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A new desktop computer should have at least 2 gigabytes, and more if possible. Top-end desk-top PCs have up to 16 gigabytes of main memory (as of 2014).

Characteristics of Computer Memory

Main memory is as vital as the processor chip to a computer system. Fast computer systems have both a fast processor and a large, fast memory. Here is a list of some characteristics of computer memory. Some characteristics are true for both kinds of memory; others are true for just one.

What do you remember about computer memory from chapter one? In the table, decide what is true for main memory and for secondary memory. (Click on the buttons to see if you are correct.)

CharacteristicTrue for
Main Memory
True for
Secondary Memory
Very closely connected to the
Holds programs and data that the
processor is actively working with.
Used for long term storage.
The processor interacts with it
millions of times per second.
Stored data are easily changed.
Relatively low capacity.
Relatively huge capacity.
Fast access.
Slow access.
Connected to main memory.
Holds programs and data.
Data are organized
into files.


In both types of memory, how are data represented?