Langa Letter: Speed And Security Via A RAM Drive

While it's not a panacea, judicious use of a RAM drive can make your PC faster and safer, <B>Fred Langa</B> says.

Fred Langa, Contributor

January 26, 2005

3 Min Read

Large RAM Disk Use: Speedy System Files
With a larger RAM disk on a system with lots of RAM to begin with, it's also theoretically possible to put some system files or even the pagefile/swapfile on a RAM disk, so that whatever Windows swaps out of system RAM will still remain in RAM (just in a different place) instead of being written to the actual hard drive. (Yes, it's a RAM-to-RAM swap, but it's still faster than RAM-to-physical disk.)

Win2K and XP allow you to split a pagefile across several drives or partitions. You'd set up your primary partition (usually C:) with a minimal pagefile--perhaps just a few megabytes. Next, assign all or most of your RAM drive to the pagefile. If the combined total of the pagefiles on C: and the RAM drive is less than the pagefile size recommended by Windows, create a third pagefile on another physical drive or partition until the three pagefile areas total the recommended amount. (For more information on how to do this, select Help And Support from the Start menu, and do a search for "virtual memory." Be sure to check out the "related topics" delivered by the search for additional good information.)

The idea here is that Windows will initially use the vestigial hard-drive-based pagefile on C:, but then switch to the RAM disk pagefile for the bulk of its operations; and then revert to additional space on the hard drive should it need to.

This may be harder to do in practice than in theory, however, because the operating system looks for its pagefile/swapfile early in the boot process, and if the RAM disk hasn't yet initialized, it won't be accessible for use. There can be other problems, too, depending on how the system identifies the RAM disk. This can vary from disk to disk, depending on what features the software vendor built into a particular RAM disk implementation. The only way to know if one will work on your system is to give it a try!

In any case, once you've seen several Ram Disk tools in operation, you'll come to know what they can do and how you might best be able to adapt them to your needs. Whether you have a honking big system with a ton of RAM, or a modest PC with not much RAM to spare, there may be a RAM disk solution for you among these pages:

And when you're done, please tell us what worked and what didn't. Which RAM drives did you find best/easiest? What did you use them for? Did you notice an improvement in speed? Security? Join in the discussion!

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Fred Langa's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about Fred Langa, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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