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I've read several game-performance and game-runs-slowly threads over the years. Every one of them says that an SSD will help a lot, but I never saw anyone report results from a ram drive. Well, I just rebuilt my system with 64-bit Win7, which can access more RAM than SC4 can, and I lucked into some free-salvage DDR2 memory sticks, upgrading from 4GB to 8GB of 667 MHz RAM. Since the system exists only for running legacy games like SC4, and because these dinosaurs can't use more than 3.5 GB even after applying the 4GB patch, the only use I see for all that RAM is to cache files on a virtual disk.

So I downloaded, scanned and installed a free program called imDisk. Then I used its convenient GUI interface to setup a RAM-drive with the following parameters:

  • 3GB
  • NTFS
  • Create at startup
  • (advanced) Use AWE (only physical RAM)
  • (advanced) Custom mount point at "...\RAMSC4"

I then wrote two CMD batch files, one to run when I sign on, and another to launch SC4. Buried deep in a user folder that executes all of its contents every time I log in is a shortcut to my boot script . In win7, deep means C:\users\<your username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup. Your OS may differ.

boot.cmd:

@echo off
echo Loading SC4 plugins into RAM disk
mkdir C:\Users\jrfisher\Documents\RAMSC4\Plugins
xcopy /D /Q /S T:\sc4\Plugins\* C:\Users\jrfisher\Documents\RAMSC4\Plugins\
echo Loading SC4 SF Peninsula region into RAM disk
mkdir C:\Users\jrfisher\Documents\RAMSC4\Regions
mkdir "C:\Users\jrfisher\Documents\RAMSC4\Regions\SF Peninsula"
xcopy /D /Q /S "T:\sc4\Regions\SF Peninsula\*" "C:\Users\jrfisher\Documents\RAMSC4\Regions\SF Peninsula\"
echo RAM-disk is ready
pause

So what's happening here? RAMSC4 is my RAM drive's mount point (you may choose differently). I'm treating it like an alternate user dir. I create a plugins folder and a regions folder inside, and then I use xcopy to load the data I want to use (plugins and one region). My hard-disk user dir is on my 'T' drive; yours probably isn't, so make alterations if you adapt my script to your own use.

I can fire up the machine, log into Win-7 and go get a beer. When I come back, it's ready. The script's exec time is under a minute when I stay to wait for it, and I can even do some other tasks if I stick around while it runs (but disk access is sluggish!). Once the script has run once, then as long as the PC stays on, I can launch SC4 on it several times, each time invoking the other script from a (run as administrator) shortcut on my desktop:

SC4.cmd:

@echo off
echo Launching SimCity 4 above normal priority, CPU1 only, res 1280x1024
pushd "C:\Program Files (x86)\SC4\Apps"
start "" /W /AFFINITY 2 /ABOVENORMAL "SimCity 4.exe" -f -gp -intro:off -music:off -d:DirectX -r1280x1024x32 -UserDir:"C:\Users\jrfisher\Documents\RAMSC4\"
echo Sync sc4 config
xcopy /D /Q /Y "C:\Users\jrfisher\Documents\RAMSC4\SimCity 4.cfg" "C:\Users\jrfisher\Documents\SimCity 4\"
echo sync changed city files
xcopy /D /S /Y  "C:\Users\jrfisher\Documents\RAMSC4\Regions\*"  "T:\sc4\Regions\"
echo Done  :)
popd
pause

This script is tricky to read. The pushd saves the current working directory on its way to the target where SC4 lives. Start then sets CPU affinity to the 2nd CPU only (effectively limiting the coming app to one core) and bumps priority "above normal". The W tells the script to wait for the app to end before doing further script commands. The program is "SimCity 4.exe" followed by its switches, which no longer need CPUCount in this context. Your switches might be different, especially the screen resolution. The UserDir is my RAM drive. Yours will use a different mount point if for no other reason than you have a different user name.

What comes after the app-start are xcopies from the RAM drive back to hard drive. Config remembers in-game settings and where you were in your region view; the regions files are your cities. The /Y switch in each tells xcopy to grab only files that are newer than counterparts already at the destination. Then popd changes the working directory back to whatever was pushed at the start of the script.

With plugins packed, loading the game from hard drive used to take 2:20, and loading my first city took another 3:10. Without even packing yet, loading the game from RAM drive takes 47 seconds, and loading my first city takes 2 minutes flat. My next step will be to datpack most plugins and possibly shrink the RAM drive, hopefully speeding up each stage even further.

This is a good gain for me, and scripts have reduced effort to the same as launching from a shortcut, so for those who have surplus RAM (and no budget to put an SSD in your SC4 computer), I heartily recommend using a RAM drive. Let me know if you have any questions  :)

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