RAM Drives – What Are They and How To Use Them – Part II


by Richard Pedersen

RAM Drives – How To Use Them

In Part I of RAM Drives – What Are They and How To Use Them I explained something about RAM Drives, what I understand about them and where to get one that I happen to like and use.

In this installment I will be discussing some good ways to use them, and possibly even more importantly, how not to use them. I’ll be telling you what I use a RAM Drive for and some ideas I have that I plan on trying out in the near future.

Temporary Files

Windows generates temporary files like nobody’s business. It uses these files to keep track of many aspects of its internal status. When you shut down your computer these files are no longer needed.

There is also a lot of cruft generated by the various programs that you use on a daily basis. It really adds up over time and is generally obsolete when you finish your computer session.

Temporary files, therefore, are prime candidates for a RAM Drive.

Moving Temp files to Your RAM Drive

Note: I am going to presume you have installed a RAM Drive on your computer and know that it starts running at boot time. You must have a working RAM Drive for these instructions to work properly. If you do not, then your efforts will be in vain. And you may possibly ‘break’ something in the process.

To point Windows and User Temporary Files to your RAM Drive, do the following:

  • Open the Control Panel and choose System
  • In the left pane of the window that opens, choose Advanced System Settings

This should bring up this System Properties Sheet:


In the Advanced Tab click the Environment Variables button to bring up this window:


The upper list box in the above image shows the paths where your programs will store their temporary files.

I have given my RAM Drive the letter ‘R’. Normally these TEMP and TMP variables point to the C drive (where Windows lives). We want to change this so click on the Edit button and change the path to point to a Temp directory on your RAM Drive. Do this for both the TEMP and the TMP variables.

The lower box includes variables that Windows uses. You will have to scroll down a bit to find the TEMP and TMP variables. Once you find them edit those as well.

Note: Unless you know what you are doing I wouldn’t recommend changing anything else here.

‘OK’ your way back to the desktop. You will have to re-boot your computer for the changes to take effect.

Browser Cache Files

Another great use for a RAM Drive is for your browser cache files.

All browsers, as far as I know, generate cache files when you are surfing the net. Accessing internet information from your hard drive is much, much faster. Put it on a RAM Drive and it becomes nearly instantaneous.

Here are related links on how to change the location and size of some of the major browsers. Just point all those cache files to your RAM Drive and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Portable Applications

I’m a big fan of portable applications. They have many advantages.

They don’t require any installation meaning that Windows basically knows nothing about them. The most beautiful result of that is your Windows Registry doesn’t get cluttered. Nor do your hard drives. To uninstall a portable program just delete it. That’s it! And you can have peace of mind knowing nothing is left behind. I love it.

The original idea was, I presume, to be able to put them on a thumb drive and carry them around with you. Plug that thumb drive into any computer and you’ve got your favorite apps with all their individual settings ready and waiting for you to enjoy. Just how you like them.

Portable Apps run great on a RAM Drive, too. I use the following portable applications and have them ‘installed’ on my RAM Drive:

Firefox (my main browser of choice), Thunderbird (my e-Mail client), AIMP2 (my audio player), Stellarium (a planetarium program), and several other utilities that I use to monitor varying aspects of my computer.

The possibilities are endless. Your imagination is your only limit.

What Not to Put on Your RAM Drive

Pagefiles. I am adamant about this. It makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.

I recently read a forum post I stumbled upon that said something like this:

“I have 2GB RAM on my computer. I have a 1GB RAM Drive on which I have placed the Page File…”

Whaaa?!!! This is a classic example of wrong-headedness. Consider this:

  • First, 2GBs of RAM for a modern Windows system is inadequate in my opinion.
  • Second, because there is limited RAM, Windows is going to be swapping pages to the hard drive.
  • Third, this guy took an already RAM-weak system and made it weaker by basically removing 1GB of RAM that Windows could have otherwise used.

I’m going to make this as simple as I can. I get terribly frustrated when I read this kind of thing.

  • If you don’t have much RAM then you shouldn’t be installing a RAM Drive. It merely worsens any already existing RAM- limited problems.
  • If you do have plenty of RAM, then you probably don’t need much of a page file in the first place. In this case, you certainly shouldn’t need to place a page file on your RAM Drive.

There is absolutely no good reason to ever place a page file on a RAM Drive. Period.


I hope this article has shed some light on RAM Drives, their installation, and how to put them to good use.

My plans for the future basically include adding more portable applications on my RAM Drive. It’s really a nice touch when you click on a desktop icon only to have the desired program up and running in the blink of an eye.

You may read Part I of this post here: http://wincom7.com/blog/ram-drives-what-are-they-and-how-to-use-them-part-i/

Note: If you do a search on the internet for portable applications you may be surprised at how many of your favorite programs are listed.

I’m sure you’ll find great ways to use your new RAM Drive. Do you have a RAM Drive installed? Do you plan to do so? Let us know!



About Richard Pedersen

~"addicted to computers since 1982"~ I got my first computer in 1982 and haven't looked back. I love to find ways to improve their efficiency and to help others do the same. I build and repair personal computer systems. I live in a small farming community in Western Wisconsin.

Comments are closed.