AMD Launches Radeon RAMDisk, Free 6GB Disks With AMD Memory

Subject: Storage | October 10, 2012 - 09:30 PM |
Tagged: ram disk, radeon ramdisk, radeon memory, amd memory, amd

AMD launched a new Radeon branded memory product today called the Radeon RAMDisk. Despite the rather unoriginal name, it is a piece of software that will allow you to use a portion of your system RAM as a hard drive-like storage device where you can install programs. AMD has partnered with Dataram to develop the software.

The AMD Radeon RAMDisk will create drives up to 64GB in size, and is designed to be used with AMD's own Radeon-branded DDR3 modules (though other manufacturer's RAM will work as well). The RAM disk offers up almost-instantaeous access times and impressive read and write speeds for your applications and virtual machines.

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According to AMD, the Radeon RAMDisk can reach read speeds as high as 25,600 MB/s with DDR3 1600 RAM and up to 1700% faster game loading times than a traditional mechanical hard drive. It further supports the Windows operating system (Vista and above), and has a minimum system requirement of 4GB of system RAM.

The software costs $18.99 at time of writing for the full version.

The best part about this announcement though is the release of a freeware version of the Radeon RAMDisk that can create disks up to 6GB with AMD-branded RAM or 4GB with RAM from any other manufacturer! While that is fairly limiting in that you are not really going to be able to put much ont there (and installing games is almost out of the question entirely) you can still do a lot with a 4GB RAM disk by installing Office, photo editors, virtual machines (like Peppermint Linux), and other heavily used programs to speed up the important stuff.

You can acess the full press release on the Radeon RAMDisk website.

Download links:

If you have been with the site for at least the year that I’ve been writing here, you will know that I’m a huge fan of RAM disks. So, naturally, when I was passed the press release I just had to try it out.

While the extent of the performance increase is going to vary from program to program, the drive itself is extremely fast. When copying a .iso file to the Radeon RAMDisk, it was limited by my SSD's read speed, for example.

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The RAM Disk was set up om my main desktop which has basic specifications as follows:

  • Intel Core i7 -860 CPU
  • 8GB (4 x 2GB) G.Skill DDR3 at 1333 MHz and 9-9-9-24 CAS timings
  • Gigabyte P55-UD3R Motherboard
  • 4096 MB Radeon RAMDisk
  • 80GB Intel X25-M G2 SSD
  • 2TB Samsung Spinpoint hard drive
  • Windows 8 RTM

In addition to the file copy tests, I also used the HDTune benchmark to measure transfer speeds. Needless to say, RAM blows solid state NAND out of the water in speed (though it does cost more and is volatile storage).

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In fact, it pulled such impressive numbers from HDTune that it skewed the chart a lot. Those little blips underneath it are from my Intel X25-M G2 80GB SSD and my 2TB Samsung Spinpoint mechanical hard drive. 

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HDTune also reports access times and burst speeds. The RAM disk had a 0.0 ms access time, the SSD has a 0.1 ms access time, and the mechanical hard drive brought up the rear with a 13.9 ms access time. Interestingly, the Samsung hard drive actually beat the SSD in burst speed. The RAM disk crush both of the other drives by a significant margin, however with a burst speed of 5,155 MB/s.

Over the years, I have used a RAMDisk for hosting photo editors as as using the drive for media I was currently working on. It worked well at the time, but the free software was not exactly what I would call stable. However, the AMD software is a mere 6.2 MB download that installs quickly and is easy to configure. The UI is spartan (and resembles Windows Classic), but it gets the job done and has yet to crash on me after trying to break it today (heh). It does not feel "janky" at all, and I have to give AMD and Dataram props for that.

Below are screenshots of the Radeon RAMDisk interface. You can create new disks as well as loading saved ones.

Yes, RAM being faster than hard drive storage is not new information, but I did find it surprising just how much faster it was, even compared to my SSD. Heck, even compared to a DDR2 based RAM disk, it was fast. It really puts into perspective why the hard drive is the slowest aspect of modern computers, and why things can slow to a crawl when the CPU has to reach out past the internal cache and system RAM to the hard drive to fetch data. If you are running a system with a lot of 'extra' RAM, I encourage you to take AMD's new Radeon RAMDisk software for a test drive. It's time to give those DDR3 DIMMs a workout!

Do you use RAM disks to speed up your favorite applications?

 

Source: AMD
October 10, 2012 | 10:33 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You should run benchmarks based on 2133 or faster memory, you will see speed double from you 1333 config

October 11, 2012 | 01:04 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Indeed, I may do some benchmarks to see how it scales with increases in clocks. Not sure if my DIMMs could do 2133 though I'd be willing to try :) I know they can do 1866 but I've since backed them down to defaults.

October 10, 2012 | 10:51 PM - Posted by dreamer77dd

How would this compare to Fusion-io and RevoDrive 3 pci express storage?
I think you can put more RAM on a motherboard then 64gigs, hmm.
Can you run your complete pc off of just RAM and no harddrive or SSD?

October 11, 2012 | 01:25 AM - Posted by renz (not verified)

if there is no hdd or ssd then where will you store your operating system when you want to shut down your system?

October 11, 2012 | 04:00 AM - Posted by J.R. (not verified)

The lane from RAM to CPU is direct and will always be much faster. However, it wouldn't (currently) be possible to boot off your RAM since, A) RAMDisk is stored and operates in the O/S, and, B) RAM requires power to store information and is much less stable and reliable than SSD storage. Would be one heck of a great startup time though, one can only wish... one day. haha

July 28, 2013 | 12:33 AM - Posted by m8ty.com (not verified)

Re: "It is currently not possible to boot from Ram Disk". Actually, I was able to boot my system from a Ram Disk using a boot loader called "Grub4Dos". All what you need is the following syntax in your c:\menu.1st (boot loader menu that Grub4Dos looks for to present boot options):

# The Following Starts the Operating System Setup to Install it to a .VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) Image File:
title Start TXT-mode XP Setup on RamXP.vhd - WinVBlock
find --set-root --ignore-floppies /tinyxp11.iso
map --mem /tinyxp11.iso (0xff)
find --set-root --ignore-floppies /RamXP.vhd
map --mem /winvblock.ima (fd1)
map --mem /winvblock.ima (fd0)
map /RamXP.vhd (hd0)
map --hook
chainloader (0xff)

# The following Continues the Operating System Installation in GUI Mode (After the First Reboot) To Finish OS Installation:
title Continue GUI-mode XP Setup on RamXP.vhd
find --set-root --ignore-floppies /tinyxp11.iso
map --mem /tinyxp11.iso (0xff)
find --set-root --ignore-floppies /RamXP.vhd
map --mem /winvblock.ima (fd1)
map --mem /winvblock.ima (fd0)
map /RamXP.vhd (hd0)
map --hook
root (hd0,0)
chainloader /ntldr

# The Following Boots your Windows XP Virtual Hard Drive Image Directly, but NOT from RAM yet, allowing you to install Drivers and Programs:
title Boot Windows XP from Image - RamXP.vhd - WinVBlock
find --set-root --ignore-floppies /RamXP.vhd
map /RamXP.vhd (hd0)
map --hook
root (hd0,0)
chainloader /ntldr

# Finally, this is what you all were after, the following loads your .VHD Virtual Hard Drive Image directly to RAM and then boots your computer off that image from RAM:
title Boot Windows XP from Ram Disk - RamXP.vhd - WinVBlock driver - 1000 MB
# Sector-mapped disk
find --set-root --ignore-floppies /RamXP.vhd
map --mem /RamXP.vhd (hd0)
map --hook
root (hd0,0)
chainloader /ntldr

# Note, any changes made on the volume booted from RAM is lost between system restarts, either save your documents to a real hard drive partition, or to a flash drive. Alternatively, you can use the Windows XP Tweak UI to map /Desktop and the /My Documents folder to a non-volatile location such as a real hard drive, then anything you save on your desktop, My Documents, My Pictures, My Music wont get lost between reboots. Also, this RAMDisk creates a positive side effects, it creates what I would like to call a "Poor Man's Faronics DeepFreeze Environment", where if you happen to get a virus, all what you have to do is reboot your system and the virus will be gone.

# Booting off the OS from RAM. Upon turning on your computer, it takes about 10 seconds for Grub4Dos to copy my 2GB .VHD virtual hard drive Image (with NTFS Compression Enabled to get more than 2 GB of usuable space, usually I end up getting about 3.3gb of space on the compressed 2 gb volume) to copy to RAM and boot the operating system.

# Why I elected to use Windows XP as opposed to using Windows 7?? Answer: My DDR2 based laptop only has two DIM slots, supporting a maximum of 4GB of RAM, it is impossible to load Windows 7 onto a 4 GB volume, and not only that, you CANT create a 4GB RAM volume if you only have 4GB of RAM on your system, you have to leave some for the operating system to use after it is booted off from RAM, so, the maximum you can allocate would be 3.5GB of RAM (depending if your video card doesn't use too much RAM, if you have a 512MB video card, then the max the OS will see is 3.5GB, in that case, a 3GB volume would be the max you can create to have a usuable OS from RAM seeing just 512MB of worbable RAM). In my case, I like to create a 2GB volume so that my host OS can at least work with 1.5GB of RAM which, for an nLited XP installation is extremely descent.

# and least, but not last, you not only want to use Windows XP for this experiment of loading an OS directly from RAM, but you may want to nLite it, so you will need to download nLite and take away as much as you can, on my end, I was able to reduce my 650MB XP Installation CD all the way down to 350 MB with all SATA, Network, Wifi, and Sound latest DriverPacks already slip-streamed. Upon finishing the installation, all what my XP Lite took from disk space was 450 MB, leaving a 1.55GB balance for some programs, the firefox cache (unless I move that cache to another volume by the use of firefox.exe --profilemanager parameter invoked from the Start > RUN dialog box).

-------

I can tell you that loading and using an operating system directly from ram, doing what others have said it was impossible many years ago was a joy, it is blazingly fast, my system boots in less than 3 seconds (not counting the initial 10 seconds it takes to copy the .vhd volume to RAM) and everything you do is immediate.

Keep in mind that this is NOT emulation in anyway, I did not emulate a virtual PC hard drive image from RAM (although you can do that if you want, but you will have the problem that on Virtual Box 3D Graphics Acceleration is still in experimental status, full of bugs and 3D games often crashes when you enable that option on Virtual Box). I did not use Virtual Box to create this, I booted my laptop, and eventually a Desktop PC off a Ram Drive. You will need a tool that came from a pack called "IMG_XP" which includes Create_XP_VHD.exe the main utility that will create your VHD for you, so that you can do the rest. You will need to have an ISO of Windows XP ready as Grub4Dos can mount that as a real CD upon boot up. If you have Windows Vista or 7 installed, you can use easyBSD to install NST Grub4Dos which gets installed on c:\NST and then edit the menu.1st there accordingly.

--- With Dedication, everything is possible.

October 11, 2012 | 12:56 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

I'm not sure on those specific drives, but I believe there is PCI-E storage that is bootable.

As far as a ram disk though:

Hmm.. if the OS is virtualized, then yes but otherwise not really. As the other poster said, you would need some type of storage to hold the RAM disk image and to boot the OS. The issue is that you have to have an OS and initialize drivers for the RAM disk to even be accessible, so you cant just boot straight from the RAM disk as the computer would not know what to do with it as the disk isn't created yet, so to speak.

Now, you could have a stripped down Linux or Windows host OS boot off of a hard drive (even USB but that'd be slow to boot) and then load up your RAM disk. Then you could boot up a guest OS in virtual machine software where that OS is stored completely in RAM. :) I'm not really sure all the effort required to do that would be worth it though ;)

October 11, 2012 | 01:23 PM - Posted by dreamer77dd

I know the OCZ PCI-Express is bootable.
But interesting and not impossible that they could make RAM bootable.
What if we had a motherboard that had no need for pci and hard drives.
We had Smart RAM.
Might be a GPU in a RAM slot
Plus RAM for the OS on the motherboard. maybe instead you flash the memory.
C'mon people think outside the box.
We need more out of the box thinkers in the tech industry and just go crazy.

September 14, 2013 | 09:07 PM - Posted by #anon2017 (not verified)

Problem- You need there to be power running through the ram for it to keep its data. The RAMDisk software saves data to the HDD on shutdown, which is how it "retains"the data. Currently SSDs are pretty "close" to RAM without the need for constant electricity to hold data. Long story short, you can never use just RAM to do this. A solid state drive of some sort, yes. But that is all something like that will ever be, an SSD.

October 11, 2012 | 08:06 AM - Posted by dragosmp (not verified)

I'm using Dataram's Ramdisk soft, likely the non-radeon branded version of exactly the same software.
The speed...man. It's hugely faster than a X25M or a SF-2200 based Corsair Force 3. As far as I've tested all results on the Ramdisk are CPU-limted (memory controller-limited?).The read/write speeds of the Ramdrive are slightly bellow Sandra's RAM bandwidth tests (soft overhead probably).

The big issue is that it's volatile memory, so I use it only as cache: firefox, photoshop scratch, etc. I just can't see how installing a game on a Ramdrive can be a good idea, one should reinstall/recopy the image after each restart.

D.

P.S...and how should we go about to have 64GB on an AMD platform? 4x16GB? Or twice that, 4x32GB to leave something for the OS. So we just need 16+GB DDR3 AMD memory sticks and we're good to go /end sarcasm. BTW, this isn't AMD bashing, I would have just liked they released a Magny-Cours-like CPU with 4-channel IMC for single-CPU boards...3 years ago.

October 11, 2012 | 10:35 AM - Posted by cortexodus

No "likely" about it. This isn't a "product launch" at all. The product has been around for a while. Here's caps I just took of the DataRAM config window. I use it for scratch space on one machine and for my Terraria server on another box on the LAN.

http://imgur.com/a/wiRrd

as for the "up to 64GB" part, I'm with you on the lack of logic in propping up that "capability"...

October 11, 2012 | 12:58 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

hehe, I'm not sure but maybe they are taking a definition out of Comcast's dictionary for the term "up to" ;) Hmm.. are there any server mobos for AMD FX procs that could do it?

October 11, 2012 | 01:02 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Yup, I would not be surprised if it is more of a rebranding than anything. One thing it does have over the Dataram package is the free version can do 6GB disks if you use AMD's Radeon branded DIMMs.

On the other hand, having AMD put out its package and marketing it is a good thing as I wasn't aware Dataram even still offered a freeware version, and now I know :)

October 11, 2012 | 09:18 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

now we are talking!

October 11, 2012 | 10:41 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

FYI, Radeon RAMDisk has load/save features so that it keeps whatever data you have through reboots. That means that you don't have to install the game each time you want to run it.

October 11, 2012 | 12:59 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Yup, I'm not sure if I explicity said that but I did show a screenshot of that load/save screen :). The only bad thing about it is waiting for the image to load/save onto my slow SSD!

October 11, 2012 | 02:27 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Yea i mean if it didn't have that feature this wouldn't be anything new, that all the other ramdisks have done since the 90s

October 11, 2012 | 05:08 PM - Posted by razor512

not worth the money, there are many free ram disk tools which (while not as user friendly) allow you to create 128GB+ ramdisk's (if you have enough RAM), and best of all, allow for use of unmanaged memory which means, you can take a 32 bit windows XP system, then install 64GB of RAM, then have 4GB for the OS and make a 60GB RAM disk

PS RAM disk performance improves decently when you overclock the NB on a AMD system.

I use a ramdisk on my system DDR 3 1600 memory with the NB at 3GHz and I get around 11GB/s of read and write speeds

I could probably get higher buy with 4 memory slots filled, the max my system will stably handle (Phenom II CPU) is 4 sticks at DDR3 1600 speeds with a timing of 8-8-8-24 2T with a NB voltage of 1.31V

PS there is another limitation, if the RAM disk uses only 1 CPU core then you will be limited at around 6GB regardless of how much you overclock the NB and memory clock speed. RAm disks can easily max out a single core if you are transfering a large file.

October 11, 2012 | 06:15 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Interesting, thanks for the comment :)

Yup, I have a forum friend of mine that ran a RAM disk with the left over RAM that Windows could not address due to it being 32 bit. Just about every Win 7 and above install i see nowadays is 64-bit though so I think it's less of an issue. Still, it's nice to have options.

I'm going to be doing more testing later this week but during HDTune it reported CPU usage of 14.5% during the benchmark, so yes they are definitely more CPU intensive than traditional drives.

October 12, 2012 | 02:50 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

im not exactly scrambling to install windows xp on a machine with 64 GB of memory. *gag*

October 12, 2012 | 06:40 AM - Posted by Mike Baldwin (not verified)

The Ideal hardware

it's as simple as A,B,C !

A) Take 1no full length PCIE card filled with DDR3 memory slots on both sides of the card(say 16no)which you can fill with cheap stick's of memory.
B) Add 1no Rechargeable Nihm battery on board to hold the data in the memory when the computer is off and that recharges itself when the computer is switched on.Make the battery big enough to last say a few months, just in case the computer is not used frequently.
C) add 1no rom on the board that makes the bios believe its a bootable hard drive, and that also performs a backup of it's ISO image to a physical hard drive in the background for safety.

Voila.....one perfect hardware System ram drive.

goodby SSD's

October 14, 2012 | 08:04 PM - Posted by orvtrebor

I think the boys were a little too hard on this idea.

It's a fantastic way to utilize dirt cheap ram.

I wouldn't put anything critical on it, but games or other minor workhorse duties would be served well.

January 8, 2013 | 04:12 AM - Posted by Goophy629 (not verified)

I'm actually surprised that nobody mentioned Primo Ramdisk(formerly VSuite Ramdisk ), this is truly the best software-based ramdisk I've ever tried. Long story short, it has the features others have, and some extra that others don't support yet, dynamic memory management for instance.

August 14, 2013 | 11:13 PM - Posted by Photonboy (not verified)

What we REALLY need is a RAMDISK tool that can load and LINK only the data (if any) a game would benefit from. This would be automatic without the hassle of installing a game specifically to a RAM drive and it saves space as well.

Do games even benefit?
For most games the answer is, not really. Sure load times are faster but those are also bottlenecked by your GPU and CPU. Ever wonder why a super fast SSD loads a game at say 1.5x to 2.5x faster than a drive? If this bottleneck exists then a RAMDISK won't make much difference.

I installed TWENTY different games to an SSD after playing them from a 3TB 5400RPM hard drive. I expected a big difference (at least at times). Aside from the average 2x initial load of the game I really didn't notice a difference.

Most modern games are good at NOT accessing the drive during gameplay so the data is all stored in your DDR3 System RAM or Video RAM.

Long story short, a RAMDISK is a big hassle for little benefit for gamers. In a few instances for one or two games with frequent loading issues it may benefit.

(Making it work with Steam is another issue altogether.)

January 28, 2014 | 06:19 PM - Posted by Chris M. R. (not verified)

Reading this, I can't help but think the same thing I thought ten years ago... Why can't we just have a desktop computer with NVRAM holding the OS just like a router holds an IOS? It would make a lot more sense than the stupid non-sense Windows 8 did to trick you into thinking it has a blazing fast boot-time. A tablet that doesn't actually turn off when I tell it too? No thanks.

Also, while I have nothing against this product, which I am currently using, it should be noted that commercial products like this have existed for a very long time.

I also used to have a computer with an extended-ISA card holding 8 RAM DIMMS. SLI? Crossfire? Not new. Anyone recall Voodoo? Most of these solutions have been floating around for decades, and we still haven't utilized them fully.

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