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How Does Flash Memory Work?

Jul 7, 2008
Flash memory can be programmed and reprogrammed as well as electronically erased. It is also a non-volatile form of computer memory and one of the most user friendly forms as well. Most people have seen this form of memory in the form of USB flash drives and in the memory cards used for game consoles.

Flash memory is rapidly replacing EEPROM (a byte programmable form of memory) whenever a large amount of solid state storage is needed. Add to the benefits of costs and the versatility of flash memory and it becomes the only memory of choice for some items. Items that make use of the advantages of flash memory include laptops, PDAs, digital cameras, audio players, and phones.

Non-volatile memory in computers is any memory that does not require a power source to retain information. Flash is non-volatile and you cannot lose your information unless you erase it or you hadn't saved it from a RAM form of memory if you pulled an application up to use on your laptop.

The durability of flash is also one of its most advantageous points. Flash memory can withstand a great deal of abuse before being beaten, including immersion in water when packaged as a memory card. This is to the delight of countless parents who are hit up for such devices on a regular basis. Intense pressure and extreme temperature changes also do not cause harm to memory cards. It takes more than a few degrees or being stepped on after being left carelessly in the floor to destroy flash memory tucked behind the design of a memory card for video games.

Flash is also very quickly erased when a user wants the space for something else. Its predecessor-EEPROM-only erases in small blocks at a time and at slow rates. Flash can be erased in a matter of seconds and reprogrammed just as quickly.

There are two types of flash memory-NOR and NAND. NOR allows for random access of any memory location through the uses of full address and data busses. NOR also has long write and erase times. NAND doesn't allow for random access, but is has faster write and erase times. NOR is a suitable replacement for older ROM chips as the files that it can hold don't have to be updated very often. NAND is best for use in memory cards, but is not suitable for use as replacements for ROM chips.

Flash does have limitations, though. One such limitation is that flash has a finite number of times that it can be rewritten and erased. The number for commercial flash drives is usually guaranteed for block 0 to be 100,000 times, but there are no guarantees for other blocks. The flash memory forms that are exempt from this are in the form of routers and thin clients. These are only programmed once or a few times at most, creating a void in the limitations seen by most flash memory sources.

Even with the finite number of times the flash drive can be rewritten and erased, it is still one of the most popular forms of computer memory and will probably remain so. The ease of transport and the ability to withstand rough treatment make it a form of computer memory that will withstand its limitations and continue to see a growth in usage.
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert consultant for computer memory, PC supplies, and computer games. When shopping, we recommend the best online stores for PC supplies, computer accessories, computer memory, Flash Memory, and used computer games.
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