RAW Computing

Speed up Firefox with a RAM disk

Web browsing is slow. Even with an optic fibre cable internet connection it can sometimes be slow. Anything that can help to speed up the web browser is welcome and here is an interesting idea: Create a RAM disk in spare memory and set the web browser's cache to it. Reading and especially writing to a physical disk drive is slow compared to memory (which is why SSDs are so great), and if a browser uses a RAM disk instead of a real disk it will boost the performance. Here's how to set one up.

Go and download Dataram RAMDisk. There is a free version that allows RAM disks of up to 4Gb to be created and this is fine for what we will be doing. Web browsers use no more than 1Gb of disk space for the cache.

Install and run Dataram RAMDisk and on the Settings tab, set the disk size. Windows XP needs 1Gb of memory and Windows 7 needs 2Gb minimum. Therefore to create a reasonable size RAM disk you need at least 2Gb of memory in Windows XP or 4Gb in Windows 7. These days there are few PCs sold with less than 4Gb of memory and 6Gb is quite common. This means that you can easily set aside 1Gb for a RAM disk. Select FAT32 for the format because it's better than FAT16.

Dataram RAMDisk

On the Load/Save tab you can specify that the RAM disk is loaded on startup and saved on shutdown. This is useful otherwise the web browser's cache would be wiped out every time you shut down and would be blank the next time you started Windows. (This could be useful for security purposes though and there's a Clear RAMDisk memory on exit option on the Options tab too.)

Click Start RAMDisk and in a second or two there will be a brand new disk drive showing up in Explorer windows allocated with the next drive letter.

Let's tell Firefox to use this RAM disk for its cache. Start Firefox and enter about:config. Right click in the list of preferences and select New, String. Name it browser.cache.disk.parent_directory and set the value to the the new location for the cache. This will be F:\ or whatever drive letter the RAM disk shows up as in Explorer.

Quit Firefox and restart it. It will now write to the RAM disk instead of the real disk. This gives a tiny performance boost. At first the cache will be empty, but as you browse the web the speed should become more noticeable.

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