Difference between RAM and CAM

RAM, short for Random Access Memory, is used for storing computer programs and data that the CPU needs in real time. RAM data is volatile and is erased once computer is switched off. CAM, short for Content Addressable Memory, is used for storing data words that searches its memory for a provided word and returns the list of addresses where data word is found.

Read this article to find out more about RAM and CAM and how they are different from each other.

What is RAM?

RAM is a type of primary memory used in computer systems for storing those parts of data and programs on which a CPU is currently working. It is a volatile memory which means data present in RAM will erase when the power supply is switched off. It is a type of readwrite memory, thus its data can be read, erased or modified as per requirement.

It is called "random access" because the processor can access any part of the memory directly. There are two types RAMs namely, DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory) and SRAM (Static Random Access Memory).

RAM is a critical component of a computer because it allows the processor to quickly access and manipulate data, which is necessary for smooth and efficient operation of the system.

What is CAM?

CAM is also known as Associative Memory. In this type of memory, the user provides a data word and the associative memory searches its entire memory space for this data word. If the data word is found, the list of addresses where the data word was located is returned to the user.

CAM is a type of non−volatile memory that is used to store data and instructions that are used frequently by the computer. Unlike RAM, which is accessed randomly, CAM is accessed based on the content of the data, which allows for faster retrieval of data. CAM is suitable for parallel search.

It is mostly used in Database Management Systems and networking applications where highspeed access to data is important. There are two types of CAM available− Binary Content Associative Memory (BCAM) and Ternary Content Associative Memory (TCAM). For memory lookups, the CAM requires only a single clock cycle.

Difference between RAM and CAM

The following table highlights the important differences between a RAM and a CAM −

Definition RAM stands for Random Access Memory. CAM stands for Content Addressable Memory.
Operation User supplies an address and RAM returns the word present at that location. User supplies a word and CAM returns the links where word is present.
Cost RAM is cheaper than associative memory. CAM is costlier.
Types There are two types of RAM −
SRAM (Static Random Access Memory)
DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory)
There are two types CAM −
BCAM (Binary Content Addressable Memory)
TCAM (Ternary Content Addressable Memory)
Application RAM is used to run programs and to store their data during execution. CAM is primary used in database management systems.
Suitability RAM is suitable for PRAM (Parallel RAM) algorithm. CAM is suitable for parallel access.
Clock Cycle RAM requires multiple clock cycles even for a single memory fetch. CCAM requires only a single clock cycle for all memory lookups.


RAM and CAM are two types of computer memory, but they serve different purposes. The most significant difference between the two is that the RAM is used to run programs and store their data for processing, while the CAM is used in database management systems.