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RAM Disks and You: Alternative to SSDs?

A RAM disk is a block of RAM (volatile memory or primary storage) that your computer treats as a secondary storage drive.


Are you looking to increase the speed of one or two smaller applications or programs, but aren’t interested in buying a new SSD? Do you have more than enough system memory installed on your PC? If you answered yes to both questions then you may be interested in using a RAM disk (also known as a RAM drive, a "virtual" RAM drive, or a "software" RAM drive). All you need to start seeing significant speed increases in your programs and files is a 3rd party RAM disk program, a little bit of time, extra system memory, and the confidence to partition away your system resources.

So What Is A RAM Disk?

A RAM disk is a block of RAM (volatile memory or primary storage) that your computer treats as a secondary storage drive. This new storage partition can be used to run applications and access files directly from memory reducing the data access time to near negligible rates. The average read/write times associated with a RAM disk when compared to a 7200rpm HDD can be upwards of 40 times faster.

This is accomplished due to the reduction in data transfer times by placing the files directly into the memory of the system, which bypasses bottlenecks like SATA controllers, disk access speeds, and data translation. The only limiting factor when considering files and programs for use with a RAM disk is size: the size of the file used and the size of system memory allocated to the RAM disk.

What Are The Drawbacks To Using A RAM Disk?

So far the RAM disk sounds like the perfect short-term alternative to purchasing a new SSHD or SSD storage drive. Unfortunately, there is a significant drawback to using RAM as a storage medium. RAM disks are volatile. All information stored on a RAM disk will be lost when your system is turned off or power is lost.

There are workarounds for this in most RAM disk programs. Backup copies of RAM disk files can be created on your conventional storage drive during system shutdowns and then recreated on the RAM disk during the system’s startup. This process of copying files to and from a RAM disk during normal startup and shutdown procedures can add significant time to both depending on file size. However, this backup procedure will not protect data from loss during unscheduled shutdowns and power outages on systems with a UPS.

What’s The Verdict?

RAM disk programs are a great application for increasing the speed of a limited number of programs and files that fit certain size requirements. If the increased speed of using the RAM disk outweighs the significant backup requirements and opportunity to lose work and data then a RAM disk is definitely the program for you.

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