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SoftRAM or SoftSCAM?


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I used a program back in the day called RAM Doubler for my Mac. It just used virtual memory (storage space on the hard drive) to "increase" the RAM. Nowadays, computers can have up to 128 GB of RAM, depending on the model. I know the discontinued iMac Pro could hold 128 GB of RAM, if I recall correctly. So, there isn't a need for these types of programs anymore. Even if they worked, which I doubt, you still need to increase RAM physically anyway once it is required. This would depend on the applications and the OS, and their memory requirements.

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I tried SoftRAM or something similar for Windows98 and even XP. I didn't see any real change. There was RamDoubler from Connectix for both MAC and PC - and it actually did compression, but gains were minimal. Was also unstable. Either way I quickly reasoned that any data compression would thrash the CPU cache and not be any better than HDD based Virtual Memory. So I thankfully lost interest and recouped any money I spent.

With 32GB standard in entry-level rigs, there is zero need for RAM compression. Though Windows 10 & 11 does it for real. A automatically.

But. Now. Disk compression was a whole other animal. The thought of doubling my HDD space was almost too good to be true. But it was true! Overall disk compression increased space for real by 1.3 to 1.7 for an honest-to-goodness ratio. 200MB suddenly became 260-300MB - depending on the datasets. BMPs compressed well, JPGs did not. And gamedata anywhere in-between. That's what was reported. Had good experiences with DriveSpace in MS-DOS 6.22. If I had been been into PCs earlier I would've used Stacker from Stac Electronics.

In the 486 days, the speed of hard drives and the processor and the bus were just right to notably benefit from compression. Most pre-VLB systems were I/O bound. The CPU running at 2x clock could whip through the compression routines on the fly fast enough to see gains from lesser amounts of data being transferred.

Once set up I found it reliable and transparent, even being able to load the driver high. Sure, there was one more layer going but I didn't experience any data loss. Though I see how that could happen. And if it were to occur it was of no consequence with backups.

DriveSpace even worked with Norton Utilities SpeedDisk. You would first make the host drive contiguous. Then you could organize the files within the compressed volume.

Additionally I still have it on my vintage rig. And it made imaging the HDDs - already done. All I had to do was copy the .CVF file to my modern PC and put it and the driver into PCEM virtual disk.

A lesson learned in the Apple II days payed off well here. Never turn the system off till all disk activity is done. With a compressed volume this meant getting up from my workstation AND THEN turning it off. Allowed SMARTDRV cache to flush pending writes.

All in all a great tool that saved me hundreds by allowing me to push off bigger capacity disks till even BIGGER ones were available.

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