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AMD Radeon RAMDisk Review


Well-known member
Oct 24, 2007
Everyone wants a faster, more responsive system and there are a number of ways to get there. Unfortunately, upgrading a processor or migrating to an SSD involves investing huge amounts of money in hardware that will likely be obsolete in no time. But there is a middle ground. Long before the advent of solid state cache drives, enthusiasts were utilizing a portion of their system’s RAM as a way to augment system load times. Due to a number of factors, RAM drives faded from memory but they are back in our mindsets due to three main reasons: plunging memory prices, expanded hard drive sizes and the relatively high cost of larger capacity SSDs.

While Intel has decided to forego official support for secondary RAM drive implementation (there are several third parties that do support it though) AMD has charted a different path. By teaming up with software manufacturer DataRAM, they have created a simple, easy to use solution called Radeon RAMDisk which essentially sections of a portion of memory as a secondary drive. This virtual drive can house application data and allows ultra-quick access to your most-used files or programs. We first alluded to its presence within the Trinity APU review.


AMD’s RAMDisk software currently comes in two downloadable flavors: A free version and an “Xtreme” edition which will put you back $18.99. The free version is what most people will gravitate towards since the included feature set is identical to that of its bigger brother, albeit with some severe capacity limitations. It allows users to create a RAM drive of up to 4GB, though anyone using Radeon-branded memory will get access to 6GB of space. Meanwhile, Radeon RAMDisk Xtreme ups maximum capacity to a more reasonable 64GB and eliminates the always-present “upgrade now” popup which appears in the free version. Regardless of that path you choose, RAMDisk is compatible with all current AMD sockets like FM1, FM2 and AM3+ along with Intel platforms as well.

Without a doubt, the free version is an excellent starter service but the smaller drive size it creates is horrendously small. This translates into less programs being accelerated and ultimately slower overall system performance than a larger dedicated RAM drive would provide.

Price may be a concern but AMD’s $19 Xtreme is competitively positioned against the alternatives. 30GB cache drives like OCZ’s Synapse and Corsair’s Accelerator routinely go for about $70 and conversely, 1600MHz 32GB DDR3 memory kits can be found for $150 or less, allowing you to tackle system memory and better performance in one swoop. So from a cost perspective at least, the Xtreme version seems to make perfect sense as a partial substitute for an SSD cache and you can always expand it in the future with additional memory.


In its most basic form a RAM Drive / RAM Disk is a virtual hard drive which uses a portion of your system’s memory as a storage device. You ‘format’ this portion of memory just like you would a hard drive partition and assign it a drive letter. As far as the operating system or any software is concerned, this new drive is just another storage medium, just one that has unusually low latency and ultra-high read / write performance.

Consumer grade memory may be extremely fast, but it was never designed with long term storage in mind; once power is lost any data stored in the RAM is toast. This is where AMD’s Radeon RAMDisk software enters the equation. It not only creates a user configurable drive, but also saves any data on the RAM drive to your system’s HDD at set intervals and before shutdown. The information is then restored to the RAM upon system restart.

Radeon RAMDisk goes about its process via a kernel level driver and some highly specialized configuration abilities within the software itself. Unfortunately, this whole process leads to noticeably increased start-up and shutdown times but in return, consumers are able to physically install programs to the RAM drive without worrying about software compatibility issues. For example you could install your most used application or – space permitting – install your favorite game and enjoy load times which will make even an SSD seem slow by comparison.

With a software stack that boasts a straightforward interface and highly flexible levels of user input, Radeon RAMDisk can be considered a nearly plug and play solution. Free Mode is limited only in the size of RAM drive you can create and is otherwise fully functional while Xtreme simply opens up additional capacity options. Both can be downloaded from the AMD landing page but for this review we will be using the Xtreme product.

Once the software is fully installed, RAMDisk will present a simple configuration utility that loads with a number of presets. We recommend that you closely study each one and its effects. We chose a 24GB partition which was set to autosave a compressed image every 5 minutes to the C drive in order to maximize data safety. In addition, the “Load the image on startup” option was enabled so the system would have quick access to the information stored on the RAMDisk. All of these options – besides image compression– are set to OFF by default so make sure they are set to your preferences before proceeding. Once this is accomplished, just press the Start RAMDrive button and a new dedicated, blazingly fast drive should appear within Windows, ready for system and application files.


With the help of a mid-range system consisting of an AMD FX-6300, Gigabyte 990FXA-UD5 motherboard and a 32B kit of Kingston’s HyperX Predator modules we will investigate the viability and usability of AMD’s new software solution. While everyone loves seeing massive synthetic test scores, they aren’t effective at showing the positive and negative aspects of RAM drives in the real world. For this reason we will be focusing solely on real world scenarios: application and game load times, real world data transfer performance and OS boot times.
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Well-known member
Oct 24, 2007
Windows 7 Startup / Adobe CS5 Load Time

Windows 7 Start Up with Boot Time A/V Scan Performance

When it comes to hard drive performance there is one area that even the most oblivious user notices: how long it takes to load the Operating System. SInce Windows 7 has become nearly ubiquitous for solid state drive enthusiasts we have chosen Windows 7 64bit Ultimate as our Operating System. In previous load time tests we would use the Anti-Virus splash screen as our finish line; this however is no longer the case. We have not only added in a secondary Anti-Virus to load on startup, but also an anti-malware program. We have set Super Anti-Spyware to initiate a quick scan on Windows start-up and the completion of the quick scan will be our new finish line.


OS load times are actually the Achilles’ heel of AMD’s RamDisk software. By making the drive non-volatile, the software has to reload all of its data on start-up and even with compression, this does take time. The larger the RamDisk – or more specifically the more data stored on the RamDisk – the longer start up and shutdown will take. By the same token, the OS is actually useable faster than this time would lead you to believe, it just that the HDD was pushing so much data to the RAM that our Virus Scan slowed down.

Adobe CS5 Load Time

Photoshop is a notoriously slow loading program under the best of circumstances, and while the latest version is actually pretty decent, when you add in a bunch of extra brushes and the such you get a really great torture test which can bring even the best of the best to their knees. In this case, CS5 was completely installed onto the RAMDisk for its benchmark numbers.


When a given hardware configuration gets above a certain level of performance, any improvements tend to become rather academic. AMD’s RamDisk results show some blazingly fast performance, even with the 1600MHz memory we had installed. Programs just load so fast that even SSDs seem slow by comparison. Against hard drives, this is like comparing the Cray Titan to an abacus.
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Well-known member
Oct 24, 2007
Firefox Portable / Real World Data Transfers

Firefox Portable Offline Performance

Firefox is notorious for being slow on loading tabs in offline mode once the number of pages to be opened grows larger than a dozen or so. We can think of fewer worse case scenarios than having 100 tabs set to reload in offline mode upon Firefox startup, but this is exactly what we have done here.

By having 100 pages open in Firefox portable, setting Firefox to reload the last session upon next session start and then setting it to offline mode, we are able to easily recreate a worse case scenario. Since we are using Firefox portable all files are easily positioned in one location, making it simple to repeat the test as necessary. In order to ensure repetition, before touching the Firefox portable files, we have backed them up into a .rar file and only extracted a copy of it to the test device.


Once again, these are some spectacular results. It looks like the RAMDisk has the capability to actually slightly bottleneck older computers.

Real World Data Transfers

All of us here at Hardware Canucks strive to give you the best, most complete picture of a review item’s true capabilities and to this end we will be running timed data transfers to give you a general idea of how its performance relates to real life use. To help replicate worse case scenarios we will transfer a 10.00GB contiguous file and a folder containing 400 subfolders with a total 12,000 files varying in length from 200mb to 100kb (10.00 GB total).

Testing will include transfer to and transferring from the devices, using MS RichCopy (set to 1 file depth) and logging the performance of the drive. Here is what we found.



The large file performance is actually much greater than what this chart shows; however we simply do not have a device which can keep up. Even the mighty Intel 910 PCI-E SSD attached to the system is easily saturated by the RAMDisk’s theoretical bendwidth of over 5GB/s. The small file performance meanwhile can’t saturate our Intel 910’s but it still demolishes all other options.
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Well-known member
Oct 24, 2007
VMWare / Game Load Time / Conclusion

VMWare Load Time Performance

VMWare is a powerful application which allows users the ability to run a virtualized Operating System from inside their main OS. This program is not only processor and RAM intensive but puts significant load on the storage subsystem with deep, heavy read/write IO requests to the drive. To help give you a general idea on the performance improvements from running a RAM Drive we have timed the time it takes to load XP SP3 from inside VMWare.


This is another area the AMD RamDisk is a great solution. Simply put, if you use VMWare and want the best performance possible this side of an Intel 910 or a SAN, this is the software of choice. Nothing else even comes close to this level of performance. The only thing which will keep it from being perfect is the FAT32 file size limitation. Make sure to set VMWare to use split sparse and not monolithic sparse for the disk image. Doing this will cause VMWare to use and create multiple 2GB .vmdk files instead of one large file for the image, avoiding potential problems.

Game Load Time Performance

For many PC enthusiasts the main reason for using AMD’s RamDisk software is nto for decreased application load times, rather it is for the decrease in game load times a RAM drive has to offer. To show the performance impact a RAM drive has on this crucial area of gaming we have chosen three popular titles: Borderlands 2, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 and Saints Row 3. These games should give a good overview of the potential performance by using AMD’s RamDisk in real world scenarios.

To reduce variables, we have chosen to use map/level load time and not game start up time as our benchmark. We have done this as introductory movies and advertisements on start-up create variables which could potential reduce the comparison's accuracy. Please refer to testing methodology page for specific map or level used in each game.


As you can see the overall improvement is impressive, but RAMDisk's performance does tend to vary from game to game. Some titles still take a moment or two to load due of poorly optimized code and cut scenes which cannot be overridden. As with VMWare, if you want to all but eliminate game load times, the Radeon RamDisk Xtreme will be perfect for your needs.

The other potential negative issue here is capacity. Many of today's games usually weigh in at 10GB or more. This means opting for 32GB of RAM will result in only two or so games fitting on the created drive. Thankfully, AMD's RAMDisk software allows for the creation of multiple disk images that can be loaded individually before loading an associated program. This is more complicated than installing all your games to a single drive, but it will allow for even better performance. Just remember it may not work for all games. Some titles (we're looking at you Rockstar and Ubisoft!) install secondary ‘software’ which can interfere with this solution.


AMD’s Radeon RAMDisk may be a new spin on an old idea but it shows how certain technologies can be resurrected and still have a place in today’s competitive landscape. Creating a dedicated virtual drive from system memory certainly isn’t innovative but the RAMDisk software allows for an easily accessible interface and straightforward integration that will appeal to enthusiasts and novices alike.

Before the drastic memory price drops of the last two years, the premise behind RAMDisk would have been on shaky ground. Now, with 32GB DDR3 kits being available for less than $150, blazingly fast performance is only a few clicks away. And make no mistake about it; when properly utilized, Radeon RAMDisk can accelerate program load times to mind boggling levels. Just be prepared to sacrifice OS load speeds to get there.

In order to get the most out of this solution, an entire program needs to be physically installed onto the drive which RAMDisk creates, leading to some visceral conflicts within an enthusiast’s brain. Will it be ultra quick access storage capacity or system memory? While it may be maddening, prepare for these conflicts since your final target will always boil down to a delicate balancing act between disk space and system-accessible memory. We recommend dedicating 8GB towards system critical tasks but even with a 32GB kit installed, that leaves a mere 24GB available for boosting load times of games, applications and the like. The ability to juggle individual images does mitigate these shortcomings but loading them sometimes feels like a ham-fisted approach.

Due to their capacity limitations, the free versions can house only the most basic of gaming titles but can still work wonders on other applications like Photoshop, PowerPoint and VMWare. However, as a trial, they work perfectly well and will open some eyes to the wonders of RAMDisk.

While it may cost $18.99, the Xtreme version with its 64GB ceiling is money well spent, especially with its expanded access to customer support. Not only can it grow alongside your expanding collection of memory modules but, while operating within its limitations, Radeon RamDisk Xtreme can turn even a bargain basement system into deceptively quick feeling platform.

-Low price
-Free version offers a way to try before buying
-Significantly reduces load times
-Simple to use and configure
-Seen as just another ‘hard drive’
-Expert support if things do no go right
-Works equally well on Intel and AMD systems
-Can manually load pre-created images into the RamDisk
-Ability to start, stop and even save the RAMDisk whenever you wish – sidestepping the extended bootup/shutdown issue

- Increase start-up and shutdown times when used as a non-volatile solution
- Windows only
- Can only load / create one RAM Drive
- Phone support requires an additional $20 “VIP Support” purchase
- NTFS not supported only FAT16 & FAT32
- Open Source / Freeware programs offer similar features - but lack tech support

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