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A How To of making and using a RAM Drive

Making and using a RAM Drive will speed up some aspects of your PC, if used properly it will enhance the security of your data.

Why use the extra physical memory to have a RAM Disk?

In another article I explained why Vista and Windows 7 install faster than XP.

The reason is a RAM Disk.

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A RAM Drive is a special driver that is loaded when an Operating System begins it's boot process. Normally the RAM Drive driver will load as soon as the memory management driver has setup the memory parameters.

Some things to remember about a RAM Drive:

  • Current Windows Operating Systems use all physical memory in the computer but 32 bit Operating Systems can only see a maximum of 3.25 Gig of ram.
  • If your Operating System and video use shared memory the usefulness of a RAM Drive is not as practicable because of the amount of memory you can allocate to the RAM Drive.
  • If you use a RAM Drive remember that any data that is on the RAM Drive will be lost if not saved to a physical drive before powering down or restarting.

Ok?

Now making and using a RAM Drive is fairly simple, you find a RAM Drive program and install it.

Then set the size of the memory you want to give your new drive, format, assign a drive letter, then use it.

Most software that loads the RAM Drive will format and set the drive letter when initialized (executed) but you will have to set up the program to do these tasks when it is installed or through customization.

Here are some RAM Drive programs:

My favorite for making and  using a RAM Drive  RAMDisk by dataram.com

RAMDisk "Enterprise" (no longer available)

VSuite Ramdisk

I did some testing on all these programs and the only one that I could download with out a virus was the RAMDisk program.

Once it was installed I created 4 GB drive, then the partition, and then formatted it.

Then I made a temp directory and my browser cookies directory (IE only -  you have to edit the registry - back up the key first! - to change the path for the cookies directory) and set the PF (swap file) for 3.25 GB.

Next I used the RAM Drive program to make an image of the RAMDisk, set the location to load the image on startup.

After a restart I removed the previous Paging File (swap file) from the hard drive leaving the swap file on the RAM Drive.

Note: Because the RAM Drive had the second swap file on it when I made it the file was virtually empty, after six months of using the swap file like this I have not had any problems at all.

If you are a DOS user and haven't yet started making and using a RAM Drive and would like to know how these pointers will help you:

You need to have HIMEM.SYS loaded.

You may or may not want to use Extended or Expanded memory, if you do load the EMM386.SYS and set the parameters for the manager.

A RAM Drive will run with or with out the EMM386.SYS, with Expanded memory you will have more memory for your RAM Drive because HIMEM.SYS can only see 32 Meg of memory where as Expanded memory will see up to 3.25 Gig.

Here is a small portion of a CONFIG.SYS file that loads a 2 Meg RAM Drive:

DEVICE=C:\DOS\HIMEM.SYS
DEVICE=C:\DOS\EMM386.SYS DB:0 RAM ROM SUS:N XBDA:H ARAM=CB80-CBFF RF
DEVICE=C:\DOS\RAMDRIVE.SYS 2000 512 512 /E
buffers=40
files=8
dos=high,UMB
LASTDRIVE=D

Note: If you copy the text above paste it to a plain text editor such as notepad.exe to remove the HTML coding (web site code) otherwise it will not work.

Some of the EMM386.SYS parameters are BIOS/Processor specific and will not work with just any motherboard/processor combination. The problem with using EMM386.SYS is you have to experiment with the settings for the memory to find out what is open. And if it is open what is usable. For each program loaded in to high memory the open memory has to be big enough for the program to reside there, it can not be fragmented memory blocks, only continuous memory blocks will work.

What would you use a RAM Drive for?

Suppose you have the memory to spare and you have a slow hard drive. If you wanted to copy a program or program directory to a RAM Drive the program would execute 10X or more faster than it would from a slow hard drive.

Does this give you some ideas? Such as a video? If the video is smaller than the RAM Drive it would play with out pausing because the program would not have to go to the hard drive for the next section of the video, it would be smooth.

I have experimented with a small swap file in a RAM Drive (about 3.25 GB) and it will work, I have 8 GB of physical RAM and use Windows XP 32 bit which means the swap file max is 3.25 GB, this leaves me 800 MB for temp files and the browser cookies.  If you are running a 64 bit Operating System and limit the PF to 4 or 8 Gig depending on the OS it will work the same way.

If you are considering making and using a RAM Drive and need to upgrade your memory both procedures for the upgrade and the RAM Drive are on this web site.

Did  making and using a RAM Drive increase the overall performance of my computer? Yes it did!



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Making and using a RAM Drive properly will increase your data security.





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