Originally posted by SML
With the reduced cost of RAM and the rumours that soon we will not have hard disks with moving parts only RAM for mass storage, would it be possible at present to install a linux distribution entirely onto RAM?
I would need to get say x4 1Gb sticks of RAM to give me a 4Gb bucket of memory.
This is theoretically very easy. Just set up your root partition as a tmpfs partition with a 4Gb limit and install to that.
The problem is that the kernel used by most installers isn't very well suited to running a machine, so most installers need to reboot at some point during installation. The usual solution to this is to use a small ROMFS filesystem (on a ROM or non-volatile RAM chip) to store the /boot partition, including the kernel. You can then boot off that and complete the installation.
As to whether this makes a faster computer, this depends on what you want to do with it. One subtle point is that you can't swap unused memory out to disk to increase the amount of cache space available, so in some rare cases this may even slow you down.
The easiest solution to this problem is to buy a custom-made RAM-disk. These tend to be extremely expensive and store multiple terrabytes of data; they also include UPSes so that you can't accidentally delete them by cutting the power.
If you want to research this further, take a look at “thin-client” distributions. Most of these load the operating system into RAM over the network when booting up.