How To: Create a Temporary Hard Drive using RAMDisk
Image Source: RAMDisk
A RAM disk or RAM drive is a section of reserved system memory that is being treated as if it were a hard drive by the operating system. There are numerous benefits to using RAM drives - firstly, performance. Hard drives are generally very slow methods of storage, and are often the bottleneck in a computer system. RAM, however, is much faster by comparison, and so using a portion of memory for temporary storage is a useful tool, especially for developers looking to reduce compile times and accelerate large databases.
RAM disks also have improved security over hard disk storage, because RAM is volatile - it requires an energy source for persistence - meaning confidential data is irreversibly deleted once the machine is shut down. Data stored on a hard drive, in contrast, is non-volatile and can be retrieved by professionals even once it has been deleted and the disk formatted.
One popular tool for creating a RAM drive, and enjoying these benefits and more, is RAMDisk for Windows. Our guide shows you how to create a RAMDisk in just a few easy steps.
Access the related download link for this article and fetch the installer file for RAMDisk for Windows. Once the small ZIP file has finished downloading, extract the contents and run the file RAMDisk.exe.
Select the Settings tab of the RAMDisk interface (this should already be selected by default).
Specify the size of the RAM Disk in megabytes, using the up and down buttons on the Disk Size field. Base this on the amount of spare RAM you currently have, and be careful not to allocate too much or it will affect the performance of the operating system. For example: if you have 4gb of RAM, then you should comfortably be able to set your RAM Disk size to 2gb (2048mb), as long as you are not running too many memory intensive applications simultaneously. Note: the free version of RAMDisk will allow you to create a RAM disk of up to 4gb, as long as you have sufficient resources.
Specify FAT16 Partition, FAT32 Partition or Unformatted for the File System Type. Generally, for a small volume such as a RAM Disk, FAT32 will have a slightly faster performance, as well as less space wasted on unnecessary page filing.
Select Windows boot sector in the Boot Sector Settings section. Click OK to create the RAM Disk, which will take a few seconds, after which you can click OK to close the RAMDisk interface.
Click the Windows Start button and select Computer (or My Computer for Windows XP). Note the RAM Disk is present in the list of available drives, and can be browsed just like a regular hard drive. You can also store files here in the usual way, e.g. either by dragging or dropping or via the Explorer window when choosing Save As in any Windows application. Remember that RAM Disks are volatile, however, and will be erased when the computer is rebooted. See the tips section for a workaround feature offered by RAMDisk.
Tips & Advice
- As previously mentioned, RAM Disks are wiped when a computer is rebooted due to the volatile nature of the storage mechanism. However, RAMDisk provides a Load and Save feature that writes the contents of the RAM Disk to the hard drive when the computer is shut down, and loads it into the RAM Disk upon startup - so nothing is lost.
- Select the Load and Save tab after launching RAMDisk and ensure both Load Disk Image at Startup and Save Disk Image on Shutdown options are checked. You can also specify the filename and location of the disk image.
- For extra security, enable the AutoSave option and set the frequency in seconds. This reduces the likelihood of data loss in the event of a power cut or hardware failure. Remember, however, that setting the auto-save to occur too often will increase disk activity and reduce performance - which is exactly what most users of RAMDisk wish to avoid.