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The Function of Secondary Storage

The function of secondary storage is the long-term retention of data in a computer system. Unlike
primary storage, or what we refer to as memory, secondary storage is non-volatile and not cleared
when the computer is powered off and back on. Secondary storage is cheaper than primary
storage but is also slower in both read and write access. Primary storage is faster but doesn't store
data persistently, instead loading data from the slower secondary storage into primary in order to
make efficient use of it. Unlike primary storage, secondary storage also doesn't directly access the
computer's CPU.

Magnetic drives, or hard drives, are the most common form of secondary storage. All modern
computers typically use at least one internal hard drive, and many come equipped with more. Hard
drives are also frequently attached externally through a Universal Serial Bus (USB) or Firewire,
and they are also used in arrays for redundant and recoverable storage in case of accidental data

Disk drives were the former kings of secondary storage, but for the most part they have fallen by
the wayside. Disk drives operate similarly to hard drives but use a much less dense material to
store data. Initially, disk drives were the cheapest way to store data, but eventually the price per
unit of storage on hard drives superseded the capacity and price of disk drives. A 3.5-inch disk
could hold, at most, 1.44Mb of data, or about one millionth of the data of today's typical hard drive.


Optical storage drives, such as compact disks (CDs) and digital video disks (DVDs), were the
initial successors to disk drive secondary storage. Their ability to hold much more data and their
low cost were more than enough to offset the slow write speeds. Read speeds for optical storage
drives have remained much faster than disk drives throughout their lifespan. As technology has
improved and media prices have remained low, optical storage remains a viable and popular
means for portable secondary storage.

Flash memory has enjoyed a boom in popularity and technological advances. It functions much
like a hard disk in term of access, albeit faster due to the storage medium not being sequentially
written like a hard disk platter. Flash memory can be thought of as slower, non-volatile memory,
but it is still unable to directly access a computer's CPU. As its capacity has increased while its
prices have fallen, flash memory has become a direct competitor of hard disks: it has faster read
and write times and better mechanical stability, as it has no moving parts.

In order for your computer to fully operate effectively, it must have the ability to store data after
programs have completed their processing tasks. This processed data is stored in a digital format
on either a hard disk, which is called secondary storage, or removable mass storage devices.
Primary storage devices is known as random access memory, or RAM, and storage is temporary.
RAM has less capacity for data storage and the data vanishes when the computer is turned off.


One way to think about secondary storage for your computer is to consider that once a project is
completed it needs to be filed in a separate cabinet yet be accessible. Secondary storage for your
computer works in the same manner, in that after the computer programs have completed their
tasks, the RAM needs to have a place to store the completed job, because its memory is only
temporary. Once the computer is started up you will be able to access the project from secondary
storage and make any necessary additions or completions.


Secondary storage devices offer several distinct benefits for your computer use, like possessing
the capacity to store enormous amounts of information such as hundreds, even the equivalent of
thousands, of books. Secondary storage also removes the once-enormous costs to businesses
that were incurred for storage of important documents in filing cabinets or storage facilities. In
addition, secondary storage devices are safe, reliable and permanent, according to the website
University of Rhode Island.


While RAM electronic storage devices are fast, secondary storage devices are slower because
they are electro-mechanical. The information on the secondary device has to be first located, then
copied and moved to the primary memory or RAM, which is regarded as data seek time, according
to the website University of Hertfordshire Department of Computer Science. Also, secondary
storage simply provides storage for the computer while, primary memory, supports ongoing CPU
activity by storing instructions and data of currently running programs, according to the website
Systems Architecture.

A secondary storage device holds data separately from the processor. The data stays in storage
even when power to the computer gets shut off. A hard drive and an optical drive are both
secondary storage devices.
A USB flash drive, usually portable and rewritable, is a type of flash memory storage device that
plugs into a computer's USB port. Flash drives are more expensive than hard drives with the same
storage capacity.

Floppy disks are a storage medium made of a thin magnetic disk. They were widely used from the
1970s to the early 2000s. On the 3 12-inch microfloppy, common from the late 1980s onward,
storage capabilities ranged from the standard 1.44 MB to 200 MB on some versions.
A CD-R, a type of recordable CD, is an optical secondary storage device invented by Sony and
Philips. It is also known as a WORM -- write once read many -- medium.
A DVD-R, a type of recordable DVD, has a storage capacity of usually 4.1 GB. There is also an
8.54-GB dual-layer version, called DVD-R DL.
Magnetic tape has been in use for more than 50 years. Modern magnetic tape is packaged in
cartridges or cassettes and is used for storing data backups, particularly in corporate settings. The
average amount of storage is 5 MB to 140 MB for every standard-length reel, which is 2,400 feet.