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what is a ram diskSolid state hard drives aren’t the first non-mechanical storage to appear in consumer PCs. RAM has been used for decades, but primarily as a short-term storage solution. The fast access times of RAM makes it perfect for storing data related to programs that are currently running on a system.

Enthusiasts have long tried to harness the advantages of short-term storage by creating what is known as a RAM disk or, more accurately, a RAM drive. You can still do this today. But should you?

What Is A RAM Disk?


The name says it all. A RAM disk is simply a bunch of memory modules that have been grouped together and then dedicated to long-term storage instead of short-term storage. The memory used is no different from ordinary RAM modules.

There two different ways to construct a RAM disk. One is to buy a dedicated platform, install RAM in it, and stick it inside your PC. An example of this sort of solution is the ACARD ANS-9010A, a 5.25 inch drive which can take up to 32GB of DDR2 RAM and connects like a normal SATA drive.

Alternatively, you can use a virtual RAM disk. This lumps together some of the RAM installed on your motherboard and creates a drive out of it. There are various software solutions, such as RAMDisk. Windows used to be able to handle this natively, but the functionality no longer exists.

Should I Use A RAM Disk?

what is a ram disk

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Probably not.

You may be wondering why RAM has never been seen widespread use as a form of long-term storage. If it’s fast, wouldn’t a strong niche market appear?

The reason is simple. RAM is volatile memory, which means it loses all of its data when it isn’t receiving an electrical charge. If are using a computer and the power is interrupted, kiss the data on the RAM disk goodbye. There are a few situations where this is not a drawback. For most users, it’s a serious issue.

The only potential benefit is speed. There are benchmarks that show virtual RAM disks achieving sequential read/write speeds of over 5,000 MB/s. That’s many times what is available from a solid state drive. The entire capacity of the virtual drive can be read or written in seconds rather than minutes.

There are a few instances where an absurdly quick but small drive is useful. A RAM disk can make for a great cache drive. Hardcore gamers might use a very large RAM disk (8-16GB+) to install a game they’d like to load with extreme speed. Or you might use it to temporarily store some files that you are frequently loading into software, such as image files or text files.

Even in these scenarios, however, a RAM disk large enough to hold significant content is an expensive upgrade, even at today’s low RAM prices. A solid-state drive is a more practical choice in almost every situation.

I Want To Do It Anyway

what is a ram disc

If you’re still interested, go to the DataRAM website and download RAMDisk Personal. It lets you create a virtual disk with a size of 4GB for free. If you want to go beyond that a license is $18.99. It’s one of the least expensive options on the market.

Open the software once you’ve installed it. Under Basic Settings you will see drive options. Change the disk size to whatever you’d like and change the partition to FAT32. Then click Start RAMDisk. Blammo! It’s that easy.

what is a ram disk

There are just a few other relevant options. The Load And Save tab gives you the option to start the RAMDisk automatically when your system boots and save it automatically when it shuts down. There is also an autosave feature that backs up the drive frequently. The default is every 300 seconds.

Remember, YOU WILL LOSE DATA if you stop the RAMDisk, if you shut down without enabling the save feature or if your computer unexpectedly shuts down or restarts for any reason.

Another warning – do not automatically back up your RAMDisk to a solid state drive. Solid state drives are built to withstand only a certain number of read/write cycles. Under normal use an SSD should last a decade or more, but normal use does not include backing up four gigabytes (or more) every 300 seconds.

Conclusion

For most users a RAMDisk is not going to be the right solution. If you want a reliable, fast storage solution, buy a solid state drive like the Samsung 830 Samsung 830 Solid State Drive (SSD) 512 GB Review and Giveaway Samsung 830 Solid State Drive (SSD) 512 GB Review and Giveaway Now we're reviewing one of the most well-known entries into the solid state drive market – the Samsung 830 SSD (Series MZ-7PC512N/AM 2.5" SATA III MLC). And we're not just reviewing any small, inexpensive version.... Read More .

If you just want to mess around, however, go ahead. There’s no disadvantage to trying it out. It doesn’t hurt your RAM and it won’t impact system performance so long as you have the memory to spare.

Image Credit: Justin Ruckman

  1. Frank Scanman
    August 30, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Linux supports RamDisk out of the box and has them mounted by default.
    free -m -- How much memory is free on your system?
    ls -l /dev/ram* -- It lists devices ram0 - ram19, but only ram0 - ram15 are usable by default.
    df -k /dev/ram0 -- Tells you how much of that you can really use (the filesystem takes also some space).
    BTW, if you specify too many MBs for ramdisk Linux will try to allocate it from RAM and then from swap so resulting performance would be very poor.

  2. Adjei Kofi
    August 27, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Nice post. Might try it out.

  3. MerVzter Balacuit
    August 27, 2012 at 12:00 am

    good article thanks for this info..

  4. Werner Strydom
    August 26, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    RAMDisks can improve your performance a great deal when applications rely heavily on temporary files for processing. And in other cases storing the OS swap files. Particularly useful in systems that process data in near real time.

  5. GrrGrrr
    August 25, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Long time back I tried a virtual RAM software, but gave up on it soon, as it was not worth.
    in present situation I would still not stress my HDD to act like a RAM, as any HDDs (SATA/SSD) are not designed to withstand the read/write cycles/capability of a actual RAM.

  6. A
    August 25, 2012 at 11:50 am

    My absolute favourite (it's free and works well even with 64 bit Windows 7):
    Pismo File Mount Audit Package
    http://www.pismotechnic.com/pfm/ap/

    The biggest advantage is that you don't have to set a size, it dynamically grows AND reduces in size as needed, so most of the time all your RAM is available for other programs to use.

    • A
      August 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm

      ... I almost forgot to add that it's not really listed as one of the features, but in the program it's under "File > New temp folder" and then you have a couple of different ways to mount it (I use a batch file in my startup folder, but you could use a shortcut too)

  7. Elijah Swartz
    August 25, 2012 at 4:53 am

    What I would be interested in, would be to see the lifespan of using RAM than traditional SSDs. Many RAM vendors put a lifetime warranty on their product, while SSDs vendors obviously don't. Considering how much more expensive RAM is than SSD storage.

    A quick google search says the max RAMdisk size on any version of Windows can only support a RAMdisk of 64GB. That's not all that big at all.

    I remembered that PCI-e RAM based SSDs also exist. So I did another google search. Here is a 1TB model by OCZ for about $4,000. Not really feasibly priced.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227517

  8. illegal3alien
    August 25, 2012 at 2:32 am

    If you are looking for alternatives to Dataram, this article has good options:
    http://www.raymond.cc/blog/12-ram-disk-software-benchmarked-for-fastest-read-and-write-speed/

  9. Robert Ruedisueli
    August 24, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    For Linux you can just use the following command:
    sudo mount -t tempfs /mount/vramdisk

    This will create a tmpfs volume which does one better than a physical ramdisk as it can be swapped to virtual memory it is not accessed in a while and the ram is needed by other programs.

  10. Mido
    August 24, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    Thank you useful post

    Regards

  11. Erlis Dhima
    August 24, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    Pretty cool! I have knowledge about RAMs, but taking extra info is always something we, computer lovers want! :)

  12. Mohamad Safadieh
    August 24, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    That's actually a pretty interesting post, i know a lot of "normal" users won't do that, but people like me, Geeks, will probably do that to try something new.

  13. Eric Swank
    August 24, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    You could conceivably use MS-DOS 6.22 ramdrive.sys. I know that's a little old school...400 Megabytes per second SSD aren't fast enough for Matt >:-)

    Just sayin...
    Peace and Longevity to all

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