A RAM drive is a hard drive made up of your computer’s RAM. It can’t save data permanently, but it’s incredibly fast. If you want to try it out, you can create a RAM drive with free software and without a single computer upgrade. This article will walk through how you can set up and use a RAM drive on Windows 10 and Windows 11.
Using ImDisk Toolkit
ImDisk Toolkit is an application for managing virtual drives. It also includes a utility that allows the creation of RAM drives.
- Download ImDisk from Sourceforge.net.
- Install the application. Be sure to include all the components during the installation.
Creating a RAM disk with Windows 11 is way faster than with Windows 10, as you get an “installation finished” message as soon as you initiate the ImDisk setup.
If you’re on Windows 10 continue with the following steps to finish the RAM disk installation and then restart the system once.
- Double-click on the desktop icon labeled “RamDisk Configuration.”
- Adjust the disk size in the box at the top of the window. We recommend at least 4GB of storage to get a feel for how the disk works.
- Click “OK” at the bottom of the window. This will create your RAM drive, which is just a virtual disk that’s assigned to your computer’s RAM. The process happens transparently, so there’s nothing you need to do.
- If you get a warning about shutdown settings, click on the “Shutdown settings” button.
- Then unlock the settings pane with your administrator password.
- Finally, uncheck the checkbox next to “Turn on fast startup (recommended)” and click “Save changes” at the bottom of the window. Your RAM drive is now ready for use.
Fast Startup speeds up the process of turning on your computer by saving a system state between completely off and hibernation to your hard drive. This happens when the computer writes the contents of your RAM to a stable hard drive. As you may guess, this could mess with your RAM drive’s ability to preserve and track its data. With Fast Startup off, boots may take slightly longer, but it’s doubtful that you’ll notice much.
Disabling fast startup will satisfy the warning window, but let’s consider why. This will also allow ImDisk to save your RAM drive’s data to an image file when you shut down your computer. If you don’t, the contents of your RAM drive will be erased completely every time, with no saved image storage. It would also disable the RAM drive’s ability to load the previous content. Basically, the drive would act much more like RAM and much less like a disk. Depending on your use case, that may be disappointing or unusable.
Using Your RAM Drive
You can access and use it just like any normal hard drive. It shows up in Windows File Explorer just like any other drive.
However, a RAM drive is exponentially faster than traditional types of storage. And we mean exponentially. You can verify it yourself using Anvil’s Storage Utilities, a raw speed comparison tool. In the following test, my Windows device C drive registered an overall score of 77.63 Mbps with average read and write speeds of 40.44 and 37.20 Mbps respectively.
In comparison, the values for ImDisk RAM drive were off the charts with an overall score of 29675.8 Mbps, along with average read and write scores of 21615 and 8080 Mbps respectively.
In most cases, it isn’t feasible to buy more RAM simply to have a bigger RAM disk. However, with between 8GB and 32GB of RAM, you can do some useful things. These include:
- Video and photo editing: these processes can be resource-intensive, and more traditional means of storage can create a bottleneck slowing them down.
- Gaming: if you have a lot of RAM, you can run some games from your RAM disk. Imagine how smoothly your games would run if you did this.
- Statistical modeling: this requires access to data at high speeds. A RAM disk can provide the necessary read/write speeds.
Precautions and Recommendations
You will need to ensure that data stored on your RAM disk is backed up to an image, of course. Luckily, ImDisk pretty much takes care of this. In addition, if you aren’t using a laptop with a strong battery, you should hook up your PC or laptop to a UPS. This way, if there’s a surge or power outage, you’ll be able to shut down your computer safely without losing data.
The speed of RAM is undeniable. Another option for taking advantage of this is looking into purchasing a RAM-based solid-state drive. This type of drive uses RAM modules instead of traditional SSD modules. They contain batteries to prevent data loss. However, they are quite expensive, so this is probably only feasible if you absolutely need RAM-level speeds for your work.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes a RAM drive so fast?
RAM drive is fast by definition because it repurposes the computer’s random access memory (RAM) to serve as temporary file storage. In other words, it functions as the software abstraction of a hard drive.
RAM drive is also fast because of its unique file characteristics. Unlike an SSD/HDD, it does not use excessive reads and writes from their data bus, and instead, uses a temporary folder to quickly move all the files in or out. It is, therefore, not burdened by several small file units, which leads to faster response time. This gives a RAM drive massive performance gains in terms of throughput values.
How big can a RAM disk be?
The RAM disk size depends on the amount of RAM your computer has at the moment. Under no condition it can exceed that limit. For safety purposes, it is prudent not to assign more than 50% of your PC’s RAM to serve as a RAM disk. For example, if you have 16GB of RAM on your computer, you can allocate up to 8 GB for the RAM drive.
What can be the biggest disadvantages of RAM drives?
As fast as RAM drives are, you can’t switch off the drive, and you can’t save information to them permanently. If you require more storage in a RAM drive (>16 GB), it isn’t nearly as cost effective as SSDs. The exponentially faster file storage comes at the expense of all your data getting wiped out the moment you disconnect the RAM drive. Your data is also vulnerable to power failures, a risk that can be reduced with a long-lasting laptop battery and/or UPS.
When should you use a RAM drive?
A RAM drive is most useful for applications where fast data writing and reading is important. It is best suited for highly technical computing tasks where high throughput is mission critical. For example, if you want your computer to perform 3D video rendering, a RAM drive will help you write data much faster than SSD due to faster encoding.
Can you use RAM drive as a boot drive?
Yes, you can use your laptop or PC RAM drive to boot up your operating system, but we don’t recommend it. The process will be very slow because of the volatile nature of this memory option. As your data is lost entirely each time you disconnect RAM drive, it will take a long time to back up your operating system. Also you need to keep your laptop or PC powered on to avoid RAM drive disconnection while booting.
Image credit: Jéshoots on Pexels
Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox