How to Easily Create RAM Disk on Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, CentOS

This tutorial will show you how to quickly create a RAM disk in any Linux distro (Debian, Ubuntu, Linux, Fedora, Arch Linux, CentOS, etc). Compared to commercial Windows RAM disk software that costs money, Linux can utilize this cool feature 100% free of charge.

What is RAM Disk?

RAM disk is also known as RAM drive. It’s a portion of your RAM that are formated with a file system. You can mount it to a directory on your Linux system and use it as a disk partition.

Why use RAM disk?

RAM is ultra-fast compared to even the fastest solid state drive (SSD). As you may know, the main performance bottleneck in today’s computer is the speed of hard drive, so moving programs and files to the RAM disk yields super fast computing experience.

Pros of RAM disk:

  • Ultra-fast
  • Can sustain countless reads and writes

Cons of RAM disk:

  • RAM is volatile which means all data in RAM disk will be lost when the computer shutdowns or reboots. However, this can be a pro in some situations, if you use it wisely.
  • RAM is expensive so it has limited capacity. You need to make sure not allocate too much space for RAM disk, or the operating system would run out of RAM.

You can do a lot of interesting things with RAM disk.

  • RAM disk is best suited for temporary data or caching directories, such as Nginx FastCGI cache. If you use a SSD and there will be a lot of writes to a particular directory, you can mount that directory as a RAM disk to reduce wear out of SSD.
  • I also use RAM disk to temporary store screenshots when writing articles on this blog, so when my computer shut down, those screenshots will automatically be deleted on my computer.
  • You may not believe it, but I use RAM disk to run virtual machines inside VirtualBox. My SSD is about 250G. I can’t run many VMs directly on the SSD and I’m not happy about the speed of my 2TB mechanical hard drive (HDD). I can move the VM from HDD to RAM disk before starting the VM, so the VM can run much faster.  After shutting down the VM, I move the VM files back to HDD, which takes less than 1 minute. This of course requires your computer to have a large capacity RAM.

How to Create a RAM Disk in Any Linux Distro

First make a directory which can be anywhere in the file system such as

sudo mkdir /tmp/ramdisk

If you want to let every user on your Linux system use the RAM disk, then change its permission to 777.

sudo chmod 777 /tmp/ramdisk

Next, check how much free RAM are left on your system with htop command line utility because we don’t want to use too much RAM.

htop

easily create ram disk linux

Then all left to do is to specify the file system type, RAM disk size, device name and mount it to the above directory. You can see from the screenshot above that I have plenty of free RAM, so I can easily allocate 1GB for my RAM disk. This can be done with the following one-liner. It will be using tmpfs file system and its size is set to 1024MB. myramdisk is the device name I gave to it.

sudo mount -t tmpfs -o size=1024m myramdisk /tmp/ramdisk

To allocate 10G for the RAM disk, run this instead.

sudo mount -t tmpfs -o size=10G myramdisk /tmp/ramdisk

If we issue the following command

mount | tail -n 1

We can see it’s successfully mounted.

create linux ramdisk

Now if I copy my VirtualBox machines file (5.8G) into the RAM disk, my RAM usage suddenly goes up to 9.22G.

linux automount ramdisk

If I unmount RAM disk,

sudo umount /tmp/ramdisk/

Everything in that directory will be lost and RAM usage goes down to original.

linux ramdisk file system

This is how you can test if your RAM disk is working.

Test RAM Disk Speed

To test write speed of RAM disk, you can use dd utility.

sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/tmp/ramdisk/zero bs=4k count=100000

Which gave me 2.8GB/s write speed.

linux ramdisk speed test

To test read speed, run:

sudo dd if=/tmp/ramdisk/zero of=/dev/null bs=4k count=100000

Which gave me 3.1 GB/s read speed.

I also did a speed test on my SSD. The write speed is 534MB/s and read speed 1.6GB/s.

Auto-mount on System Boot

Edit /etc/fstab file.

sudo nano /etc/fstab

Add an entry like this:

myramdisk  /tmp/ramdisk  tmpfs  defaults,size=1G,x-gvfs-show  0  0

x-gvfs-show will let you see your RAM disk in file manager. Save and close the file. Your Linux system will automatically mount the RAM disk when your computer boots up.

To mount it immediately without reboot, run the following command.

sudo mount -a

How to Run VirtualBox VM on RAM Disk

Note that this requires a large capacity RAM.

When you create a brand new virtual machine, you should set the machine folder to the RAM disk directory (/tmp/ramdisk/).

Run VirtualBox VM on RAM Disk

If you have an existing VM, then select the VM in the main VirtualBox Manager window and go to the menu bar and select Machine -> Move, or right-click the VM and select Move from the context menu. You will be prompted to choose a new folder for the virtual machine. Select /tmp/ramdisk/ as the new folder.

Virtualbox move virtual machine folder

Remember to move your VM back to the original folder before shutting down your computer, or your VM will be deleted.

Wrapping Up

And that’s the basics of creating RAM disk in Linux. If you found this post useful, then subscribe to our free newsletter or follow us Twitter or like our Facebook page. Thanks for visiting!

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