At home, I'll sometimes set up a test web server with a SQL database simply for testing purposes. For some tasks, particularly in the case of large SQL datasets, the platters on standard hard disks can prove to be an obvious bottleneck on performance. It was also unfortunate that I didn't have an SSD handy that I could use for higher speed reads and writes for my test server. Even if I did though, MLC and TLC SSDs tend to wear out fast when subjected to numerous write cycles, and I probably wouldn't have wanted to risk causing such damage.
At that point, I decided to do a bit of sleuthing on ways to crank up the performance any way I could without breaking the bank. Finally, my prayers were answered by a good friend of mine who told me about a caching utility for Windows that he uses routinely.
- Title: FancyCache
- Author: Romex Software
- Product URL: http://www.romexsoftware.com/en-us/fancy-cache/index.html
- Supported OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8
- Price: Freeware for now
- Bottom Line: FancyCache offers gains in disk performance on your Windows install. The initial setup is easy, all the while allowing further tweaks to your caching configuration as well.
FancyCache by Romex Software is an interesting piece of software that uses the system's internal memory to boost read and write speeds to disk drives. Unlike your traditional RAM disk software which creates an actual drive that maps space to physical memory, Fancy Cache works transparently in the background after a single "set-it-and-forget-it" procedure. All I had to do was set the cache size, the drives that I wanted FancyCache to monitor, and then kicked back and let the software initialize and get to work. After installation and configuration, I noticed an appreciable difference in disk performance compared to before the addition of FancyCache.
FancyCache opens a plethora of options to fiddle with for the power user
Romex Software states that FancyCache uses state-of-the-art read and write cache algorithms that predict what data should hit the memory reserve for optimum performance gains. If you want to tweak the caching method yourself, the settings area provides a wealth of options to tweak and mess around with to your satisfaction.
Although I was perfectly satisfied with all the defaults as they were, you could go as far as to enable an extra "Level-2" layer cache to an actual SSD, increase block sizes, or enable deferred writes. If you are running 32-bit Windows, FancyCache will even use the memory allocated past the 4 GB barrier that is typically imposed, making the lack of a true 36-bit Physical Address Extension mode much less painful.
Disk performance increases can be easily measured via Performance Statistics
As of this writing, FancyCache is a beta product and is likely to have its share of bugs. In my tests though, I found the software to be surprisingly stable and reliable, even after subjecting the computer to forced shutdowns and reboots. Everything gracefully resumed back to normal operation soon afterwards. More traditional RAM disk software I have tried in the past, such as Dataram's RAMDisk utility hasn't been as seamless in this area, resulting in manual rebuilds of the disk image before functionality could even be restored.
Before snagging a copy of FancyCache, there are two important things to note. First, there are two editions of FancyCache, with one designed for full physical drives and the other for volumes or partitions. Depending on your usage scenario, you can choose one over the other as you see fit.
Also, because this software is regarded as beta-grade, the author has incorporated a trial time limit. If the software complains that it is expired and not operational soon after installation, you can acquire a new trial key for free at the Romex Software forums, which is designed to last 180 days from first use.
For anyone that wishes to see a nice performance boost on disk operations, FancyCache is worthy of some serious consideration. As far as whether this software will remain freeware or go to a commercial paid model is yet to be seen. However, there's no doubt that Romex Software did a great job with FancyCache and I personally would be willing to pay a bit of money for it if they decide to sell licenses down the road.
An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Customer Success Professional for Ultimate Software in Santa Ana, California.