RAMDisk

The RAMDisk software is exclusively offered on selected ASUS ROG product lines and enables users to utilize the available system DRAM to its full capability.

1. Design Concept

The basic concept behind the ROG RAMDisk software is to provide a quick and easy way for users to further enhance the performance of their system and durability of their SSD(s), by utilizing the system memory (DRAM) that is not in use. This software was developed mainly for the following usage scenario:

Unlocking the last mile performance:

Modern ROG PCs usually feature a memory capacity of between 4~64GB in total.  However, Windows 7 or Windows 8 features a better use of memory so most of it remains empty, a large amount of the time. In many cases, a application will still have its performance limited due to the need to access or cache data hosted by the SSD or HDDs into memory.  This creates a notable delay. While less than ever with the prolific use of modern SSDs, the SATA bus is still a number of times slower than main memory access latency and bandwidth. The ROG RAMDisk can form ability to junction with exiting files hosted on the SSD or HDD. It simply remaps the original contents into the RAMDisk, enabling access to the desired application or data to be done purely within the DRAM bus, minimizing executing latency as well as data read-in time.

Extending SSD lifetime and increasing performance:

The extensive write events to permanent mass storage such as SSD or even spindle HDDs often wears out its life-time after period usage.  This effect is especially noticeable when running applications involving heavy duty write events such as P2P downloads.  The system DRAM on the other hand can sustain close to infinite access attempts, making it the perfect choice for such application.  By utilizing the ROG RAMDISK software, users will be able to divert the access critical folder from permanent mass storage to the DRAM, where it only does one single access to the permanent storage during system shutdown, assuring the maximum life time for permanent mass storage devices in the system.

2. Key Features

The key highlights of the ROG RAMDisk are:

Partial Caching Capability to put RAM Disk to Best Use:

The ROG RAMDisk, does not require to port the entire application to the RAM Disk to benefit from its ultra fast performance.  By creating a junction of existing folder between the permanent storage (SSD/HDD) and the RAM Disk, the system will copy across the data then access the RAM Disk data as if they were installed into the RAM Disk initially. The system only sees one version of the data so there is no risk of duplication.

Make the most of your investment: full utilization of free DRAM space:

Most bundled RAM Disk applications may limit the DRAM space due to licensing issues, while extra changes may be involved to obtain access to DRAM space above certain limits.  The ROG RAMDISK offers a complete functionality as is, where the entire free DRAM space can be utilized to create as many RAM Disk drives as necessary (depending on the remaining driver letters available). There are no further costs involved, enabling full flexibility for all sorts of applications. The only limitation is the installation and the access to the ROG RAMDisk software will be granted, as long as the supported ROG motherboard is detected.

Easy to Use Intuitive User Interface:

The user interface has been carefully arranged to allow intuitive management of the RAM Disk.  This enables users to create a RAM Disk in a single click, while the RAM Disk junction can also be created within just three steps.  Furthermore, the usable system memory space are also represented in both graphical and text, to allow easy interpretation, depending on your preference.

Writes Back to Permanent Storage Only When Absolutely Necessary:

Traditional RAM Disk solutions, which, in the event of the system shutdown process, involve the need to write the entire contents stored in the RAM Disk back to the permanent storage to ensure data integrity.  The ROG RAMDisk however, takes the other approach by updating only the modified contents, leaving the rest of the contents untouched.  This prevents extensive writes, which extends the life of permanent storage such as SSD drives.

Silent Load During OS Start-Up:

A RAM Disk generally takes time to create and load during OS start-up, as data stored in RAM is not longer kept after power down.  This results in the extension of OS loading time, which happens to be one of the key concerns of the RAM Disk users. To overcome this architecture limitation, The ROG RAMDisk prepares itself in the background while the OS loads up, and allows access even during the preparation process, making this process invisible to the user.

3. The Implementation

As shown in the diagram above, a read or write command usually involves undesired latency and bandwidth bottlenecks due to the need to go across multiple data buses.  This situation is especially critical in the cases of a multi-tasking environment, where extensive read and write events takes place.

 

To reduce the performance bottleneck, the ROG RAMDisk first utilizes a kernel-based driver, which presents itself as a standard mass storage medium once created. It will then further redirect the traffic from the original mass storage device to the RAM Disk if junction was configured.  The data hosted on the RAM Disk is later compared, and only the changes made are updated back to the mass storage devices before the system shuts down to ensure data integrity, component life time and maximized I/O performance.

4. Black Listed Folders for the RAM Disk

Not all data is needed or even advised to be stored into RAM Disk, due to specific requirements of software architectures. The listed below outlines the black list of folders that are not suitable for RAM Disk Utilization when optimal performance is desired:

  • Swap File / Page File: The swap file is simply the permanent storage space used as the virtual memory expansion of the system memory to make the system believe that it has more system memory space than it really has.  Moving the swap file into the RAM Disk simply defeats the whole purpose of having it in the first place.  As the result, doing so will not benefit the system performance at all.
  • Start Up Folders: Considering the ROG RAMDisk generates and populates its RAM Disk during OS start-up, doing so will slow down the start up time as the files won’t be there before the time of execution.  This is therefore unsuitable. 

5. Recommended Test Procedures for Benchmarking

If you intend to benchmark your RAMDisk, we recommend the following as a reference

  • An ROG Motherboard featuring ROG RAMDisk application
  • A HDD or SSD with frequently accessed data on it.
  • 16-64GB of system memory [depending on the maximum capacity of your motherboard].
  • Microsoft Windows 7 64bit [Pro or Ultimate required due to 16GB limitation with Home Premium] or Windows 8 64bit
  • ROG RAMDisk software package.
One of the four configuration below can be used to verify the effect of the RAM Disk:
  • Using a game title (like Civilization 5) that generates extensive reads when loading maps, textures, models and other data during game load, and/or extensive writes during game saves.
  • I/O intensive applications such as Adobe CS series.
  • Virtual machine application such as VMWare with a licensed copy of another OS to use in it.
  • Disk Benchmark Utilities such as CrystalDiskMark, ATTO or IOMeter.

Configuration 1: Game Loading Time

  1. Install desired game.
  2. Record the time it takes to load a save-game.
  3. Exit from the game, and restart the system.
  4. Activate the ROG RAMDisk software, set the drive name, desired size, and then click the “Add” button to build the desired RAM Disk.  Be mindful of how much space your game takes and set the RAMDisk a few GB more than it. Once the RAM Disk is created, it will appear in the virtual drive list.  It can be removed from the system to release the DRAM space occupied, by clicking the garbage bin icon. 
  5. Click on the Junction tab to bring up the junction configuration submenu. Select the drive letter of the RAM Disk to be used, the folder where the game was hosted and finally press the Add button to kick start the data synchronization process.  The Synchronize button can be clicked at any time to manually sync all changes made in the game back onto your permanent storage. 
  6. Simply test the loading time of the same game again and compare the difference.

Configuration 2: I/O Intensive Applications

  1. Follow the same steps as in the game loading time, but with your application and project file instead of game and save file.

Combination 3: Virtual Machine OS Loading Time

  1. Copy the virtual OS image into the desired folder on the HDD or SSD.
  2. Test the loading time of the virtual OS image from here.
  3. After creating the RAMDisk, click on the Junction tab to bring up the junction configuration submenu, select the drive letter of the RAM Disk to be used, both the folder where VMWare main program and the OS image was hosted, and finally have a quick press of the Add button to kick start the data synchronization process. 
  4. Activate VMWare, and start up the OS image with the same method used in step 2, and compare the difference.

Configuration 4: I/O Benchmarks

Activate ROG RAMDISK software, set the drive name, desired size, and then click the “Add” button to build the desired RAM Disk.

  1. Test the RAMDisk with benchmark utilities, and see how it compares with the performance of the HDD or SSD. You should see a significant difference!

Quick Comparison Between Storage Mediums

ramdisk compare