A random-access device allows stored data to be accessed in very nearly the same amount of time for any storage location, so data can be accessed quickly in any random order. In contrast, other data storage media such as hard disks,
DVDs and magnetic tape, as well as early primary memory types such as drum memory, read and write data only in a predetermined order, consecutively, because of mechanical design limitations. Therefore the time to access a given data location varies significantly depending on its physical location.
Today, random-access memory takes the form of integrated circuits. Strictly speaking, modern types of
DRAM are not random access, as data is read in bursts, although the name
RAM has stuck. However, many types of
NOR flash are still random access even in a strict sense.
RAM is often associated with volatile types of memory (such as
DRAM memory modules), where its stored information is lost if the power is removed.