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What Is a Data Storage Device?

Digital video recorders allow people to download, sort, store, and view their favorite television shows.
A USB drive, a type of data storage device.
Data might be stored on a CD.
Computer hard drives are a common type of non-removable data storage device.
A RAM card, which stores data inside a computer.
CDs are a type of data storage device, although their popularity is waning.
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  • Written By: Eugene P.
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2014
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A data storage device is any mechanism used to record data so it can be retrieved and used later. The term most often is used in the context of computers or other electronic technologies for which information needs to be copied to a mobile storage unit or saved to a medium for long-term storage. Internal, non-removable devices such as computer hard drives, compact disk (CD) drives or digital video disk drives (DVDs) that can read and write information to a disk also can be referred to as a data storage device. Less commonly, a data storage device can refer to a mass storage drive that is designed to encode and hold a very large amount of information, such as all the information within a corporate network, on some type of media such as a magnetic tape reel or an optical disk.

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There are two types of data storage devices, one that holds information permanently and one that holds information only as long as power is provided to the mechanism. Inside a computer, random access memory (RAM) microchips or embedded circuit-based memory are examples of temporary forms of storing data, also called volatile memory storage. The primary purpose for volatile data storage is to provide an area where a device can quickly access information — such as code for an application — which does not necessarily have to be saved once the device is turned off or reset. This volatile information is often copied or compiled from data stored on a permanent data storage device.

A permanent data storage device is designed to hold information for the life of the medium, regardless of whether the unit is actively powered. Computer hard drives that write to spinning magnetic disks are one of the most common forms of non-removable devices. A CD or DVD drive is another example and, although they are sometimes non-removable, they write to disks that can be removed and read by another computer or other device.

One of the most used types of data storage device is known as a solid state drive or, more commonly, a flash drive. This type of device is often a self-contained, portable drive that can hold a certain amount of information and can be used on nearly any computer or device with a universal serial bus (USB) drive. The popularity of solid state drives comes from the fact that they do not have any moving parts, making them more resistant to damage, especially in mobile devices. One drawback to using a solid state drive is that, while the technology is very fast, small and efficient, it also wears out over time, meaning a drive will eventually become prone to errors and, ultimately, unusable.

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