Part of the Storage hardware glossary:

Volatile memory is computer storage that only maintains its data while the device is powered.

Most RAM (random access memory) used for primary storage in personal computers is volatile memory. RAM is much faster to read from and write to than the other kinds of storage in a computer, such as the hard disk or removable media. However, the data in RAM stays there only while the computer is running; when the computer is shut off, RAM loses its data.

Volatile memory contrasts with non-volatile memory, which does not lose content when power is lost. Non-volatile memory has a continuous source of power and does not need to have its memory content periodically refreshed. 

This was last updated in August 2014
Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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