Memory System in a Computer

Memory System
Memory Hierarchy
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Personal Computer Configuration

1. Central Processing Unit (CPU)

2. Computer Memory (RAM and ROM)

3. Data bus

4. Ports

5. Motherboard

6. Hard disk

7. Output Devices

8. Input Devices

Memory System

There are two kinds of computer memory: primary and secondary . Primary memory is accessible directly by the processing unit. RAM is an example of primary memory. As soon as the computer is switched off the contents of the primary memory is lost. You can store and retrieve data much faster with primary memory compared to secondary memory. Secondary memory such as floppy disks , magnetic disk , etc., is located outside the computer. Primary memory is more expensive than secondary memory. Because of this the size of primary memory is less than that of secondary memory.

Computer memory is used to store two things:
i) Instructions to execute a program .
ii) Data .

When the computer is doing any job, the data that have to be processed are stored in the primary memory. This data may come from an input device like keyboard or from a secondary storage device like a floppy disk.
The following terms related to memory of a computer are discussed below :

Random Access Memory (RAM)

The primary storage is referred to as random access memory (RAM) because it is possible to randomly select and use any location of the memory directly store and retrieve data . It takes same time to any address of the memory as the first address. It is also called read/write memory .
The storage of data and instructions inside the primary storage is temporary . It disappears from RAM as soon as the power to the computer is switched off. The memories, which loose their content on failure of power supply, are known as volatile memories. So now we can say that RAM is volatile memory.

Read Only Memory (ROM)

There is another memory in computer, which is called Read Only Memory (ROM). It is the ICs inside the PC that form the ROM. The storage of program and data in the ROM is permanent . The ROM stores some standard processing programs supplied by the manufacturers to operate the personal computer.
The ROM can only be read by the CPU but it cannot be changed. The basic input/output program is stored in the ROM that examines and initializes various equipment attached to the PC when the switch is made ON. The memories, which do not loose their content on failure of power supply, are known as non-volatile memories. ROM is non-volatile memory.

Programmable Read Only Memory (PROM)

There is another type of primary memory in computer, which is called Programmable Read Only Memory (PROM).It is not possible to modify or erase programs stored in ROM, but it is possible to store the program in PROM chip. Once the programmes are written it cannot be changed and remain intact even if power is switched off. Therefore programs or instructions written in PROM or ROM cannot be erased or changed.


This stands for Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory, which over come the problem of PROM & ROM . EPROM chip can be programmed time and again by erasing the information stored earlier in it. Information stored in EPROM exposing the chip for some time ultraviolet light and it erases chip is reprogrammed using a special programming facility. When the EPROM is in use information can only be read.

Cache Memory

The speed of CPU is extremely high compared to the access time of main memory. Therefore the performance of CPU decreases due to the slow speed of main memory. To decrease the mismatch in operating speed, a small memory chip is attached between CPU and Main memory whose access time is very close to the processing speed of CPU. It is called CACHE memory. CACHE memories are accessed much faster than conventional RAM. It is used to store programs or data currently being executed or temporary data frequently used by the CPU. It is also very expensive to have bigger size of cache memory and its size is normally kept small.


The CPU processes data and instructions with high speed, there is also movement of data between various units of computer. It is necessary to transfer the processed data with high speed. So the computer uses a number of special memory units called registers. They are not part of the main memory but they store data or information temporarily and pass it on as directed by the control unit.
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