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Speed up and secure Google Chrome/Firefox by using a RAM disk

Speed up and secure Google Chrome/Firefox by using a RAM disk

Moving your browser's cache to a RAM disk

It’s no secret that Google’s Chrome browser is fast. Really, really fast. But with a little help from our friend the RAM disk, we can make it even faster. If you’ve never used a RAM disk before, you’ve been missing out on a potential speed increase, especially those of you on laptops who often have slower hard drives than their desktop counterparts, but plenty or RAM.

What’s a RAM disk?

As the name suggests, a RAM disk is a virtual disk drive mapped to a specific amount of RAM. As RAM is considerably faster than hard drives, we move our browser’s cache to the RAM disk and greatly increase cache read and write times. However, this comes at a flaw: RAM, by nature, is volatile and is flashed whenever the PC is turned off or rebooted. Your login information will be lost every time you reboot your PC. While this is better on a security standpoint, it does tend to get annoying to constantly have to login to the same sites over and over. You also lose a little bit of RAM, but in most cases, the difference will be negligible or downright invisible.

Download and Configure RAMDisk

We’ll be using the RAM Disk application by Dataram. It’s free and works on Windows XP X86 to Windows 7 X64. It’s also very simple to configure. Keep in mind that the free version will have an ad when launched, but does not have pop-ups.

Download and install as prompted.

Configuration

  1. Launch the RAMDisk Configuration Utility application from the Start Menu, under Dataram RAMDisk
  2. In the Disk Size box, enter 200MB
  3. In the filesystem options, select FAT16 (unless you’re creating a very large RAMDisk >4GB)
  4. In the boot system options, leave the default as Windows’
  5. Hit the Start RAMDisk button and wait

It’ll take a minute or two to create the disk. Once it’s done, a new drive will appear in My Computer. In my case, it was assigned the drive letter G:

Configuring your browser

Google Chrome

Chrome, unfortunately, does not currently have an easy-access GUI to change advanced settings. We’ll need to use switches. Right-click your Chrome shortcut and select Properties from the menu. We need to add the following switches to our shortcut.

Change the cache’s directory, where the G: drive should be changed to reflect the location of your RAM disk.

--disk-cache-dir="G:/"

Change the cache size. In bytes; the example below is 200MB.

--disk-cache-size=209715200

Here’s an example of a complete shortcut.

C:\Users\steelfrog\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe --disk-cache-dir="G:/" --disk-cache-size=209715200

Mozilla Firefox

Firefox settings can be changed from the configuration panel (about:config) where a few settings will need to be changed.

Change the cache’s directory, where the G: drive should be changed to reflect the location of your RAM disk. If the key doesn’t exist, create a new String.

Key / Value

browser.cache.disk.parent_directory

G:\

Change the cache size. In bytes; the example below is 200MB.

Key / Value

browser.cache.disk.capacity
209715200
How-to Windows

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  1. c0ldt00th
    August 15, 2010 at 8:15 AM

    would it make sense to use the ramdisk for my system pagefile to?

    • Steel Frog
      August 16, 2010 at 11:20 AM

      To be blunt, no. The pagefile is used when your system runs out of RAM space in most cases. Some applications also dump information on the page file (like Photoshop), but it wouldn’t be worth the headache.

  2. CandorZ
    January 7, 2011 at 3:38 AM

    Just FYI http://www.mydigitallife.info/2007/05/27/free-ramdisk-for-windows-vista-xp-2000-and-2003-server/ has a driver and tools for enabling NTFS RAM Disk formats which can then be used to create Symbolic Links so you can use the RAMDisk more flexibly

    and Ya, c0ldt00th, if you have enough RAM just turn off Paging, you will surely see a notable difference in re-loading programs

  3. PLAzmA
    February 6, 2012 at 3:01 PM

    I think you need to also include the chrome reg edit as here:

    http://www.simplehelp.net/2010/11/16/how-to-change-the-google-chrome-cache-location/

    Also i noticed in windows 7 you cant just run the app and say pin to task bar as it doesn’t take the cache settings with it, you need to drag the shortcut you modified to the taskbar for it to pin and take the cache settings across properly :)

    PEACE and Love ALL !!

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