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What Is Non-Volatile Memory in Computers?

When using a computer, there are two main types of memory which are stored in the system. First, there is non-volatile memory (NVM), or random access memory (RAM), which is the information that the computer retains even when disconnected from a power source. Conversely, there is volatile memory that requires continuous power to retain data or stored information. Whereas volatile random-access memory has continued to be the dominant part in primary memory for computer storage systems, non-volatile memory is most commonly used as a form of secondary memory for program and data storage, as well as long-term storage applications. To learn more about why this is and to get a better understanding of non-volatile memory overall, read on as we discuss this integral form of equipment.

Non-volatile memory falls into two main categories: electrically-addressed and mechanically-addressed systems. Electrically-addressed systems use electrical mechanisms to read and write data, and they tend to be faster, more expensive, and have less capacity than mechanically addressed systems. One of the most popular examples of this is flash memory, which is the type that saves large amounts of data without needing a constant connection to power. Flash drives, which employ this type of memory, are plugged into a USB port and utilized to store and modify data in a small device until it is ready to be used again. 

Within the larger category of electrically-addressed systems, there are read-mostly devices, MRAM, Fe FET Memory, and Fe RAM/FRAM/F-RAM systems. While each of these types share in their use of electrical mechanisms, they differ in the exact way they read and store data. For example, magnetoresistive random-access memory (MRAM) is a type of non-volatile memory in which data is stored in magnetic domains as magnetic tunnel junctions instead of an electrical charge as with conventional RAM. Conversely, the ferroelectric field-effect transistor (Fe FET) is a non-volatile memory data storage system that includes ferroelectric material fixed between the FET and gate electrode. Each of these devices rely on electrical signals, but store their data in different forms, with the former employing magnetism and the latter using ferroelectricity. 

Aside from electrically-addressed systems of computer storage, there are mechanically-addressed systems that use a recording head or physical interface that connects between the recording apparatus and the storage device to read and write. Compared to electrically-addressed systems, they are typically less expensive and have a larger data storage capacity. However, they are also often slower as a result of needing to rely on mechanical processes to store each bit of information. Similar to their electrically-addressed counterparts, mechanically-addressed systems also come in several major types. 

First, there are hard disks, also referred to as hard drives, that are non-volatile magnetic storage devices made of aluminum or glass coated with a magnetic material. Hard disks specifically have the ability to store terabytes of data as individual blocks that can be retrieved in any order, even when there is no power supply. As one of the earliest examples of computer memory, hard disks have continued their role as a key player for storing large amounts of data in computer systems. Another type of memory system referred to as holographic memory is a high-volume data storage device that creates holographic pictures of data instances by using laser beams and storing them. This ultimately allows users to store multiple data sets in the same area. Finally, there is magnetic tape, a form of storage that uses a thin plastic strip coated with magnetic oxide to store data. Although magnetic tapes are slower than other storage devices, they are highly reliable. 

All modern computer systems use a combination of volatile and non-volatile memory, with the latter being used for important data that one would not want to lose as a result of disconnecting the computer from its power source. Within this form of memory, there are electrically and mechanically addressed systems that differ in how they store and process data. If you have come to this article not just to learn more, but also to find a memory device that is a good fit for your computer system, you are in luck. As a leading supplier of memory parts and accessories, ASAP Memory is committed to ensuring quality electrical items that fulfill our customers’ needs and high expectations. Browse our catalog of IT hardware and electrical parts today to learn more about how we can serve you in your part acquisition process!


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