Secondary Storage Device

Written by Amy Hall
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What Is A Secondary Storage Device?

A secondary storage device is different than a computer's main memory. Secondary storage is also called auxiliary storage and is used to store data and programs when they are not being processed. Secondary storage is more permanent than main memory, as data and programs are retained when the power is turned off.

The needs of secondary storage can vary between users. A personal computer might only require 20,000 bytes of secondary storage but large companies, such as banks, may require secondary storage devices that can store billions of characters. Because of such a variety of needs, a variety of secondary storage devices are available.

Types of Secondary Storage

The two most common types of secondary storage are magnetic tapes and magnetic disks. Magnetic tape is essentially either one-half inch or one-quarter inch ribbon of plastic material where the data is recorded. The tape backup drive reads, writes, and erases data on tapes. Magnetic tapes can be erased and reused, and they are exceptionally durable. Furthermore, they are made to store large quantities of data inexpensively, making them ideal for data backup. Magnetic tape is not suitable for data files that are revised or updated often because it stores data sequentially.

Magnetic disks are the most widely used data backup storage medium for computers. A magnetic disk offers high storage capacity, reliability, and the capacity to quickly and directly retrieve stored data. Magnetic disks are capable of holding more data in a smaller space, yet their access speeds are higher. Types of magnetic disks include diskettes, hard disks, and removable disk cartridges.


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