On the Windows platform there is a memory wall that many people are experiencing. Namely, that Windows does not utilize all of your physical memory once you have 4GB or more of RAM, unless you are using Windows XP 64-bit or Vista 64. Instead of letting that extra memory go to waste, I thought why not utilize it in some other way. A long time ago we had the opposite problem with computers, where processors were slow and we tried to speed things up in any way possible. Today, we have a lot of processing power and abundant memory and now it is the software that needs to catch up to the hardware. Given this, I thought why not use a some of that extra memory and load it as a RAM disk. Then if you think about it, the most often used application in today’s computing is the web browser, which uses your hard drive to cache content. This sounds like a perfect opportunity to use a RAM disk and speed up your browser’s disk caching. IE and Firefox both make it easy to modify your disk cache directory too, so the biggest problem seems to be trying to setup the RAM disk in Windows. There are multiple commercial solutions, but only one free solution that I could find that works well.
First thing to do is setup the RAM disk. If you do not want to purchase a commercial RAM disk driver, you can implement this free RAM disk driver for Windows Vista, XP, 2000 and 2003 Server. You will want to have a RAM disk that is slightly larger than both IE and Firefox disk cache sizes put together.
- Type about:config in Firefox’s address bar and enter
- Right-click and choose New – Integer
- Input the following in the dialog box: browser.cache.memory.capacity
- Input a value in the next dialog box, such as 24000, which means 24MB
- Then in the Filter: bar enter browser.cache.disk.parent_directory
- If this setting does not appear, then you will have to create a New – String with the above name
- The value should be a drive path to your RAM disk, such as M:\Firefox
- Once you have both settings, close out of Firefox and start it back up again.
- In Internet Explorer, click Tools – Internet Options
- Locate Temporary Internet Files and click the Settings… button
- Change the Amount of disk space to use: to the appropriate size you want
- Click the Move Folder… button to select a folder on your RAM Disk. If you used the free RAM Disk, your RAM disk should have a TEMP folder at the root, just choose this folder.
- Click OK and close out of IE
Depending on your computer, your experience may vary. On my Windows laptop and desktop, the speed with which Firefox 3.5 launches is vastly improved. I do not use IE much, so it is hard for me to evaluate the differences there.