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What is RAM disk and how to use it?

What is RAM disk and how to use it?

Introduction

Let’s start with a simple fact that Random Access Memory (RAM) is still faster than any modern flash memory technologies. Why random? Well, cause, basically, any storage location, also known as memory address, is accessed directly. Therefore, RAM is organized and controlled in such a way that it allows storing and retrieving data directly to and from specific locations. So, RAM is the hardware in your computer that temporarily stores application programs and data so that they could be quickly reached by the device’s processor. To put simply, RAM serves to provide quick read and write access to a storage device. Your computer uses RAM to load data because it’s much faster than running that same data directly from a hard drive. Now that we have an overall idea of RAM, let’s switch to a RAM disk.

What is a RAM disk?

A RAM disk is a portion of RAM distributed in the form of a virtual disk, but the system talks to it as a real physical RAM device. A RAM disk inherits all the advantages of RAM. If you installed some apps on a RAM disk, you’d benefit from near-instant load times because their data is kept in the fastest memory possible. Saving a file? This happens almost instantly as it is copied to another portion of RAM. This results in faster application load times and faster read/write times for files stored in the RAM disk.

CAUTION! RAM is volatile and so is the RAM disk!

So RAM disk inherits all the perks of RAM with…all its cons. When you turn off the computer, all the data stored in RAM will be deleted. This means that you really shouldn’t store anything important on a RAM disk — if your computer waves goodbye, you’d lose all the data in your RAM disk.

How to create a RAM Disk?

Nothing complicated really. All you need is a third-party tool and a few minutes. Let’s take StarWind RAM Disk free tool as the example. You can download it here: https://www.starwindsoftware.com/high-performance-ram-disk-emulator

Once you get the email with the installer link, download and install it.

 Nothing special here, let’s click Next.

Accept. We have no choice…

Select the folder to install the StarWind tool, create a desktop icon, review the info and hit install. I’ll save you from those unnecessary pictures.

Let’s launch the tool.

We se a simple interface and our options are quite obvious. Add a new device!

Now, set the desired size of the RAM disk.

Hit next and … that’s it!

You can see the newly added virtual RAM disk just as any other physical device.

As you can see the process is extremely simple.

But what about its use cases?

Well, since it goes down as soon as you turn off your computer, it can’t be used for storing long-term (well, even short-term) data. But, it can serve for testing purposes, troubleshooting cases, and some niched deployments such as online payment services or on-the-fly encryption, where size and data volatility don’t really matter. Therefore, if you need to run some IOPS-hungry apps for a short time and you’re sure that the server won’t go down during this period, RAM disk is a good choice.

Conclusion

RAM disk is a useful technology providing you with a really high-performing storage for testing scenarios and some short-term applications. If we’re talking about StarWind RAM Disk, it gives you write/read speed of RAM without having to spend money on additional hardware that you won’t use again. But keep in mind that a RAM disk is not persistent so don’t use it for storing valuable data. 

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