A storage device is any computing hardware that is used for storing, porting and extracting data files and objects. It can hold and store information both temporarily and permanently, and can be internal or external to a computer, server or any similar computing device.
A storage device may also be known as a storage medium or storage media.
Storage devices are one of the core components of any computing device. They store virtually all the data and applications on a computer, except hardware firmware. They are available in different form factors depending on the type of underlying device. For example, a standard computer has multiple storage devices including RAM, cache, and hard disk, as well as possibly having optical disk drives and externally connected USB drives.
There are two different types of storage devices:
- Primary storage devices
Generally smaller in size, these are designed to hold data temporarily and are internal to the computer. They have the fastest data access speed, and include RAM and cache memory.
- Secondary storage devices
These usually have large storage capacity, and they store data permanently. They can be either internal or external to the computer, and they include the hard disk, optical disk drive and USB storage device.
Why is storage needed in a computer?
Without a storage device, a computer cannot save or remember any settings or information and would be considered a dumb terminal.
Although a computer can run with no storage device, it would only be able to view information unless it was connected to another computer that had storage capabilities. Even a task such as browsing the Internet requires information to be stored on your computer.
Why so many different storage devices?
As computers advance, the technologies used to store data do too, right along with higher requirements for storage space. Because people need more and more space, want it faster, cheaper, and want to take it with them new technologies have to be invented. When new storage devices are designed, as people upgrade to those new devices the older devices are no longer needed and stop being used.
For example, when punch cards were first used in early computers, the magnetic media used for floppy disks was not available. After floppy diskettes had been released, they were replaced by CD-ROM drives, which were replaced by DVD drives, which have been replaced by flash drives. The first hard disk drive from IBM cost $50,000, was only 5 MB, big, and cumbersome. Today, we have smartphones that have hundreds of times the capacity at a much smaller price that we can carry with us in our pocket.
Each advancement of storage devices gives a computer the ability to store more data, as well as save and access data faster.
What is a storage location?
When saving anything on a computer, it may ask you for a storage location, which is the area where you would like to save the information. By default, most information is saved to your computer hard drive. If you want to move the information to another computer, save it to a removable storage device such as a flash drive.
Which storage devices are used today?
Most of the storage devices mentioned above are no longer used with today’s computers. Most computers today primarily use an SSD to store information and have the options for USB flash drives and access to cloud storage. Some desktop computers with disc drives use a disc drive that is capable of reading and writing CDs and DVDs.
What storage device has the largest capacity?
For most computers, the largest storage device is the hard drive or SSD. However, networked computers may also have access to larger storage with large tape drives, cloud computing, or NAS devices. Below is a list of storage devices from the smallest capacity to the largest capacity.