Current prices for computer memory certainly make ramdisks an attractive alternative, considering that you get 8 Gigabytes of RAM for less than $40 these days, and 16 Gigabytes for about $70. While you may want to shell out a bit more for faster speeds and timings and all, it is fair to say that RAM is at an all time low right now.
Back to ramdisks. A ramdisk uses part of the computer's memory as a virtual drive. Once installed, you can install programs on the ramdisk, save files on it or process files that you have moved to the virtual drive.
There are several reasons why you'd want to do that. First, you benefit from better speeds when you run, modify or create files in the ramdisk. Second, you also benefit privacy-wise, as RAM disk storage is temporary by default so that everything that is stored inside is erased when the computer is powered down. Third, you can move caches and other write-intensive locations to the RAMDisk to reduce write operations on Solid State Drives or slow hard drives.
One program that you can use for the job is Dataram RAMDisk, which has just been released in a new version. The only new feature that this version introduces is support for Microsoft's upcoming operating system Windows 8.
Lets take a look how you create a ramdisk using the program. The freeware version of the program supports ramdisks with a size of up to 4 Gigabytes. If you require more storage, you can purchase RAMDisk Professional for $18.99, or use a free alternative such as AR Ramdisk.
You need to run the configuration tool to create the ramdisk. Here you can specify the desired disk size, file system (Fat16, Fat32, unformatted), and boot sector settings.
A click on start ramdisk triggers a device driver installation which you need to accept. You will then find the ramdisk listed as one of your drives in Windows Explorer and other file managers. The ramdisk behaves just like any other drive on the system. You can install programs on the drive or work with files stored on it. You can use the ramdisk to increase the security of your web browser among other things.
All of this is gone when you power down the computer. RAMDisk 4.0 however lets you save and load disk images, so that you can access the contents of a previously created ramdisk again. You can configure the program to automatically save disk images on shutdown and load those images again on startup.
The software is easy to use and leaves little to be desired. An option to encrypt the image with a password would improve security, but other than that, there is little that needs to be improved.