If your PC has a fair bit of RAM (say 8GB or more) it’s possible you are not getting the maximum benefit out of your memory. Windows relies on using your hard drive to store open files in a thing called the page file. Hard drives are just not as fast as memory so what we are going to do is create a hard drive in memory to fool windows. This will vastly improve general performance but can also be used to improve the speed of Photoshop and other programs which rely on a hard drive for temporary storage.
Our aim is to create a Ram Drive and then configure our computer to use this Ram Drive as a page file. Ram Drives or Ram Disks are not new, in fact they have been around long before Windows even existed. There are many good solutions to try but I really like RamDisk from Dataram.com Not only do they have a great free version but it also has some nice features. Let’s get started:
- Download RamDisk from DataRam and install
- Click on the Start button and select the RAMDisk Configuration Utility
- You’ll now see a settings window. Set the size of your RamDisk. As a start try setting this to a quarter of your actual ram, so for 8GB set this to 2048MB (2GB)
- Set the disk to be unformated
- Click on the Load and Save tab and tick the Load Disk Image at Startup checkbox
- Tick the Save Disk Image on Shutdown checkbox
- Click the File menu and select Save Settings
- Click the Start RAMDisk button
- Next you will be asked to install the Dataram device, go ahead and click on the Install button and wait while the Ramdisk installs
- You may get an error the the Image failed to load, that’s fine because we haven’t formatted our disk yet. Just click the OK button
- Close the RAMDisk Configuration Utility
- Click on the Start button and type in disk mgmt.msc to open the Disk Manager. Earlier versions of Window may require you do to this from a command prompt
- Once you have Disk Manager open you should be automatically asked to initialize your new disk. Go with the pre-determined settings by clicking on the OK button
- You should now see your new hard drive in Disk Manager as an unallocated drive. Right click on the unallocated area and select New Simple volume
- Go with all of the defaults as these will be best for your version of windows. You may however want to change the volume name from ‘New Volume’ to something like ‘RamDisk’
- Once you have finished the wizard open up My Computer and you should see your new Ram Disk hard drive ready to go. Take note of the new Drive letter as you will need it later
At this point you may want to check the Windows Task Manager where you will see your memory usage has jumped up by the size of your new hard drive. Just make sure you have around 40%-50% free memory or you could actually degrade the performance of your PC. Reduce the size of the Ram Disk if required by creating a smaller one.
Now we have our Ram Disk we can start with the fun stuff. First I’d recommend moving the page file across to your Ram Disk and then depending upon the amount of free space you have left you may want to configure other programs to use the new Ram Disk as a scratch drive.
To change the location of your page file do the following:
- Click on the Start button and type in sysdm.cpl (again you may need to do this from a command prompt) to open the System Properties window
- Click on the Advanced tab and under Performance click on the Settings button
- Click on the Advanced tab. You should see a Virtual Memory pane. Click on the Change button
- Untick the ‘Automatically manage paging file size for all drives’ tick box
- Select your Ramdisk drive by clicking on it
- Select Custom Size and type in an initial size and a Maximum size. The maximum should be less then total size of your Ram Disk. Initial size can be set to the same as your maximum
- Click on the Set button
- If the Currently allocated value is less than the recommend then do not remove page file from your main hard drive. If your main hard drive page file is set to System Managed and your allocated page file size is smaller then the recommended you may want to change this to Custom also and increase the size of the page file to the recommended or more
- Close the System Properties windows by clicking OK, if asked restart your computer and you’re done
Some programs allow you to set where they store their temporary files, where possible you should use your Ram Disk to really improve the performance of the program. Once such program is Photoshop and this is how you change it:
- Open Photoshop
- Select the Edit menu and then Preferences
- Select Performance
- You should see a section called Scratch Disks with your main drive already ticked
- Tick your Ram Drive drive letter
- You should also see two arrows to the right, with your Ram Disk selected (click the name to highlight the whole row) click the Up button to make the Ram Disk the preferred drive.
- Click the OK button.
- Based upon the free space on Ram Disk you should now see performance improvement in Photoshop
If you use any other programs that require a lot of memory, using a Ram Disk can greatly improve their performance. Let me know how you go and feel free to add in other suggestions for ways to configure or use a Ram Disk.