As consumers strive to find the most efficient ways to make the most of the hardware already installed on a PC, many come to the point where the choice of upgrading their hard drive to an SSD is in front of them. For many, the sticker shock can be a big deterrent even as the price-per-GB of quality SSDs has dropped into the sub-$0.50-per-GB range.
For those users, and the consumers who have yet to discover other alternatives, there is also the option of a RAM Disk.
What is a Ram Disk?
In the most simple of terms, a RAM Disk is a disk volume created from your available RAM. The RAM Disk is a piece of software that loads during your boot cycle and assigns a portion of your RAM memory to handle file storage. The created volume is now just like any other mass storage device connected to your PC and can be found in your computers drive listing with an assigned letter, like RamDisk (G:) or RamDisk (L:).
Ram Disks are available in software packages and Ram Disk kits. These allow a user to establish the size of the RAM memory allocated for the RAM Disk as well as the file system to be used. Many versions of RAM Disk software also provide backup options from saving a RAM Disk image on PC shutdown to automatically reloading a previous or last-saved image on computer boot-up.
What are the advantages to using a RAM Disk?
The main advantage for using an RAM Disk is the boost in speed made to files stored on the RAM volume. In most cases, the speed of a RAM Disk is nearly fifty times faster than a conventional hard disk drive for read and write cycles. In the case of smaller sized files, the 4K read and write cycles can be as much as 200 times faster. The 4K tests are important because the smaller size is indicative of the types of file transfers associated with operating systems and web browsing. Take a look at the graph below to judge a RAM Disk against its nearest competitors.
The most important aspect of the RAM Disk to keep in mind is that it is volatile memory. If the power is interrupted, for any reason, all the data stored and not currently backed up will be lost.
RAM Disk and productivity
The most recognizable advantage of using a RAM Disk can be found in the benefits to your productivity. A RAM Disk can reduce the delay that many process-intensive applications suffer from when using a standard HDD.
One of the most popular consumer applications for a RAM Disk is to use the software in conjunction with web browsing. Certain brands of web browsers, like Firefox, allow users to define the locations where temporary internet files are stored, as well as the cache directory and browsing history. These changes can greatly increase your browser's performance as well as provide added security against some forms of malware.
RAM Disks have also been shown to increase the performance of games when specific application page files are located there, as well as providing increased benefits for file compression, image file batch conversion, 3D graphics rendering, video processing, and audio mixing.