Internal and External Memory: 10 Differences

By Dominic Chooper on August 21, 2020

The data and information can be stored in the internal memory or in an external memory. Though the purpose of the two is the same, there are some differences between them which you may not be aware of.

If that is the case, this is an article that will make you knowledgeable. Go through differences and the additional facts to have a much better understanding of these two memories.


10 Differences Between Internal and External Memory

Internal vs External Memory

1. Alternative Names

Many must be knowing the memory used in the computer be it the internal and external.

With the different alternative names, the internal memory has two alternative names like the “Main Memory” and the “Primary Memory”. It is because it is attached to the computer and cannot be separated from the computer.

The latter or the external memory is also known as the “Secondary memory” or the “Auxilary memory”. It is because the memory can be portable. It can be removed and attached to the computer according to the user’s choice.

2. Category

The internal memory falls under the category of “Volatile memory”. The volatile memory is a memory which means that if one is working on some data.

And if the power of the computer goes off. Then the information or data on the computer which was being worked on will not be saved on the computer.

This is because the internal memory is connected to the power supply unit. This means that the data which was worked on will be lost if the power supply goes off.

It is recommended that one should store the data before switching off the power supply. ROM is a non-volatile memory.

On the other hand, the external memory falls under the non-volatile category. It is because the data worked on, can be saved and later retrieved.

After the power supply goes off. Also, it is not connected to the power supply like the internal memory.

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3. Physical Features

The internal memory is a semiconductor memory. The internal memory consists of chips that are attached to the motherboard.

It is placed inside the computer. The RAM needs to be compatible with the motherboard for proper functioning.

External memory is not a semiconductor memory. It is magnetic and optical memories. The external memory consists of storage drives or devices like the optical drive and hard disk.

Which can be taken from one place to another. And is universal, which means it can be connected to every computer. It can be interchanged from one computer to another.

4. Speed

The internal memory has a fast access time. It is because the internal memory is directly connected to the CPU for better processing purposes. Which makes the processor work easy. Resulting in the computer’s speedy performance.

The CPU cannot access data from an external memory. Which leads to less processing purposes. And the speed decreases because it is not directly connected to the CPU.

5. Storage

The internal memory can store data faster than the external memory. But the data stored are temporary. And once the computer goes off the data stored will be lost.

The storage capacity of the internal memory is very limited and less. Also, the internal memory cannot store data which is an extensive or large amount of data.

On the other hand, the external memory can store a large amount of data. The data stored in the external memory is permanently stored.

For a large period of time until the user does not erase the data from the external memory. The data remains in the external memory even after switching off the computer.

6. Operation

The internal memory is very essential for the computer. It is because the computer will not be able to operate or run.

Without the main memory or the internal memory because it is used for better or high end tasks. Like video editing, 3D rendering, and many more. The internal memory is used for processing data.

The external memory is not that favorable or important to the computer. Operations can be done without the secondary memory or Auxilary memory

The computer can always run or operate without the secondary memory. This is used for storing data.

7. Portability

As one can understand that the internal memory cannot be portable. This is because it is attached to the motherboard inside the computer.

Another reason is that it also comes in chips which are then attached to the motherboard. Therefore, making it difficult for carrying from one place to another.

The external memory is known for its portability. External memory can be taken from one place to another. Because it is also known as the backup memory.

It can be connected to the computer. And they are universal. Therefore, it can be connected or interchanged from one computer to another.

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8. Connectivity

The internal memory is connected to the computer. And is known for being present inside the enclosure of the computer which is connected to the power supply unit coming chips which are inserted to the motherboard

External memory comes in storage drives or disks. Which is portable and can be connected through data cable or provide an external network.

Since it is known as the storing of data in the computer. The external memory is found outside the enclosure of the computer. And also they are connected to an additional power source.

9. Utility

The internal memory is used for processing the data. The internal memory is used for general as well as high intensive work.

Like checking emails, browsing the web, playing games, streaming online movies and videos, and many more. The internal memory also helps and improves the operating system for better memory requirements.

Even for the ones who work like photo editing, video editing, in-depth tasks, recording, 3D rendering intensive, and many more.

One should always upgrade their internal memory for better speed and performance. The internal memory stores information and data which are used for operating the computer.

The advancement of the external memory has always been on a topic to talk about. External memory like the internal memory also improves the performance of the computer and storage.

Many drivers come in different sizes and speeds. It can be used for storing a large amount of data. For example, games, pictures, movies, and much more.

The external memory like the ones which are available these days. For instance, the SSDs. They are even faster, they consume less heat and less power. And even takes up less space. The reason behind it is that SSDs do not come in disks or drives.

But in chips. which are connected to the computer leading the computer to work even faster. And are also portable. External memory is equally important as internal memory. Because it boosts up the speed and performance of the computer.

10. Price

The price of the internal memory is more than the external memory. It also depends on the brand. It is because it is a very crucial component of the computer. Which helps in the speed and performance of the computer.

Even though the external memory serves the best as the internal memory. The external memory is less expensive compared to the internal memory. It can be interchanged and the shape mostly comes in a universal size.

It is beneficial because it’s more portable and stores a big amount of data. And also is responsible for the speed and performance of the computer. SSDs are a bit more expensive than the other external memory.

Which is More Useful – Internal or External Memory?

Differences Between Internal and External Memory

If the above list of differences is not enough for you to find the answer to your question, here are a few additional facts that will surely do the needful.

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Internal memory is the primary or main memory of the computer which is not portable but essential for the computer to start and operate.

However, being volatile in nature, the data stored in it is lost forever if the power goes off or the system is switched off.

It is for this reason the internal memory is typically connected to the PSU or Power Supply Unit.

Internal Memory is much faster than the external memory and come in typically two variants namely:

The RAM stores data when the CPU or the Central Processing Unit is performing a task.

It helps the computer to run faster since it stores fewer data for the CPU to read. RAM is of two types as well namely, the Static RAM and Dynamic RAM.

ROM is an internal memory that stores data which cannot be modified by the user and, once again, is essential for the computer system to start working.

On the other hand, the external memory is also called the secondary memory and does not perform the same functions as the internal memory though both are used to store data.

External memory is slower and since it is not fixed to the computer, the users can change or replace it as and when required to be used in another computer system.

The CPU however does not need the data stored in an external memory to function.

However, when it is used, the data stored in the external memory is first sent to the internal memory from where the CPU reads them.

That is why the reading process in this case is a bit longer.

There are different types of external memory units available in the market such as:

Depending on their type, an external memory is connected to the computer either through a dedicated cable or a USB port.

So, it is very clear from the above facts that both internal and external memory works faultlessly on the computer but the internal memory is more useful to a computer.


After going through the differences. One can understand the proper difference between the two memories.

Internal and external memory are both different but both improve the performance of the computer.

Upgrading both the internal and external memory is essential for the user to experience better speed and utility.