memory or cache memory. The data stored in this memory is lost when the PC is switched off suddenly.
  • ROM (Read Only Memory):- This memory is a permanent type of memory. Its data is not lost when the PC is switched off suddenly. The device manufacturer decides the information of this memory, and this memory is permanently stored at the time of manufacturing and can not be reset by the user.

What is Secondary Memory?

All devices/computers which are capable of storing high volume data are referred to as secondary memory. These types of memories are slower than primary memory. However, it can save a large amount of data, in the range of gigabytes(GB) to terabytes(TB). Backup storage or mass storage media are the other names for Secondary memory.

Types of Secondary memory

  • Mass storage devices: The magnetic disk is a mass storage device that provides cheap storage and can be used for both small and large devices. There are two types of magnetic disks one is Floppy disks second is Hard disks
  • Flash/SSD: SSD stands for Solid State Drive that provides a persistent flash memory which is very fast as compared to Hard Drives. These drives are frequently found in Mobile phones, laptops and Mac.
  • Optical drives: This drive is a secondary storage device from which data is read and written with the help of lasers. It can contain data up to 185TB. Examples: CD, DVD, Blue-Ray
  • USB drives: These are the most popular secondary storage devices that are removable, rewritable and very small in size.
  • Magnetic tape: These devices are serial access storage devices that have the storage of a very high volume of data and they are usually used for backups.

What is the Difference Between Primary and Secondary Memory?

As we have seen a brief introduction to Primary and Secondary Memory. We will now explore the difference between Primary and Secondary Memory. The major differences between these two memories are explained in the table provided below:

Difference Between Primary and Secondary Memory

Primary Memory

Secondary Memory

This memory is temporary memory.

This memory is permanent memory.

This memory is directly accessible by the computer’s Processor/CPU.

This memory is not directly accessible by the computer’s CPU.

The nature of Parts of this Primary memory varies because RAM- is volatile in nature while the ROM- Non-volatile.

This memory is always Non-volatile in nature.

The devices of primary memory are more expensive than secondary storage devices.

The devices of secondary memory devices are not more expensive as compared to primary memory devices.

The memory devices used for primary memory are semiconductor memories.

The secondary memory devices are magnetic and optical memories.

This memory is known as the main memory or internal memory of a device.

This memory is known as external memory or auxiliary memory of a device.

Example: RAM, ROM, Cache memory, PROM, EPROM, Registers, etc are the Examples.

Example: Hard Disk, Floppy Disk, Magnetic Tapes, etc are the Examples.

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FAQs

  • The major difference between primary and secondary memory is that primary memory is temporary memory and secondary memory is permanent memory. The primary memory is saved for a small interval of time and covers a small space in the drive.

  • Primary memory is the memory of a computer that is directly accessible by the Processor/CPU. This memory is comprised of DRAM and it provides the working space for the processor. It holds the data and instructions on which the processor is working on.

  • Secondary memory is capable of storing high volume data.  These memories are non-volatile and persistent in nature and are not directly accessed by a computer/processor. These types of memories are slower than primary memory. However, it can save a large amount of data, in the range of gigabytes(GB) to terabytes(TB). Backup storage or mass storage media are the other names for Secondary memory.

  • The difference between primary and secondary memory based on the volatile nature is that primary memory RAM- is volatile in nature while the ROM is Non-volatile in nature and for secondary memory is non-volatile in nature.

  • The two main types of primary memory are ROM and RAM. ROM is non-volatile memory while RAM is volatile memory. Basically, the non-volatile memory is kept its data in it even when the computer is switched off suddenly whereas the volatile memory loses its data when the computer is switched off suddenly.

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