Giga-byte Technology claims to have discovered a faster way to boot up Windows XP computers.

The company has produced a PC add-in card, called iRam, that comes with four DDR DRAM slots designed to be used as a PC drive. Because the iRam uses DRAM rather than a hard-disk to store information, data can be retrieved from the drive up to 60 times faster than is possible with a hard drive, according to Giga-byte, which showed the board at the Computex exhibition in Taipei this week.

The iRam was originally designed for video and editing applications where users require fast access to very large files, but the company realised it had other potential applications, said marketing manager Tim Handley.

For users who are tired of waiting for their Windows PC to boot up, they can install Windows on the iRam and use that as the drive to start the system more quickly, Handley said. The upshot is a computer that boots in seconds rather than minutes, the company claims.

The iRam can also be used by gamers, who want to reduce the time required to access stored data, he said.

The iRam holds up to 4GB of DRAM in four memory slots. It fits into a standard PCI slot, which provides power, and uses a SATA connection for data transfer.

Unlike DRAM-based main memory, the iRam card doesn't lose data when the PC is switched off. As long as the PC is plugged into a socket, a very small amount of current continues to run through some parts of the system, including the PCI slots. This provides enough power to make sure that no data is lost. If the PC is unplugged, the iRam has an on-board battery for emergency power that can last up to 12 hours.

The iRam will be available in July, costing $60 without the DRAM.