Storage device

Updated: 06/30/2019 by Computer Hope
Drobo

Alternatively referred to as digital storage, storage, storage media, or storage medium, a storage device is any hardware capable of holding information either temporarily or permanently. The picture shows an example of a Drobo, an external secondary storage device.

There are two types of storage devices used with computers: a primary storage device, such as RAM, and a secondary storage device, such as a hard drive. Secondary storage can be removable, internal, or external.

Examples of computer storage

Hard drive

Magnetic storage devices

Today, magnetic storage is one of the most common types of storage used with computers. This technology found mostly on extremely large HDDs or hybrid hard drives.

CD-ROM

Optical storage devices

Another common storage is optical storage, which uses lasers and lights as its method of reading and writing data.

Flash memory devices

128 GB SanDisk Ultra Flair USB Flash Drive

Flash memory has replaced most magnetic and optical media as it becomes cheaper because it is the more efficient and reliable solution.

Online and cloud

Storing data online and in cloud storage is becoming popular as people need to access their data from more than one device.

Paper storage

Punch card

Early computers had no method of using any of the above technologies for storing information and had to rely on paper. Today, these forms of storage are rarely used or found. In the picture to the right is an example of a woman entering data to a punch card using a punch card machine.

Note

A hard copy could be considered a form of paper storage that is still widely used although it cannot be easily used to input data back into a computer without the aid of OCR.

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.

Note

Many storage devices have been available in many different capacities. For example, over the evolution of the hard drive, there have been drives that range from the first hard drive of 5 MB to hard drives today that are several terabytes in size. Therefore, the below list is only meant to give a general understanding of the size differences between each storage devices today and is not an exact list. For example, the earliest hard drives are smaller than a CD.

  1. Punch card
  2. Floppy diskette
  3. Zip disk
  4. CD
  5. DVD
  6. Blu-ray disc
  7. Flash jump drive
  8. Hard drive / SSD
  9. Tape drive
  10. NAS / Cloud Storage

Are storage devices input and output devices?

No. Although these devices do send and receive information, they are not considered an input device or output device. It is more proper to refer to any device capable of storing and reading information as a storage device, disk, disc, drive, or media.

How do you access storage devices?

Accessing a storage device on your computer depends on the operating system your computer is using and how it's being used. For example, with Microsoft Windows, you can use a file manager to access the files on any storage device. Microsoft Windows uses Explorer as its default file manager. With Apple computers, Finder is considered the default file manager.

What is the latest storage device?

One of the most recent storage device technologies to be introduced is NVMe with SSDs and cloud storage also being a recently developed storage devices. Also, older technologies like hard disk drives and tape drives are always developing new techniques to allow for the devices to store more data.

CD terms, Cloud, Floppy drive terms, Hard drive terms, Hardware terms, I/O Device, Memory terms, Non-volatile, Optane memory, Permanent storage, SAN, Tape terms