It has been a while since I wrote a RAMdisk guide for this forum ( http://thessdreview.com/Forums/software/1834.htm ) so I thought of performing a 'drag race' of sorts using the latest versions of my two favorite RAMdisk programs. There are quite a few RAMdisk software out there but most of them only support small RAMdisk sizes in their free versions. One of the notable exceptions is ImDisk Virtual Disk Driver by Olof Lagerkvist, an excellent freeware RAMdisk driver that allows what most other freeware/shareware contenders do not: Large RAMdisk sizes, plus the ability to format a RAMdisk using the exFAT file system.
ImDisk has been updated to v1.5.7 built 30 back in July, so I thought it would be a good time to test it against my other main choice: Primo RAMdisk Professional v5.6.0, which is a commercial program created by Romex Software. Primo doesn't allow the creation of exFAT RAMdisks but it has many other excellent features. One of the best ones is the support of Direct Memory Management, a very useful RAM-preserving option. Before I proceed with this RAMdisk face-off I'd like to thank Romex for providing a full license of Primo for my tests.
So what is Direct Memory Management (DMM)? When this feature is enabled, only a minimum amount of RAM is actually allocated at the time of initial RAMdisk creation. When the currenty allocated memory amount is not enough for newly-added RAMdisk data the program will then automatically request addtitional memory allocations as needed. In Win7 or newer Windows OS the program will also be able to release the corresponding memory back to the system pool when a file is deleted - for as long as the RAMdisk is formatted with the NTFS file system.
The DMM option is useful when the user doesn't want a RAMdisk to always fully occupy the system memory. For example, at some time a RAMdisk may be used for files downloaded from Internet and later the user may need large amounts of RAM to run a game. This feature enables the user to switch between these two usage scenarios conveniently.
Compact Mode is another useful Primo feature. It provides a better memory management algorithm by re-organizing the data layout in order to make each memory block fully utilized before requesting a new one. For instance, without Compact Mode all claimed memory will be allocated immediately in Vista or Win7, if the user right-clicks the RAMdisk in "My Computer" and then selects "Properties". With Compact Mode enabled this will not happen. The only small drawback of Compact Mode is that it costs a minor performance hit on data access. Besides, it only supports Smart Image if the Image File feature is enabled.
With Primo a user can create both SCSI RAMdisks as well as logical ones (Direct-IO which offers faster access speeds). The program can also auto-create custom folders on the RAMdisk upon startup, as well as enable/disable NTFS compression and disk indexing automatically upon RAMdisk initialization, if the user chooses to do so. It also comes with an easy to use NTFS Junction Points tool, plus a Windows Environment Variables changer. Overall it is a very well-featured software.
ImDisk on the other hand doesn't have as many bells and whistles, but it does the job very well and it is also free.
On with the tests. For these benchmarks I have formatted both RAMdisks as NTFS. Indexing and NTFS compression has been disabled for both disks, and the Primo RAMdisk has been created as a Direct-IO logical one to ensure better performance. Here are the results:
The numbers are clear. Primo comes up as the obvious winner here, but it has to be said that if exFAT was to be used for the ImDisk RAMdisk then its results would have been a bit better. In fact I have already ran benchmarks for ImDisk as part of my original RAMdisk guide (link at the beginning of this article). Those tests were done with an older ImDisk version using exFAT (plus a much larger RAMdisk size), and those numbers were better. I plan to test these two programs again when new versions come out. Still, exFAT or no exFAT, the commercial solution is clearly the winner here.
So which one to choose? Personally I use both on different computers. Primo is ideal for newer systems and would suit less skilled users who would like the fact that a RAMdisk can be easily created using a wizard-driven interface. Using Primo on a powerful latest generation computer would allow the software to run at its full potential, without hardware-induced bottlenecks slowing it down. I love the sheer speed and options that Primo offers so I use it on my new X79 system in order to extract every possible ounce of speed out of the RAMdisk.
Still, I can also appreciate the great performance of ImDisk - plus the fact that it's free - and I'm currently using it on my laptop. ImDisk would be the geek's choice. It would suit the kind of user who doesn't mind meddling with batch scripts and command line arguments in order to automate the creation of a free RAMdisk with the properties they want, on every system startup.
At the end of the day both solutions are faster than most of their paid and freeware competitors anyway. Choosing between the two really depends on what each user needs from such a software. If people are willing to sacrifice some speed and options for the sake of an excellent freeware alternative, then ImDisk would do just fine. If however they need the fastest option combined with extra functionality and ease of use, then they will have to choose Primo and pay for the privilege.