RAM Disks can be very useful and if you have the memory available, using system RAM as a disk drive can really speed up certain operations. One common usage is storing the system temporary files or cached files from your web browser or other software. Another usage scenario is storing specific programs or data files you use often for faster loading. For example, we’ve talked previously about how Firefox performance can be improved by storing some of its files in RAM.
There are several applications around that can create RAM Disks for you, some are shareware or commercial products but quite a few are free to use. Although you might think RAM disks all work at the same speed because they use the same physical RAM, that is not the case. Better coded and optimized RAM disk software really can make a difference in how well the disks perform.
Here we look at 13 free programs that can create RAM disks and run a performance test to see how fast each program is when reading from and writing to the RAM disk. The popular disk benchmark tool CrystalDiskMark is used to run the benchmark. The operating system is Windows 10 64-bit with a PC containing 16GB of 1600Mhz DDR3 memory. Each RAM disk created is 512MB in size and formatted to NTFS, while the CrystalDiskMark test size option to is set to 100MB.
CrystalDiskMark runs each test with 5 passes so a single benchmark gives a good average. The 4K scores test small file performance while Sequential (Seq) scores test the speed of transferring larger files. Depending on your intended use for the RAM disk, one set of scores may be more important than the other.A good score in all tests would be best for general all round good performance.
The screenshot above shows a CrystalDiskMark result from a standard 7200RPM hard drive. The screenshot below is a typical SSD when performance is measured through CrystalDiskMark. You’ll notice the 4K scores are what really sets an SSD apart from a mechanical hard drive.
The results for the RAM Disk software will give you an idea of how much faster a RAM disk is. Even the slowest RAM drive software is still faster than a standard SSD. Obviously, the slower your computer and system memory is, the slower your RAM disk will perform in comparison.
Although you can use the original ImDisk driver and Control Panel applet, the ImDisk Toolkit is easier to use. It also includes options to mount floppy, CD-ROM and hard disk image files (ISO, BIN, VFD and etc) as virtual drives. RAM disk size is not limited and there are options to load content from an image file or folder, synchronize at shutdown, enable compression, auto add temporary folders, and allocate memory for the RAM disk dynamically.
Radeon RAMDisk is a rebranded version of Dataram RAMDisk but it actually has a higher limit on the maximum size of the RAM disk. For a standard system, the maximum RAM disk size is 4GB, if you have AMD branded memory installed, that limit is increased to 6GB. Higher limits can be purchased separately. Radeon RAMDisk is not just for AMD based systems but also works on Intel and others.
ROG is an acronym for the “Republic Of Gamers” brand that is used on Asus high-end motherboards and other Asus hardware. RAMDisk is a similarly branded tool but works on all computers and not just ROG branded hardware. The drive size limit appears to be around 50% of the total amount of RAM you have installed. The Junction tab is useful so you can easily create junction points to map folders to the RAM disk.
Ultra RAMDisk Lite is a multi-purpose tool that can also create ISO images, create virtual ROM drives, and change system/Internet Explorer/Chrome cache directories. The RAM disk options allow you to set the default filesystem, use a SCSI or Direct I/O disk, mount as a removable disk, create TEMP folders, and use as a one time disk which removes it on shutdown. One slight annoyance is the buy now nag that pops up when opening the user interface.
We used the Direct I/O Disk Type as the program says it’s the faster of the two.
Miray RAM Drive is definitely the easiest program to use here, but that comes at the expense of features. There are no real features to speak of, you simply click on the tray icon, adjust the slider to set the RAM drive size and press the power button to mount. The maximum RAM drive size is 4GB for 32-bit systems and 8GB for 64-bit. This can be expanded by purchasing a paid version.
As we mentioned earlier, Dataram RAMDisk and AMD Radeon RAMDisk are in essence the same program. The only major differences are Dataram has a smaller maximum RAM drive size of 1GB, you can select a FAT or unformatted filesystem and there is an option to choose a boot sector type. The AMD tool has additional options to choose what type of disk to load on startup and which drive letter to assign the RAM drive to. Both periodically popup an ad window.
Disk Master is a multi-purpose application with some useful features. In addition a RAM disk creation tool, Qiling Disk Master can also create/mount virtual drives, backup and restore the system drive or partitions, create and format partitions, clone/migrate disks, and even create a WinPE PreOS recovery system. The RAM Disk option itself is pretty basic but doesn’t appear to limit disk size. It has options to change the drive letter, save the drive contents and put Temp folders onto the disk.
OSFMount is designed to be used in conjunction with Passmark’s OSForensics but works equally as well as a standalone product. The program can also be used to mount virtual disk images to a drive letter, such as ISO, BIN, IMG, VMDK, and VHD. The RAM disk size only appears to be limited by the amount of free RAM you have. Once you have created an empty RAM drive, it has to be manually formatted to be accessible.
Gizmo Central is a software frontend for several Gizmo tools, including macro scripting, database analysis, text/hex editor, and a file hasher. Luckily, if you just want the Gizmo Drive RAM disk, these other components can be excluded on install. Once installed, select an empty virtual device and press Create Image. Along with creating a virtual hard disk or an ISO image, you can then setup a new RAM disk. Size is not limited and you can create up to 10 virtual disks at once.
10. SoftPerfect RAM Disk (Freeware version)
SoftPerfect RAM Disk was originally shareware, then was made freeware in 2012, With the release of version 4 in 2016, it went back to being shareware again. The size of the RAM drive can be as big as the amount of free RAM you have. Multiple drives can be mounted and unmounted from the user interface. You can select the default filesystem and also supply folders to be auto created once the drive is mounted.
The version tested and the download link is for the last free version, 3.4.8, released in October 2016.
11. ASRock XFast RAM
Unlike the Asus RAMDisk utility, ASRock XFast RAM does not work on any computer. Therefore, you will need an ASRock manufactured motherboard to use it. There are switches to automatically send Chrome, Firefox, Opera and IE browser cache files to the drive, as well as setting it up for system temp files, the system page file, WinRAR temp files and even Ready Boost cache space. The RAM Disk space is not artificially limited and can be as big as the amount of free RAM you have.
If you try to install this on a non ASRock motherboard, you will get a “driver may not be ready” error.
Starwind is another nice and simple RAM disk software to use. Add a device, select a size (limited by free RAM), choose whether to FAT format it and whether to automount. The only other notable options are setting the default RAM disk configuration and changing the skin for the software interface.
13. Bond Disc
Bond Disc is the only tool not tested in Windows 10 because it’s from 2010 and does not work on any operating system newer than Windows 7. It’s also partly encryption software making the whole program a bit more difficult to use, especially with the slightly confusing user interface. RAM Disk size in Bond Disc is limited to 640MB.
Results and Summary
As we mentioned earlier, the results can be split into two distinct categories, 4K scores and Sequential (Seq) scores. The Q32T1 scores for both sequential and 4K are how well the RAM disk handles multiple file transfer requests at once, so they represent a heavier workload.
Bond Disc was the fastest for both sets of 4K scores. The problem is it’s an old and not very user friendly tool focusing more on encryption. The 640MB size limit could also present a problem. More user-friendly and less restrictive tools that did well with 4K were IMDisk, ROG RAMDisk, Ultra RAMDisk Lite, SoftPerfect RAM Disk, OSFMount and Gizmo Drive.
It might come as no surprise the software that did well in the 4K scores also mostly did well in the sequential read and write scores. Ultra RAM Disk Lite and SoftPerfect RAM Disk got the highest sequential scores while Gizmo Drive, IMDisk, and Asus ROG RAMDisk were better when the number of simultaneous file requests was increased with the Q32T1 score.
For generally faster across the board performance, IMDisk, Asus ROG RAMDisk, Ultra RAMDisk Lite, OSFMount, Gizmo Drive, and SoftPerfect RAMDisk are all good choices. Bond Disc is very fast but may be incompatible or too restrictive for your requirements. What RAM disk you prefer may be down to what other features each software offers that helps you decide which is best for you.