Second Life RAM Disk

You probably know that most of the data in our computers is saved to magnetic media hard drives that have spinning disks inside. The disk has delays as the read heads must wait for the disk to rotate the wanted data under the read/write heads. It can take the heads 4 to 12ms to find the data. Then the data can only be read as fast as the next bit of data comes to the read/write head.

Inside a Typical Hard Drive

Inside a Typical Hard Drive

Newer solid state drives (SSD) have no moving parts. So, there is no delay waiting for disks and/or read/write heads to rotate into position. So, rather than waiting several milliseconds the data is available in less than a millisecond. If you put your Second Life cache on an SSD, you will have a faster more responsive cache… places you have previously visited will render faster.

While conventional hard drives are cheap and can store terabytes of data on a single drive, the SSD’s are expensive. The cost per gigabyte of storage is about 100 times more than for conventional hard drives.

Also, while hard drives typically last 5 years or longer SSD’s have a life time that is shortened by use. Depending on whom one talks to life expectancy is 1 to 10 years, with 1 to 2 being more commonly stated. Manufactures hype longer life. We are finding out and I expect many current SSD’s to have a shorter life than expected. Only time will tell. But, as the technology develops they are living longer and getting cheaper. For now the tech is new and you know what that means: unexpected problems.

As SSD’s fill up they get slower… still faster than hard disks. Windows 7 and 8 have features to handle TRIM, which keeps the SSD cleaned up. If you use an SSD then you need to learn about TRIM.

Inside a Solid State Drive

Inside a Solid State Drive

An even faster and longer lasting solution is to use the computer’s memory as an SSD. We call this use of the computer’s Random Access Memory (RAM) a RAM Drive. You can see where one person benchmarked the speed difference here: SSD-vs-RAMdisk. While it took the SSD 0.6ms to get data the RAM Drive delivered it in 0.01ms.

Computer memory is designed for speed, reliability, and lots of read/writes. Its disadvantage is it only works and remembers things when power is supplied. Turn of the computer and the memory clears. But, RAMDisks are old tech and various ways to preserve the data on a RAMDisk have been devised.

So, for the fastest cache for Second Life using computer memory for a RAM Drive is a good, cheap solution.

Trinity Dejavu, with Catznip Viewer, has provided a tutorial on setting up a RAM Drive for Windows users. See: Speeding up SL with a RAMDisk.

7 thoughts on “Second Life RAM Disk

  1. I was talking to someone about a high-end SSD and had planned to put my cache on it. Anyway, his recommendation was never to fill it up. Most drives as sold incorporate 7% overprovisioning (unused space, why you see weird numbers for them like 980 GB). However you can increase it by formatting a usable area on it to less than that. The golden spot is 28% unused, but remember 7% is set aside already. So figure out what your SSD’s real size is (probably 128, 256, 512, 1024, etc…) and format 72% of that.

  2. (spelling correct from last post)

    Interesting posting to introduce SSD to those that are not yet aware of them. I have been using SSD drives in all my laptops and my most powerful DESKTOP for 3 years now. My most important point to make in this response is:

    If you are not using an SSD drive for your laptop and desktop (even if only as a OS Boot disk), you are missing out on MASSIVE IMPROVEMENTS on your system! Especially with the major drop in SSD drive pricing (under $100 for 120GB), adding an SSD to your system is now a NO-Brainer.

    To give you all an idea of the improvement. I had a 5 year old laptop that I was getting real slow and I was on the verge of giving away. It took almost 2 minutes to fully boot up. I decided to replace the original HD with a cheap 60GB SSD drive (it was a Win7 laptop already). All I did was IMAGE Backup, install the new SSD, image restore (about 30 minutes time) and BOOM my laptop had SSD. As for performance, my laptop now boots up in 35 seconds and two years later is still a very usable laptop.

    Some of the points in this posting might have been valid 3 years ago during the infancy of SSD entering the consumer market but these fears of SSD drive lifespan is somewhat outdated information and also only has merit depending on HOW you use the SSD.

    Yes, SSD drive to have a WRITE QUANTITY limit that standard drives do not, but even this Write limit is often far greater than the expected useful lifespan of the drive before its technology age will likely force it to be replaced anyway. What I mean is – I have a 90MEG Hard drive that I bought 12 years ago. It still works to this day. But would I use it now? ANSWER: It went 100% operational into the garbage dump.

    There are ways to best leverage an SSD drive – especially for DESKTOPS. A #1 best practice is to install the SSD drive to be you OS BOOT & APPS Drive and then install a slower and larger and cheaper HD for your Data. The key to this recommendation is that system, OS, and App code is like 90% READ which dramatically reduces the write load on the SSD. Also this is where the biggest performance improvements will be noticed by SSD. Leave the Data read/writing on the slower drive.

    There are also other tricks to SSD drives and how they are best leveraged for system performance and lifespan. Too many to go into here. But many of these fine-tunings are already built into Win7 and Win8.

    I can go on and on about the virtues of SSD…. but the time for being skeptical about SSDs has past. TIME TO INVEST! They last longer than feared (I know!) and they will blow your mind on system performance.

    Trust Toy on this… you will thank me in the morning!

    • Oh I am just waiting for the tower I want (a new Mac Pro) to exist so I can put one in it!

      My current machine (an iMac) probably could but opening it is harder than a laptop. Not to mention that it will become just a second monitor/emergency backup machine in a few months.

  3. It’s been years since I’ve had SL installed on a spinning disk. I remember being elated when I first started running it from an SSD. It’s definitely worth it.

    Modern SSDs are very reliable. Most of the worries around lifespan have to do with very early drives. Presently there’s no reason to guess what one’s SSD life will pan out as.

    SSDs have SMART statuses to monitor like HDDs, and also report things like expected life left that software like the freeware version of will reveal for you. Intel also releases a program called SSD Toolbox ( too that similarly shows an SSD’s life expectancy. Regardless of what software you use, the actual life expectancy is reported by the hardware itself, not guesstimated by software.

    Intel’s software also includes an optimizer to extend a drive’s life and a diagnostic program if there’s every any issues I suppose. I’ve never had to run diagnostics, but I’ve run the optimizer when I’ve thought about it. Intel recommends once a week. I’ve had my present drive for 2 years and it’s reporting it has over 8 years of life left.

    So as far as fears of SSD life go, all modern ones ship with everything you need to be in the know. Years of SL use and a few OS installations haven’t battered my SSDs very much.

    • Thanks Ezra for pointing ppl to a couple of the many SSD deployment and best practices reference sites. They do go in great detail about how to best deploy an SSD.

      One was pointed out that an SSD drive should try to stay somewhat empty because of its internal handling of dying memory cells. If you are going to create a WIN7 OS Boot drive with a few deployed apps on this drive and a 2nd hard drive for data then you can get by with a 60GB SSD since a base Win7 install is about 25-30G. If you are installing on a laptop with only 1 drive bay then you need a bigger SSD – 120G or even 240G (still under $150).

      Also, unlike a std HD, DO NOT … 1) do extensive write performance tests on the SDD, 2) do defragmentation on the SSD. This not only is not needed but it can dramatically reduce SSD lifespan.

      As for SSD being a major improvement to a SecondLife experience by storing all SL’s cache data on it…. you will not see a major improvement regarding this front. Why? Because the major factors for SL Viewer Lag are not the speed of accessing your local SL Cache. Its the network throughput to the LL Servers (which cannot offer you any more than 1mbps no matter how fast your ISP is) and the LL SIM Server LAG and your laptop’s wireless adapter if you are accessing SL via a wireless link.

      SSD in general will make your boot up and system performance amazingly better and snappier – regardless of SL or not. So get an SSD to improve your system – not because it will improve SL.

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