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.
Using ImDisk Toolkit
ImDisk Toolkit is an application for managing virtual drives. It also includes a utility that allows the creation of RAM drives.
1. Download ImDisk from Sourceforge.net.
2. Install the application. Be sure to include all the components during the installation.
3. Double-click on the desktop icon labeled “RamDisk Configuration.”
4. Adjust the disk size in the box at the top of the window. We recommend at least 4 gigabytes of storage to get a feel for how the disk works.
5. 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.
6. 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’s file explorer just like any other drive.
However, a Ram drive is exponentially faster than traditional types of storage. And we mean exponentially. Whereas an SSD might offer 300 to 500 MB when reading from the disk, a RAM drive can offer more than 5000 MB, even on mediocre memory sticks.
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 (read Can Power Cuts and Surges Harm My PC?). This way, if there’s a 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.
As fast as RAM drives are, you can’t boot off the drive, and you can’t save information to them permanently. However, it is most useful for applications where fast data writing and reading is important.
If your PC doesn’t have enough RAM, a better way is to upgrade your hard drive to a solid state drive, or use these tools to speed up the hard drive performance.