How to Explain RAM Vs. ROM to Beginners



A lot of people use the term “memory” when discussing the hard drive. It’s a common error.




RAM (random access memory)

is where programs that are being used currently by the processor to run the program are held. This clears when you lose power or shut down the computer.

ROM (read only memory)

is where all programs on your computer are stored till needed. This is the hard drive; items stay stored here until you remove them. So when explaining the basics of how this works, I use this simple example.

Think of the hard drive (ROM) as a file cabinet. It contains all the programs your computer needs to operate. The (RAM) can be described as a desktop. The processor is the worker. So when you open a program, you want to work on .It moves from the filing cabinet, to the desk .This is where all the work is organized and used buy the “worker”. When work on that program is done and you close the program, it’s placed back, into the file cabinet. The same happens when you shut down the system.

But if you have a system “crash” or a power failure while working on something, it’s lost. I say it’s like a windows open and a strong breeze blows everything off the desk before you can put it away.

By this example you can see how a couple old computer adages make sense. You can never have too much storage or too much RAM. i.e.; big filing cabinet and large desk. The amount of RAM is one of, if not THE most important parts of your system. RAM in the last couple of years as gotten very inexpensive. So it makes adding more to an older system a very good option to breathe new life into it. The speed that programs operate from this simple change will make you think you have a new system.


There are several different types of RAM and setups on different motherboards. Far more types than I will get into, as this is meant as a “non-technical” overview of RAM. You can check your manual and or the


computer maker to find out what type of RAM you have.Alot depends on the age of the computer. RAM is fairly easy to install, but if that makes you feel uncomfortable, a friend might help. If not it doesn’t cost much to have a tech do it. If your system is two or three years old or newer, adding RAM is a good move. If your system is older than that then it may be time to look into getting a new system. So much has been improved the last couple years in overall system performance that you’d gain from getting a new one. If you have a fairly new system and are doing new things with it, like photo and video work, maybe games. Then adding RAM, will greatly improve, whatever it is you are doing.

I hope this helps, in explaining the basics, of RAM and ROM in a real world example. So that it might be explained to a beginner or one that takes the approach,” I don’t care how it works, just so it does”. I’ve built several systems from scratch, and enjoy helping friends and family (usually) with computer problems.



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