Persistent Data vs. Volatile Data: What is the Difference?

Data from a computer or mobile device can be obtained from two different types of sources. The first is persistent data, defined as data that is infrequently accessed and less likely to be modified. The other is volatile data, defined as data that can be found in RAM (random access memory) primarily used for storage in personal computers and accessed regularly. In this article, the data forensics experts at Atlantic Data Forensics provide an overview of the key differences between persistent and volatile data and how this information can be beneficial for businesses.

What Kinds of Data Exist?

Volatile memory includes information of the programs that are currently being processed by the computer, whereas persistent memory is comprised of information on the basic booting process and all types of data that has to be saved permanently. In most cases, businesses will be using volatile data, as persistent data is rarely changed and not accessed very frequently. Businesses must understand the different types of data storage systems to reduce the risk of files being lost. Government regulations that require businesses to back up their data, and the growing world of viruses that forces a business to have a more vigilant backup of their data, are two key examples on why being able to retrieve this data is crucial. 

Volatile Data

It is important to know that volatile data will be lost when there is no power source connected to the computer or phone. Volatile data is mainly the only time a person will write data, and examples include hard disks and removable media. Dynamic random access memory (DRAM) and static random access memory (SRAM) are two places where volatile data will be stored. DRAM retains its data bits in separate cells consisting of a capacitor and a transistor. SRAM uses bistable-latching circuitry, allowing for the storage of multiple data bits. DRAM is less expensive because it needs only one single capacitor and one transistor to store each bit of information. This process, however, calls for a longer retrieval time, making SRAM much faster as it doesn’t need constant electrical refreshes.

Persistent Data

Persistent, or non-volatile data, is not accessed very frequently and is recoverable if there was ever a power interruption. Examples include ROM (read-only memory), flash memory and ferroelectric RAM. Persistent data is categorized into two types of systems: mechanically addressed systems, which include optical disks, holographic memory, magnetic tapes, and electrically addressed systems, which consist mostly of ROM, data that cannot be electronically modified. Mechanically addressed systems use a contact to read and write on a selected storage medium. The amount of data stored is usually much larger for mechanically addressed systems than for electrically addressed systems, which are based just on the write mechanism. They will typically be more expensive but are faster than mechanically addressed systems. 

How Can ADF Retrieve Volatile Data?

Whether the data was deleted or is just lost in the immeasurable amount of data files your business may have, being able to obtain volatile data can prove to be very crucial for a business. The specialists at Atlantic Data Forensics have a great deal of experience fully recovering a business’s lost data using the most advanced and modern data recovery software and tools. If your business needs help retrieving lost data, contact our experts today.