18 Types of Computer Storage Devices & Media (With Pictures)

Welcome to a guide on the types of computer storage devices and media. Over many years in the digital world, people have invented tons of storage devices and media. Just which is which? Let us walk through the various types of storage devices and media in this guide – Read!

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Magnetic Storage Optical Storage Flash Memory Storage
Network Storage Paper Storage Useful Bits & Links
The End

 

 

MAGNETIC STORAGE

Let us now move on to one of the most traditional forms of data storage, using magnets. In layman’s terms, the north/south pole of the magnet can be used to represent a bit. Put a bazillion mini magnets into a small box, and we get a magnetic storage device.

 

1) HARD DISK DRIVE (HDD)

The regular Joe that you will find in most computers. Hard disks store data in magnetic platters and have read-write heads just like the old-school retro record players.

 

2) MAGNETIC CARD/STRIPE

Ever notice that there is a black stripe behind credit cards and ATM cards? Ever wonder why people swipe these cards on a machine? That is because the “black stripe” is actually magnetic and contains a unique identification number. Now that you know, keep your card safe and don’t ever damage that stripe.

 

 

3) TAPE

The oldies should know this one very well, and there are various types of tapes – Cassette tapes for audio, videotapes, and even tape drives for server backup. In short, tapes are just long strings of magnetic strips. Even though we no longer use tapes for audio and video these days, tapes for server backup still exist and are still in use.

 

4) FLOPPY DISK

Oldies should know this one as well – Floppy disks are one of the oldest forms of magnetic storage, and 3 different sizes were made :

  • Floppy disks started with a crazy large 8-inch format.
  • It later “shrunk” down to 5 1/4 inches.
  • Then finally down to 3 1/2 inch.

But floppy disks are no longer in use today due to their very limited storage space and manufacturing cost.

 

5) ZIP DISK

Following up sometime in the mid-1990s, floppy disks could no longer keep up with the amount of data. Something called a “zip disk” then replaced it – With a single zip disk being able to hold up to 70 or more floppy disks. It remained popular until CDs took over in the early 2000s.

 

6) SUPER DISK

The super disk is a competitor to the zip disk, but sadly, it was not too popular and died without making a big splash.

 

 

OPTICAL STORAGE

These are what ended the floppy and magnetic disks – Optical discs that use lights and lasers to store data.

 

7) COMPACT DISC (CD)

I guess you can call these the so-called first generation of mainstream optical discs. CDs used to be manufactured in factories only, but after the invention of writable and rewritable discs (CDR and CDRW), they took over the market by storm.

 

8) DIGITAL VERSATILE DISC (DVD)

DVDs are pretty much still optical discs, but it holds more data. Call it the “improved version of CDs”, and they hold about 6 .5 times more than a normal CD.

 

9) BLU-RAY (BR)

Yet another improved version of the optical disc and BR discs hold about 5 times more data than normal DVDs. But one thing to take note of – Most Blu-ray players are backward compatible, but the older devices are not forward compatible; A Blu-ray player is most likely able to read all CDs, DVDs, BR, but the older CD players will not be able to read BR discs.

 

 

FLASH MEMORY STORAGE

Different from the “usual memory”, flash memory actually retains the data even without power. They used to be pretty expensive in the old days and are reserved for very specialized fast data storage. But thanks to technology, they have become very affordable and common these days.

 

10) FLASH DRIVE

A modern-day staple and you should have seen one of these. Sometimes also called the pen drive or thumb drive, depending on where you are in the world.

 

11) MEMORY CARDS

Another modern-day staple. There are many different kinds of memory cards, but they are all flash memory at the heart:

  • Secure Digital (SD).
  • Mini SD, micro SD
  • XQD
  • Compact Flash (CF)
  • Memory Stick
  • MultiMedia Card (MMC)

 

12) SOLID STATE DRIVE (SSD)

SSDs are actually hard disks. But instead of using magnetic platters, SSD uses flash memory. They are called “solid-state” because unlike the traditional hard disks, they do not have any read/write heads and moving parts.

That is a huge plus to the design, as a motor is no longer required, saving a ton of space and making it immune to shakes – This is why almost all laptops and tablets all use SSDs these days.

 

 

13) M.2 SSD

Well, this is an SSD. It just a smaller footprint, about the size of a stick of gum.

 

NETWORK STORAGE

After the Internet boom sometime in the 2000s, several networks and Internet-based storage solutions rose to fame.

 

14) NETWORK ATTACHED STORAGE (NAS)

The NAS is actually nothing more than an enclosure… Just a box that has wireless capabilities. Put a hard disk or plug a flash drive into the enclosure, and it becomes automatically shared on the wireless network. All devices connected to the wireless network can then access those storage devices. Pretty cool.

 

15) CLOUD STORAGE

Cloud storage is not a device, but rather, storing data on the Internet… If you trust the Internet enough. Here are a few good free cloud storage providers:

 

 

PAPER STORAGE

What!? Paper can be used to store data as well? Yes, and you have probably already used it before. Paper is actually one of the oldest data storage media, and it is still very much still in use today.

 

16) BARCODES

There are many different types of barcodes, and you have probably seen these everywhere – Newspapers, posters, publications, and products.

  • QR Code
  • Codabar
  • Code 25, Code 11, Code 32
  • EAN
  • UPC

But scan these, and they will give you a serial number, a promo code, or even a website address. Guess an alternate way to call barcode is “alphabet of the machines”.

 

17) PUNCH CARD

Image Source: Wikimedia

This is an ancient way to record data. There will be a piece of paper with printed numbers, time slots, and/or alphabets – Just punch a hole on the appropriate one. These are probably still in use at some factories or restaurants for timekeeping.

 

18) OPTICAL MARK READING (OMR)

Image Source: Wikimedia

Remember these “shade the circles” papers you get in examinations? The multiple-choice-questions? That is called optical mark reading (OMR), and it works pretty much the same as punch cards. Except that you shade the slot instead of punching a hole.

 

USEFUL BITS & LINKS

That’s all for this guide, and here is a small section on some extras and links that may be useful to you.

 

MEMORY VS STORAGE

These are 2 commonly confused terms, even by some people who are more “cyber educated”. Now, when we refer to memory in the computer terms, it mainly means temporary data storage – Which is usually the RAM or flash memory. But when it comes to data storage, it is permanent – Usually referring to disks.

Why the heck do we need to have this distinction? Simply because disks are generally slower in terms of the read/write speed than memory. When a processor does complex calculations, it will use some temporary data storage space – A fast memory will not slow down the processing, unlike slower disks that will become the bottleneck.

 

INTERNAL VS EXTERNAL STORAGE

These are 2 terms that you will hear quite often as well. In a nutshell:

  • Internal storage: Storage devices that you put inside the computer, such as hard disks.
  • External storage: Storage devices and media that you insert into a computer, such as memory cards.

Yep. It’s that straightforward.

 

PRIMARY, SECONDARY, TERTIARY STORAGE

Next, we have even more not-so-confusing storage terms:

  • Primary storage: More like “primary memory”. Usually referring to the fast, volatile memory that is used for processing temporary data variables.
  • Secondary storage: The internal storage for permanent data storage.
  • Tertiary storage: “Extra” external storage that is used for backup or transferring data.

 

BITS & BYTES

For you folks who do not already know:

  • Computers can only understand 1 and 0 – We call that single 1 or 0 a bit.
  • 8 bits form 1 byte.
  • 1000 bytes is called 1 kilobyte.
  •  1000 kilobytes as 1 megabyte, 1000 megabytes as 1 gigabyte, and 1000 gigabytes as 1 terabyte.

So yep – That is a lot of zeros when it comes to data storage.

 

LINKS & REFERENCES

 

THE END

Thank you for reading, and we have come to the end of this guide. I hope that this has helped you to better understand the world of digital storage, and if you have anything to share with this guide, please feel free to comment below. Good luck and may the digital force be with you.

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