What Does Read/Write Mean?

Read/Write (R/W) refers to devices or storage media that can be read from and written to with data. This simple designation is part of hardware production and design, as well as computing system functionality and related devices.


Techopedia Explains Read/Write

One way to describe R/W is as an open, dual functionality, versus read-only. Examples of read-only include files or systems that are protected with a read-only attribute that prevents end users from changing them in any way. Another example is an e-reader device, where individual e-book files are generally read-only.

The R/W dichotomy represents a very basic type of computer function. Even the most primitive computers had this built-in functionality, so that users could input data, enable computer operations and access data results. Over time, this has advanced into data and hardware environments where massive data centers work with advanced data analytics tools and systems to offer R/W functionality, as well as analytics.


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Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…