I've found a way to make Firefox 3 or 2 lightning fast without compromising security or tweaking it in any way. It loads in under 15 seconds everytime. I've christened it Shaolin RAMming
. It takes RAM disking, which fodder uses, a step further. I create a RAM disk big enough to load the entire portable app edition of Firefox 3 and have it load up automatically at start up, where it stays for the duration of my session.
I've tried all the RAMdisk apps I could find out there, and settled on this very easy to use little number: Virtual Hard Drive Pro 2
from FarStone ($29.95 (US)). After installing it, I followed the directions for creating a RAM disk. In my case, I chose 200 MB (out of 1.5 GB RAM). Next, I downloaded and installed the portable app edition of Firefox 3 into my RAMdisk. Why portable? Because it's self-contained, and therefore won't be dragged down by having its cache, profiles, add-ons, etc, placed in various other locations on my hard drive. With Firefox 3 portable installed and configured with a 85 MB cache, it takes up about 170 MB of my 200 MB RAMdisk (leaving me a generous 25 to 30 MB of breathing room).
This RAMdisk application saves a disk image of your RAMdisk to any location you specify on whatever persistent storage medium you choose...automatically. Using the same disk imaging technology which apps like Acronis and ShadowProtect use, Virtual Hard Drive Pro 2
can be configured to take disk images of the contents of your RAMdrive either at regular user-specified intervals or just once upon shutdown. I chose the once upon shutdown option because I reboot my computer on a daily basis and don't mind losing a new bookmark or two if something goes wrong.
Since Virtual Hard Drive Pro 2
allows me to specify where to save this disk image, I chose my USB drive. In essence, I've completely bypassed my hard drive altogether. The disk image of my RAMdisk is saved to my USB drive upon shutdown (automatically). When I reboot, it is taken from my USB drive and reloaded into my RAMdisk (again, automatically). This cycle repeats itself without user intervention every time I start up or shut down my computer. I've been using this technique for about a year now without a single major disaster. Once or twice, when my machine locked up, I lost the contents of my RAMdisk, but then I simply reloaded yesterday's image file (saved to my USB drive). I lost a new bookmark or two, maybe one new add-on.
My results: Firefox 3 loads in under 15 seconds, runs eerily silent (no hard drive access noise or slowdown), and since it bypasses my hard drive completely, it saves that much wear and tear. All automatically. If an outage occurs, I simply recreate the RAMdisk and reload the image file from my USB drive (I also make a backup copy of it elsewhere on my hard drive). This technique works for any portable app, btw. The amount of available system RAM on your machine is the only limit.
(My system: Pentium 4 2.8 GHz (HT), 1.5 GB RAM, Windows XP Home, 180 GB SATA HD. Virtual Hard Drive 2 Pro
(presently discounted down to $20 US): http://www.farstone....rtual-hard-drive.htm