Software to create virtual CDs and RAM disks – Kyle Lunau
Have you ever found yourself scrounging your desk for a CD/DVD? Don’t you wish you could just keep that CD/DVD in its entirety on your computer? Well the Virtual Drive software from Farstone does just that. Here is a quick overview of the software straight from Farstone:
VirtualDrive Pro copies a CD or unprotected DVD as a compressed image, or “virtual CD,” which runs in place of the original disc in any one of up to 23 “virtual drives.” You can archive these virtual CDs in a searchable library, transport them on a laptop computer, and share them over a network. Virtual discs play directly on the hard drive, saving wear and tear on your CD-ROM drive and extending the battery life of laptop computers. They have access speeds nearly 200 times faster than their CD-ROM counterparts, greatly improving the performance of PC games, photo CDs, and disc-based applications.
VirtualDrive Pro makes it a snap to create custom virtual CDs with favorite tracks, expansion packs, documentation, and custom programs. Run as many virtual CDs simultaneously as you have available virtual drive letters, moving from one PC game or application to another without having to swap out CDs or wait for discs to spin up.
Features & Benefits
- Multimedia Capability:
Create movies and slide shows from your favorite still photos, MP3s, and video clips Virtual Hard Drive: Run virtual CDs in RAM up to 340 times faster than on your hard drive
- Virtual Hard Drive:
Build a RAM disk to run applications in RAM up to 340 times faster than on your hard drive
- Disc Support:
VirtualDrive reads CD-ROMs, audio CDs, mixed-mode CDs, photo CDs, video CDs (DVD-ROMs data-mode), and unencrypted video DVDs, and offers the same PC game support as GameDrive and VirtualDrive
- Custom Virtual CD Creation:
Compile your own virtual CDs containing favorite tracks, documentation, expansion packs, and custom programs
- CD/DVD Burning:
Burn virtual CDs and DVDs, audio files, data CDs, mixed mode CDs, and more
- Optimal Performance:
Run files directly on the hard drive with read times up to 200 times faster. Plus, there’s no spin-up delay!
- CD/DVD Archiving:
Organize your virtual disc library in a searchable, browsable interface
- Intuitive GUI:
VirtualDrive’s user-friendly interface lets you get up and running in no time!
- Disc Backup:
Protect your CDs and DVDs from loss, theft, and damage by using high-quality disc images instead
- Multiple Disc Play:
Pre-load up to 23 virtual discs and toggle back and forth between games or virtual CD volumes without having to wait for physical discs to spin up
- Portability and Convenience:
Transport your virtual CDs on a laptop, an external hard drive, and other common digital storage media
- Live Update Subscription: Get the latest patches, fixes, and game support. It’s free for the first year!
VirtualDrive Pro copies an entire CD or DVD as a compressed disc image file, or virtual CD, which contains a driver that fools Windows into treating it as if it were a physical CD running in a CD-ROM drive. In Windows Explorer, a virtual disc shows up as a drive letter.
VirtualDrive Pro lets you create up to 23 virtual CD/DVD-ROM drives and an unlimited number of virtual CDs and DVDs. You can configure as many virtual drives as you have available drive letters and run multiple virtual CDs simultaneously.
30-day, money back guarantee.
- CPU: Intel Pentium 133 or higher
- RAM: 64 MB or more
- Hard Drive: 25 MB free space
- Operating System: Windows 2000 and XP 32-bit operating systems; 64-bit support will be available by fall 2006
- Optional: CD/DVD burner
Okay so there are two ways you can get the Virtual Drive 10 software, or any Farstone software for that matter – you can either buy it in a store or buy it off their site and download it immediately. If you choose to download it, it’s a 71.2 MB file so it won’t take long to download.
So after you get the software using either method it comes time to install it.
So the first thing you see is a standard InstallShield Wizard pop-up:
Then the license agreement:
Then a screen that lets you input your customer information with your name and serial number:
Then you can choose where to install the software to:
Next you choose the number of virtual drives you want to create and their drive names. You can have anywhere from 1 to a whopping 23 virtual drives. Note that I can only create 19 because some drive letters have already been used (A,C,D,E,F, and I in my case):
Finally we can start installing this amazing software!
The install took about 5 minutes to complete:
When the install is finished you can choose to run and create a shortcut to the Virtual Drive software:
You have to reboot your computer to run the software, though:
Upon reboot we are presented with a Virtual Drive icon on the taskbar (from here on in the screenshots get a little sketchy, sorry guys!)
Finally it comes down to getting things set up. You can choose to register if you like but it is not mandatory:
And now to look over this impressive piece of software, as you can see besides creating and running disk images the software also has a number backup burning options..
..media burning options..
..disk image creation, conversion, and management features:
Okay this is where it gets REALLY interesting. The Pro version of Virtual Drive 10 includes Farstone’s Virtual Hard Drive Pro. This software allows you to create a partition on your RAM allowing you to store files, or install software on your RAM – very cool!
And here is a little overview of the Virtual Hard Drive software, also from Farstone’s website.
File and applications perform up to 340 time faster, making Virtual Hard Drive Pro the program of choice for reducing server load and the response time of calculation-intensive applications.
Virtual Hard Drive Pro supports an unlimited amount of RAM, and is designed to improve the performance of server-based operations.
Features & Benefits
- Blazing Speed
Install files, applications, and databases on a virtual hard drive to run them up to 340 times faster in RAM – with no changes the way they’re used
- Reduced wear and tear
A virtual hard drive never wears out. You can run it at maximum bandwidth without fear of mechanical failure or performance-slowing fragmentation
- Quiet, cool operation
Unlike a hard drive, your system RAM contains no moving parts to generate noise and heat
Businesses operating multiple servers responding to multiple requests can improve access speed by moving frequently accessed html files to a virtual hard drive. You can even store an entire database in RAM! Create a virtual hard drive to boost the performance of:
- Web browsers (cache for faster web surfing)
- Software compilers
- Custom applications with high I/O, high bandwidth, or high security requirements
- SETI processing
- TEMP files
- Swap space
- Web server cache
- 30-day, money back guarantee
To finish off, the software also allows you to erase RW media and get info on your optical drives:
Now it’s time to create a VCD file of a CD-ROM that Virtual Drive can read. As you can see, I am doing this with 007 Nightfire Disc 1. From this window you can see the files that the software will copy, the format, and the space the VCD file will take up:
Now you can choose where you want the VCD file saved. It also tells you the amount of space the VCD file will use vs the total amount of disk space remaining, very nice:
Next we choose the type of security protection on the CD or leave the software on auto-detect. You can also choose to use data compression or not and if so how much to use:
Last but not least you can write in descriptions, passwords, and specify commands to be executed when the process is complete:
A final summary of what the software is about to perform:
And away it goes! It says more than one hour to complete at this point but that is not true – I will show you how long it really took a little later:
Thankfully the program doesn’t use much CPU or RAM, so you can do something else while the program is running:
..and done! Well luckily it only took a little over 25 minutes, not the over one hour it was saying at the beginning!
Now we right click the Virtual Drive icon and mount the image (and pray that it works):
Two 007s? Looking good so far:
We made it to the menu but will it crash and burn?
YES! I am now playing Nightfire with no CD, awesome!
You can’t really tell, but this is the end of creating a VCD file for BF2. I knew that if the software were going to fail it would be on BF2, so I threw BF2 at it. And? Well? It worked marvellously.
Not only was I able to play BF2 singleplayer, but online worked perfectly as well. When I had another CD imaging software called Alcohol 120% installed, BF2 would not even start. It would detect the emulation. So Farstone has created an invisible disk imaging utility – props to Farstone!
And now for the really cool stuff.. creating a RAM disk. As you can see, using the Virtual Hard Drive software you can select drive letter, size, and file system for your RAM disk:
Next we create a RAM disk image for the system to use. The image is a save of what is on the RAM disk at any given time so important files are not lost:
Then the software creates the RAM disk:
And this is what we get when it is finished. The software pops up as does our brand spanking new H: RAM partition!
After the partition is created, you can select from a menu of options what kinds of behaviours you want the software to perform, such as saving the drive image every five minutes:
FYI – Not every disk imaging will take 25 minutes. Delta Force: Black Hawk Down took three minutes and ten seconds with max compression.
I have to say that Virtual Drive 10 Pro is one of the most useful pieces of software I have ever seen. Not only does it allow you to create and run disk images, but you can also create RAM disks and it features a full suite of disk burning tools.
You will note that I didn’t analyze the performance of the RAM disk I created. There are two reasons for this:
One is that I only have 1 GB of RAM in my system, meaning that I can create only a very small RAM partition before system performance takes a hit.
Two is that I did manage to get 3DMark01 on the RAMdrive (flawlessly I might add), but the time it took to load the tests was not really affected. I think this is due more to 3DMark01 being old rather than the RAM partition being slow. If you have files on your computer that are constantly being accessed, you would probably find a huge performance increase in using the RAM disk.
So on to the Pros and Cons:
- Allows for the creation and running of disk images from your hard drive
- Features lots of burning tools for different media
- Allows you to create RAM partitions for storage
- Excellent and easy to use interface
- Very small file size at 71.18 MB
- You don’t have to go looking for CDs! (Or DVDs!)
Virtual Drive 10 Pro is an excellent piece of software and the people at Farstone have clearly done their homework. This software is an excellent addition to any software collection but especially for those of you who:
A. Are prone to losing CD/DVD media.
B. Those of you looking for a way to use your terabyte RAID.
C. Those of you with 2-4 GBs of RAM who would like to dabble in solid-state storage but want to be able to reallocate the storage to RAM when Vista comes out.
D. Those of you with files that are constantly being accessed on your computer and want a performance speed up.
So I have to tip my hat to the guys at Farstone for creating such an excellent product – great job guys! This software is available from Farstone for $79.99 USD or if you want the Non-Pro version, that is $49.99 USD. The difference between the two is that the Non-Pro version does not include the Virtual Hard Drive software.
If you want the Virtual Hard Drive software alone, it is $49.99 USD for the Pro version and $29.99 for the Non-Pro version, the difference being that the Non-Pro version is capped at a 900 MB RAM disk while the Pro version is not limited.