[Windows] Use RAM as a hard drive to store files and data with SoftPerfect RAM Disk

SoftPerfect RAM Disk UIBelieve it or not, hard drives can actually hinder performance when it comes to read and write speeds. That’s why a lot of hardware enthusiasts are making the move to solid state drives, because the read and write speeds are remarkably faster which translates to better performance. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to run out and pick up a new solid state drive, or build a rig that supports them. SoftPerfect RAM Disk is a Windows application that allows you to store virtual drives in your computer’s memory, ultimately allowing your machine to access temporary files at much faster speeds.

What is it and what does it do

Main Functionality

SoftPerfect RAM Disk allows you to create virtual drives which are stored in memory for better performance; it is almost like creating your own SSD hard drive out of your RAM. When generating a virtual drive, you can select the file system (FAT, FAT32, NTFS), drive letter and size. Provided you have enough RAM in your system, you can create drives with up to 3.5GB of storage space (32-bit systems). It’s important to note that while it can create persistent drives, this application best works for creating volatile drives for storing temporary files.

As a side effect, by using RAM to store your data, you offload demand from your hard drive(s) which help prolong the life of your drives.

Pros

  • Allows you to create up to 26 virtual storage drives that reside in the system RAM
  • You can pick to create storage drives on RAM that are persistent (i.e. data is retained after shut down or restart) or volatile (i.e. data is deleted/erased/lost after shut down or restart)
  • Creating and mounting disks takes seconds
  • You can customize all the related aspects of the drive including size (which is limited only by the amount of RAM you have available), file system, drive letter and more
  • Allows you to set Windows temp folder to store temporary files inside the drives created by this program

Cons

  • Prompts you to install AVG Toolbar and set AVG Secure Search as your homepage, pay attention during the install process
  • I did not encounter any significant problems, this program works just as advertised and the drives created bit work just fine

Discussion

SoftPerfect RAM Disk don't install AVG ToolbarDuring installation, you will be prompted to install the AVG Toolbar and set AVG Secure Search as your homepage. Both can easily be disabled by choosing “custom installation” and unticking the necessary check boxes. Just pay attention while you’re installing the application, and you should be fine. The package will also need to install the virtual disk driver, and an additional authorization menu will appear before that happens.

This application can certainly be used on any system, including those with a limited amount of RAM. However, because of the nature of the app I would recommend using it on computers with at least 1GB of RAM or higher. For the best results, you’ll probably want at least 2GB of RAM available.

What this app basically does, as I’ve described above is create a temporary hard drive that actually resides in your system RAM. The allotted space works exactly like a regular hard drive would and even shows up in Windows Explorer. For the uninitiated that means you can see the drive when you click on ‘My Computer’.

32-bit systems have a total drive capacity of 3.5GB, while 64-bit systems have no such limitation. However, total drive size will depend on how much RAM you have installed in your system. It’s safe to assume that most folks running a 64 bit version of Windows will probably have more than 4GB of RAM installed hence why there’s no size limit.

The first thing I noticed about SoftPerfect is that it’s very user friendly. There’s not that much to tinker with and it’s pretty easy to get a virtual drive up and running. It just takes a matter of minutes, if not seconds to set everything up.

SafeProtect RAM Disk create virtual drive

The options are all presented in a very minimal interface. All you need to do is select the “plus” sign to add a drive and then customize the various settings. The only real limitation with the app (besides available RAM) is the number of drives that you can have configured. You’re limited to the available drive letters on your system which range from A-Z. If you know your alphabet (and I’m sure you do), that’s up to 26 drives minus however many physical drives you have installed. To be perfectly honest though, I doubt that will matter because (as an end user) I don’t see any reason to have 26 drives stored in virtual memory.

In the drive creation window, you can select the drive size (up to the maximum available memory), enter an image file name, choose the drive letter, mount the drive as removable storage, select the file system (RAW, FAT, FAT32, NTFS) and create folders on the drive. You can also enable a hard disk emulation option, but the drawback is that it makes use of the virtual drive slower.

The main reason for creating a drive this way would be to enable the virtual drive and move the Windows temp folder to it. While it would speed up a lot of components because the read and write limitation is removed, it’s hard to say exactly what would benefit from the boost. In other words, there’s absolutely no way for me to describe every single scenario in which a virtual drive like this would be helpful (it’s safe to say there’s a lot). At the same time, you really need to have enough free RAM available to take advantage of something like this.

A particularly interesting thing to note is that you can set the Windows temp file right from within the application. You can also set RAM Disk to run when Windows boots up, and backup any disk images for quick importing later.

When you’re done using a disk, you can simply eject it in Windows Explorer like you would any other. You can always disable it through the RAM Disk UI too.

There’s no point in discussing RAM usage of this app, since it will largely depend on what size drive you create.

Conclusion and download link

SoftPerfect RAM Disk aboutSoftPerfect RAM Disk is a useful Windows tool that allows you to create virtual storage drives which actually reside in the system memory instead of on a traditional hard drive. One of the most common uses for such a virtual drive is to move the Windows temp file over onto a volatile drive created by SoftPerfect RAM Disk, which not only helps increase performance (since read/write from RAM is faster than read/write from traditional drives) but also help keep your computer clean because volatile drives automatically erase stored data upon shut down or reboot and helps prolong the life of your hard drive(s).

Overall, the app itself is very easy to use and works well for its advertised purpose — highly recommended. However, take note you do need to be a bit cautious when using SoftPerfect RAM Disk since you can lose important data if you store it on a volatile drive by accident.

Price: Free

Version reviewed: 3.4.1

Supported OS: Windows 8/7/Vista/XP (32-bit and 64-bit)

Download size: 2.1MB

VirusTotal malware scan results: 0/48

Is it portable? No

SoftPerfect RAM Disk homepage

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29 comments

  1. BearPup

    [@conceptualclarity] Bottom line is that I disagree, and mine is based on actual measurable results using Windows own measurement tools (the Bleeping Computer article has an entire section on using Windows’ Administrative Tools to create custom tools. So my measurements are based on my computer in real world testing.

    Swap files are used when a program or its data fields need more memory space than is available at a given moment in time. When that situation occurs, it looks to the swap file for ‘extra’ space. Hard drives are inherently the slowest device that can be used for this purpose, but they offer the largest space for a swap file. Hence, that is what most people do. But if you limit the swap file to programs rather than data you can take advantage of a RAM disks vastly improved access speed.

    So what I do is use 1 GB of my RAM to be turned into a RAM Disk that is available for program allocations, and specify in programs to use empty Hard Disk space for data (or “scratch Disks”). That leaves me with 7 GB of fast RAM for my main memory, a 16 GB Flash Drive for use as ReadyBoost memory, and a 1 GB RAM drive for my Swap File.

    [For those who don’t know, there is an inherent limit to Flash Drives that prevents them from being used as a RAM Disk, or I would have used that long ago.]

  2. conceptualclarity

    [@BearPup]

    “I’m not sure what you mean by “have more problems with CPU than RAM.”. What problems are you having?” Problems with slowness, the system grinding to a virtual halt, and outright session-killing freezes. High CPU usage seems to give me more such problems than high RAM usage, but there is plentywith both.

    I also have problems when the CPU usage gets under 10% and stays there. This happens when the system is walloped. A prime example of that is with what I call “svchost attacks.” They result from Windows Update, which has visited me too often because .NET Framework updating is broken on my system. One of the svchost.exes will go crazy in CPU usage and make my startup exceedingly difficult. (I have had no svchost attacks since disabling Windows Update.) After clicking out the hysterical svchost.exe with Task Manager, the system typically falls into this single- digit CPU fluctuation and becomes unresponsive.

    Another example of this happens when WinPatrol during startup throws at me a window about every program I’ve disabled from autostart ever since I got it. After that ends I see the battered system typically settles into that single-digit CPU unresponsiveness. I will contact the developer Bill, a good fellow, about this when I have time.

    Jstone has made a persuasive-sounding case against RAM disks over at sharewareonsale.com. I would be interested in hearing your response.

  3. conceptualclarity

    [@BearPup]

    Thanks, BearPup.

    “@conceptualclarity] I’m not sure what you mean by “have more problems with CPU than RAM.”. What problems are you having?” I mean my system grinding to a halt, becoming insufferably slow, or outright freezing. It is more often from excessive CPU Usage than from excessive RAM usage, but there is plenty of both.

    Also I have noticed that when CPU Usage gets down in the single digits and stays there my system becomes unusable. This happens when my system has been walloped. An example is what I call a “svchost attack.” One of the svchost.exes goes crazy on CPU during startup. When I manage to close it down from Task Manager I’m likely to see this single-digit CPU syndrome. Svchost attacks are associated with Windows Update, which came to me constantly because updating for .NET Framework is broken on my computer. Since I disabled Windows Update, I have not had svchost attacks.

    Another example of walloping has been sometimes during startup WinPatrol has thrown at me a window questioning me all over again about every program I ever used it to disable from autostart. By the time that is over, the CPU will be limping along stuck in single digits. I plan to mention that to Bill the developer, a good fellow, when I have time.

  4. BearPup

    [@conceptualclarity] I’m not sure what you mean by “have more problems with CPU than RAM.”. What problems are you having?

    As to comparisons, I tried using AMD’s software to create a 1 GB RAM Disk, but it wouldn’t accept it, so I tried SoftPerfect’s software and it created the 1 GB RAM Disk without any problems. I use a RAM Disk because despite having 8 GB of RAM, my system still was putting data / program components on my Hard Disk. To speed things up I created the RAM Disk, not quite as fast as ‘real’ RAM, but far and away faster than swapping back and forth to a Hard Disk.

    I measure the effectiveness of the RAM following the instructions given in this Bleeping Computer article: http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/tutorials/using-windows-readyboost-to-increase-performance. What I don’t know off the top of my head is whether the instructions in the article for measuring ReadyBoost will work in XP. By contrast the software on sale at SOS – GiliSoft RAM Disk (11/20/13) – does say that it supports Windows XP.

    For other info see my earlier posts in this article.

  5. conceptualclarity

    I am on a difficult old XP system, 32 bit, 2 GB RAM, Pentium(R) 4 CPU 2.66GHz (that is, single core). I have problems with both, but it seems like I have more problems with CPU than RAM.

    Would using a RAM disk just make things worse or maybe make things better?

    Anybody have any opinions on how SoftPerfect’s compare to other RAM disks?

  6. BearPup

    [@Karl J. Gephart] I’ve read the article you reference, and frankly, I’m not swayed. The article from Bleeping Computer has both data from their own test, and tells you how to set up your own computer to measure effectiveness of ReadyBoost. On my computer, ReadyBoost is used several times per hour, reducing the number of times the slower paging file is accessed.

  7. J.L.

    [@ildar] Never had an issue with those. The temporary folder was never made to last reboots, nor do any compliant installers (every 100+ I tried so far) use it for post-shutdown configuration.
    I’m not sure what you mean by your last sentence, but any program copied or extracted to the temp folder isn’t made to store settings or anything permanent there.

  8. Buckley

    [@BearPup]

    Hi. My post states Vista, not Win 7 and I believe Vista 32-bit needs minimally 1 GB RAM. I bought the second GB to increase performance. To your point, thought I read somewhere that Readyboost decreases the life of flash drives due to constant read/write activity and the minimal performance boost doesn’t justify use.

  9. ildar

    It’s not so good idea to use RAM disk for temp files. Some utils required rebooting after installation and can lose the information. In some cases it’s need to use additional disk space for runnning programs.

  10. BearPup

    [@Buckley] Why do you prefer the software RAMDisk to ReadyBoost? My concern is that every bit of your 2 GB of RAM is needed to run Windows 7.

    Further by using a RAMDisk, that memory is locked into being the RAMDisk whether its being used at a given moment in time or not. Using ReadyBoost on the other hand, allows your swap file to grow and shrink as needed.

  11. Buckley

    Installed this on a laptop running Vista Home Premium with 2 GB RAM and 105 GB HD. I realize this is not a tech support site but what should the drive size and file system (RAW, FAT, FAT32, NTFS) be set to? Would rather use this than ReadyBoost. Thanks.

  12. BearPup

    [@Karl J. Gephart] Yes I do notice a difference, and its confirmed using Windows event viewer. See this excellent article from Bleeping Computer on using and measuring the effectiveness of ReadyBoost: http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/tutorials/using-windows-readyboost-to-increase-performance/.

    On my system, I find it most helpful when doing image editing, where I can specify “scratch disks”, I assign program memory to my main memory, followed by my ReadyBoost drive; I can then use my hard disk to store image files without slowing down the program’s functionality.

    On my laptop, which only has 2 GB of RAM, the difference is even more noticeable. Here I’m using ReadyBoost (16 GB drive) as my sole swap file, and again the difference is measureable. Your mileage may vary, but check out that Bleeping Computer article for measuring your RAM / flash drive; its informative and useful.

  13. J.L.

    [@Emrys] Just edit the user variables to your RAM disk folder. It’s still there on restart right? SoftPerfect may have failed because it needed admin privileges.

    As for new volume, have you probably didn’t add a boot disk.

  14. Emrys

    [@J.L.]
    User variables for owner says TEMP/TMP %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Temp
    System variables says TEMP/TMP C:\Windows\TEMP
    I named the new volume V and nowhere see Drive V. I did a restart and that’s what I got. Edit something here?

  15. J.L.

    [@Emrys] Oh yeah, you have to restart for it to take effect. Double-check with Right-click Computer > Properties > Advanced system settings > Environment Variables > TEMP/TMP should be pointing to RAM disk folder. Also, you can delete the old files & folders in “%USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Temp” after reboot.

  16. J.L.

    [@Emrys] Open SoftPerfect RAM Disk > Disk > Add Boot Disk… > Configure as you like, but make sure you use Create Folders > OK. Then Tools > Set Windows TEMP Folder… > Select the created folder in your RAM drive for both > OK.

    @Others: There’s no point using your physical RAM as PageFile/swap, unless you a have a 32-bit OS (w/o PAE support) and want to access more than 4 GB. It’d better to disable swap altogether.

  17. Karl J. Gephart

    [@BearPup] Do you really notice a substantial increase in your available memory? Hmm…I didn’t with 7/64 4GBRAM when I added a 8GBRAM flash drive (permanent setup). I’ve always read that ReadyBoost won’t significantly (proportionately) increase your available RAM unless you’re unfortunate enough to be running less than 2GBRAM. I’m all ears about whatever you’re doing! :)

  18. Emrys

    Ok. I’m still a noob; “The main reason for creating a drive this way would be to enable the virtual drive and move the Windows temp folder to it”. Fine…how do I do that? I typed in “temp” in the folder box and system still says all of that drive is available.

  19. J.L.

    I use this for browser cache (different from memory cache that disappears after closing tab or long back history). temporary folder, downloads (especially those archives/installers), Sandboxie, and as a workspace for intermediate (conversion and checking before transfer) + uncertain (preview) files.

    Also let’s me do things when HDD is busy (like watching videos or playing games after copying them). Overall, it’s a great use for extra RAM and helps lower SSD writes (not to mention faster).

  20. BearPup

    [@Karl J. Gephart] You are quite correct in your statement. I have a 64 Bit Win 7 system with 8 GB RAM, plus a 16 GB flash drive setup as a ReadyBoost drive, and 1 GB of my RAM setup as a RAMDisk to use as my swap file.

    So first plain old RAM chips are used for memory, when that runs low the 16 GB flash drive comes into play, giving me an effective 24 GB RAM, and when that is all used up, there’s a 962 MB RAMDisk waiting to use as a swap file. As far as I can tell, I’ve never exceeded this threesome of memory usage.

  21. Michael Rainey

    I installed the program, set up a ramdisk, and rebooted (running XP). Windows threw up a message saying that significant changes had been detected in my hardware and that I had three days to reactivate.

    Not good.

  22. BearPup

    Briley, thanks for the article, I will be trying it out later today. I tried setting up a RAMDisk to put my Swap File on, but had little success. Hopefully I will fare Beartter with the this one.