Thursday, March 27, 2014

Don't Keep It!

If you're like me, you download quite a bit of software.  Most of that software is probably a one-time install, to do something useful for you, or just to try out.  With Google, you can find something to do almost anything your heart desires.

Where do you store that software?  Do you just download it to a local directory and forget about it once its installed?  Disk space is cheap, so why not leave it where it is?  That's what I used to do.  The trouble arises during clean-up however.  Some time goes by and you decide to go through that trove and maybe keep a few things that were interesting.  Wait...what was interesting again?  OK, just check what you currently have installed.  Oh, but wait again, didn't you re-install a bunch of stuff after a hard drive crash about 2 months ago?   Well, you can probably always find the interesting stuff (or new interesting stuff) on the 'net again.  Do you really want to continually go through this cycle of binge and purge?

NO!  You don't need to keep it.  There are many simple solutions, but I take a cue from Linux (and its precursors).  Linux has a directory called /tmp where you can put anything you don't need to keep around for too long.  This directory is purged with extreme prejudice (read indiscriminately) after a reboot or according to a schedule.  Windows has a temp directory as well, usually as a subdirectory in the user's home or in C:\temp.  But unless you take special measures, this directory is almost never purged.

My solution has been to set up a (relatively) small RAM disk.  A RAM disk uses some of your computer's (very fast) memory to create a virtual disk that acts just like a hard drive.  For our purposes it has two great advantages:  it's fast and it's temporary.  A RAM disk makes installs very quick because the installation program doesn't have to access the slow hard drive.  Also, because it's in memory, as soon as the power goes off, the disk and everything stored on it ceases to exist.  You can choose to have its contents saved back to a real hard drive upon shutdown, but that defeats our purpose.

So do yourself a favor.  When you find a piece of software that you like, bookmark its location or keep track of it in a simple list.  Download it to and install it from your RAM disk, then forget about the installable.  You can always find it again...

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