Saturday, 1 August 2009

Browsing Better With a RAM Disk

My browser, where I live, had been less than optimal. It would lag during video playback, pause before page loads, blow out on memory use, and grind away on my hard drive.
It was not good, and having recently doubled my RAM I had memory to spare.

I downloaded Gavotte RamDisk (instructions page here) and set up a 512MB RAM disk.

I use Firefox Portable (link) and, after emptying the cache and reducing the cache limit to 300MB, copied it over to the RAM disk.

The results:
  • App startup time faster by 40%
  • App shutdown time faster by 60%
  • Firefox RAM use reduced by 30%
  • CPU load reduced by 50%
  • Video no longer lagging
  • Browsing snappier
  • HDD not constantly spinning
  • Laptop fan spinning much slower
Every single metric improved noticeably (though RAM savings in Firefox are more than offset by the memory cost of the RAM disk).

There are three disadvantages to this setup:
  • Cache is lost on reboot
  • Application prefs/bookmarks are lost on reboot
  • RAM disk must be set up after reboot
The first two problems can be overcome by copying the Firefox Portable folder back, overwriting the original folder. In addition I use Xmarks, a Firefox extension which synchronizes my bookmarks between PCs from an online backup.
The third problem is what it is, though it can take as little as ten seconds plus copying the application folder over.

A probable further benefit of this setup is battery life, which I haven't tested yet.

No comments: