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[Article/tutorial] RAM disks and how it can help your workflow.

Hi, I just wanted to share something I’ve been experimenting with lately, something that have greatly benefited my workflow.

I recently upgraded my computer and now run 32gb of RAM, planning to use some of it as a RAM disk.
I planned to test out a couple of free RAM disk softwares with Unreal Engine and then write a bit about my experiences to share with the UE community.
There is a TL: DR at the bottom if you don’t feel like reading all of it.

I tried a few free ones such as** Gizmo Drive, Dataram RAMDisk** and ImDisk but then I found Dimmdrive and it seemed to have everything the others had and more, so despite planning to only test free softwares I aquired Dimmdrive (cost is $29) and it blew everything else I had tried out of the water. The other ones felt cumbersome while Dimmdrive became a natural part of my computer use with little to no work.

Disclaimer: I am in no way, shape or form assosciated with Dimmdrive or it’s creator, I write this article/post only because I feel like this should be shared with the community as it could potentially benefit a lot of people. I hope I don’t break any rules by posting this.

Disclaimer 2: I have linked the photos from the official site, I do not own any of these files.

So, this post will mainly be about how to use Dimmdrive as I strongly recommend it, although there are free alternatives out there which I want you to be aware of.
They will **work great **as well, but might not be as easy and simple to use, and might lack features mentioned in this post.

When it comes to Dimmdrive, don’t let it’s childish interface deter you, the software is highly sophisticated and great in every way other than the UI (which is being updated according to it’s creator).

http://dimmdrive.com/wp-content/uploads/dimmdrive-BIG.png

Why use a ramdisk:
A regular harddrive will give you around 50-120Mb/s read and write speed, then you add an operative system, and other softwares that use the disc at once and it’ll drop fast to much lower.
This is the main reason to why people buy Solid State Drives (SSD), they can have a write and read speed of upwards of 500mb/s for the most modern ones!
This is obviously a lot faster than a regular hard drive (HDD), but for those files or softwares that are really heavy, that you use a lot, I’d recommend using a RAM disk, they usually reach a whopping 5000mb/s to 13 000mb/s in read and write speed, that’s at least 10 times faster than most SSD and around 42 times faster than the fastest hard drives, as long as they aren’t reading or writing other stuff at the same time.

Speed example:
pt61CGU.jpg

Quick note RAM disks does not require any additional hardware, it uses your computer memory to store files, all it needs is a software to do so.

Now you might think (like most) that there is no point in having a RAM disk if you don’t have tons of RAM, but this is not true, and thanks to some amazing features of Dimmdrive it’s easier than ever.
I would say if you have 8 or more gigabytes of RAM It’s definitely worth using a RAM disk.
You can still use it if you have even less as long as you have enough for your OS and the software you use, but you might not be able to fit a lot on it.

One thing that wasn’t completely clear to me before I investigated it is that** you don’t need to tie up your ram into a disk**, it’s very easy to just turn off the software (in most cases, while some of them are a bit awkward to use) to get your RAM back for regular use.
So you can start a RAM disk with let’s say 4gb of ram, you use it for a while but then you realize that you might need a bit more.
All you have to do is flip the off-switch in the software and wait for a short while, while it processes your files and then you’re ready to change the size to let’s say 8gb, start it up again and continue where you left off.

All softwares I have tried (UE, PS, various 3d softwares, Chrome, Opera and a few games) have continued to run without any problem even when I turned off the RAM disk they were on (now this might not be the case with all softwares but it seems to work well).
It’s that simple.

How it works:
When you first start using it, all you have to do is open Dimmdrive, set your desired disk size, either activate a steam game (they are automatically detected by Dimmdrive) or just drag and drop an exectuable of any software, a folder or a file into the “Other programs” box, set the file or software to “ON” and then set Dimmdrive to “ON”.

http://dimmdrive.com/wp-content/uploads/bigbutton.png

After that Dimmdrive will copy files into your ramdisk and place redirectors in their old location so that your computer will find them in their new location and then you’re ready to use them.
The copying of files will wary a lot in speed depending on what kind of drive they are copied from. An SSD will copy the files really fast and moving Arma 3 with the Breaking Point mod (all in all 19gb took less than a minute).
A normal harddrive, however can take a long time for larger files or softwares, especially if it’s used by your OS or other softwares at the same time, but there is a feature that lets you speed this up significantly without spending more than a $10-30 depending on size, but I’ll talk about that later in the USB 3.0 TURBO mode section.

Syncing of files:
Computer Random Access Memory (RAM) is volatile, which means it does not store information when it’s been powered off, but this is not a problem when you use Dimmdrive.
Once moved, the files will automatically sync between your RAM disk and their original location, every change to a file will be done in both places so you don’t have to worry about loosing work in an event of a power outage or anything else causes your computer to turn off.

http://dimmdrive.com/wp-content/uploads/file-sync1.png

After your files or softwares have been moved, you can start them from any location you usually start them, or within the Dimmdrive interface, when your computer looks for the files needed it will be re-directed to their new location seamlessly so everything will work just like normal, only way faster.

Your RAM disk will appear where you access your other drives (HDD / SSD) and act just like a regular hard drive until you turn it off.
You can place files directly onto the drive if you desire, these files will not be synced and saved upon exit, unless you use the Dimmdrive interface to move them, but that’s pretty useful.

I always have a ramdisk running at all times with Photoshop, Opera 12 and some other stuff, and I always have some extra space for dumping ****.
So when I download a file that I will just use temporarily (the installer of a software for example) I just drop it on Dimmdrive, install it on a regular drive and then I can forget about it, I don’t need to find the installer and delete it after installation as it will be deleted automatically as soon as I close Dimmdrive as long as I didn’t use the Dimmdrive interface to place it there.

What if the software I want to use is larger than the amount of RAM i can spare?
With Dimmdrive at least, you can easily choose only the most important files of a software or game and let the rest stay on your regular drive.
There are free softwares out there that lets you see which files are accessed the most when using a software (I would recommend Process Monitor by Microsoft), then you just choose as many of the most important ones as you can fit and it will still benetfit you a lot.
Usually there isn’t any noticeable difference between using all of them and only the most accessed ones.

This feature of Dimmdrive is called “Less RAM”, just select an executable like normally, press the wrench on the side of it to configure, then check the “Less RAM” radiobutton and press “configure” to choose files.

http://dimmdrive.com/wp-content/uploads/zoom-lessram.png

How this benefit YOU and your workflow:
This obviously depends completely on what you do, how much RAM you have and what softwares you use.
But in general, it can and will significantly speed things up, especially if you work with large files or heavy softwares.

I’ve mainly tried it with Unreal Engine, Photoshop and a few games, I’ll investigate further and update with other results later on.

Unreal Engine:
I started by just placing the whole UE folder on my ram Disk (Using the “Other Softwares” option) which speeded up loading quite a lot, but since UE isn’t all that heavy when it comes to size, (it’s more CPU dependent)** I didn’t notice a huge difference**.

So next I placed my project folder on the RAM disk as well and the difference was huge!
Saving my map (which is very, very big) now only took maybe 2-5 seconds instead of upwards of 20+, I also felt like importing, and saving assets was a lot quicker, but I didn’t do any real tests to see the difference.
I haven’t tried cooking the game or such heavy actions yet but I would guess it could be a lot faster with this since It have to access a lot of files.

Photoshop is very small, just a few hundred megabytes and can easily be placed on a RAM disk, I have mine on all the time and it loads almost as fast as notepad.
If you want to really benefit on using a RAM disk I would suggest moving the temporary cache files of Photoshop as well, they are often big and will speed up a lot on a RAM disk. I think default directory is C:\Users\User\AppData\Local\Temp but you can always find info about that online.

I would also recommend to temporarily put the folders containing the .psd files you are currently using on the RAM disk to reduce saving times.
I have a huge Photoshop document, it’s 1gb+ and used to take around 25 seconds to save!, after I moved it to my RAM disk it took less than 5 seconds!

It will also benefit smaller programs such as your web browser, I moved Opera 12 and all it’s temp files to the RAM disk and it’s so much faster, when it comes to browsers every millisecond counts and it feels like everything is more or less instant now, only slowed down by the server I’m connected to as my internet 100/100Mhbit/s is enough for most browsing.
It apparently works even better with Chrome and Firefox for those who isn’t such a dirty hipster like me.

Another pretty impressive example of speed increase I noticed was when playing Arma II and III.
First I tried Arma II with the Wasteland mod, I had this one on my regular hard drive, but not one that I stored the operative system on.
Loading into a game once I had joined a server took 85 seconds!, which is **** to say the least, then I moved it to my RAM disk and the now it only took 10 seconds!

After that I loaded up Arma III with the Breaking Point mod and the loading screen was something around 25-30 seconds on my OS SSD, then I moved it to Dimmdrive and now it took 4 seconds!

USB 3.0 Turbo:
This feature is only for people that intend to use files stored on a regular, slow hard drive and want to speed up the starting of your Dimmdrive RAM disks.

http://dimmdrive.com/wp-content/uploads/usb3turbo.png

When you start your RAM disk, Dimmdrive have to copy all the files into your RAM and place redirectors in their original location, as I mentioned earlier this can take a long time for a regular hard drive, and not everyone can afford a SSD drive with more speed.

There is however, a cheap alternative: fast USB thumb drives.
All you need to do is acquire a thumb drive with decent speed.
Fast ones have a write and read speed around 200mb/s but less speed, even down to 100mb/s will still benefit you as your regular hard drive usually runs much slower, especially if you have softwares that use it.
It also needs to be big enough for the files you want to use with Dimmdrive.

If you plan on using a lot of softwares regularly that you usually keep on a normal HDD you might want to buy a farily big USB drive, but they are cheap, just make sure it’s USB 3.0 and have between 100-250mb/s read and write speed.
Just check how big the files/softwares you intend to use often are and decide how much you need.
Softwares you won’t use often and small softwares doesn’t necessarily need a fast thumb drive. You’ll get far on a 16gb USB drive, that can store quite a lot of softwares.

This feature will move your files to Dimmdrive and store them your thumb drive as well, where the Dimmdrive files will be stored once it’s turned off, so the next time you start it it will access your files form the USB drive instead of your hard drive, so it’s just slow the first time, after that it will be** a lot faster** on a fast USB drive.

RAM:
Just wanted to add a small section about RAM.
If you plan on buying RAM most important will be getting as much as you feel that you need obviously.
Secondly you should choose ram with low CAS Latency (CL) as it is what will affect your speeds the most, so don’t get tricked by high ram speeds.

For example: 2400mhz 12/11/11 RAM is way slower than 1600mhz 9/9/9 ram

I run 1600MHz CAS10 (10/10/10) and get great speeds.

**TL: DR

  • If you have 8 or more gb of RAM I would recommend using a RAM Disk.
  • You will benefit even if you have less, but you might not have a lot of space.
  • A RAM Disk is a software which lets you use RAM to store files, these are more than 10 times faster than an SSD and over 40 times faster than a fast regular HDD.
  • I recommend using Dimmdrive for ease of use.
  • It’s very easy to set up and you don’t tie up your ram, you can turn it off in a matter of seconds without restarting softwares or your computer.
  • It greatly increase speeds, especially when handling large files.

**

**I really hope this is okay even though it turned out to only be about one software.

Just let me know if you have any questions!

I’d also love to hear if you have had any experiences with other RAM disk softwares that I could recommend, preferably free ones**

Cheers!
-Tom L

Hey Tom!

I really liked your article, it was very interesting! I am going to try this for sure.

However, this part is completelly false:

CAS latency is measured in cycles, not in time. Thus, while higher speed memory tend to have a higher number of cycles of delay, every cycle is faster!

For exemple, 2400mhz at CL 12 has a cycle time of 0.833 ns, giving us a total of 10 ns of latency.
The 1600mhz at CL9 has a cycle time of 1.25 ns, giving us a total latency of 11.25 ns!

-Phil