What exactly does ReadyBoost do? Is it the same as adding RAM, or is it more like a disk cache? I've read varying reports as to whether or not it really boosts performance on Vista or Windows 7. What do you know about ReadyBoost?
What is ReadyBoost?
ReadyBoost is a tool that was introduced with Windows Vista. It was originally called Vista ReadyBoost, but it allows users working on a Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8 computer to significantly boost their system performance by using inexpensive external flash memory devices like USB flash drives or SD memory cards. ReadyBoost uses these flash memory devices to effectively add usable RAM without having to pop the hood on your system and tinker with internal RAM sticks.
When your computer runs out of physical system (RAM) memory, normally it will carve out a chunk of space from your hard drive to use as virtual (simulated) RAM. ReadyBoost adds an additional memory cache to your system, which Windows can access much faster than the virtual RAM on the hard drive.
This improves the overall performance of your computer by allowing the operating system to keep frequently used files and operating system components in a memory cache that can be accessed very quickly. The seek time (time required to find a chunk of data on a storage device) on a flash drive can be 10x faster than even a speedy new SATA hard drive.
If you have a Windows system with the bare minimum of 512MB RAM, ReadyBoost will help a lot. If you've already got 2GB or more of RAM installed, probably not so much. But on a laptop, using ReadyBoost has an additional benefit of increasing battery life, because it reduces hard drive access, which tends to consume a lot of juice.
Running Windows ReadyBoost on Your System
It is very easy to take advantage of the performance improvements offered by Windows ReadyBoost. The Windows operating system (Vista or higher) will analyze each flash memory device that you plug in to determine if it has the speed and memory needed to work with ReadyBoost. If your device meets this criteria then a dialog will appear.
Be aware that not all Flash drives will bring a noticeable boost in performance, even if WIndows accepts them as ReadyBoost-capable. When shopping for a USB flash drive, look for one that is capable of 10MB/sec (or higher) for random reads and writes across the disk. Those numbers, by the way, are several times higher than the minimum specs that Windows requires for use as a ReadyBoost device. Check out Grant Gibson's ReadyBoost Compatibility List and this ZDNet article by Ed Bott for reviews of some drives and their performance with ReadyBoost.
You must have at least 235 MB of available space on the device, and a max of 4GB can be assigned to ReadyBoost. Microsoft suggests that you use 1-3 times the amount of RAM you have installed on the motherboard for ReadyBoost.
The dialog will ask you if you want to use the device for ReadyBoost. If you select "use this device" then your flash memory device will be earmarked for ReadyBoost and you will not be able to store files on it. However, if you need to use your flash memory device for storage, then you can set up your flash devices so that part of its memory will be used for RAM and the remaining memory will be used for data storage.
If you're worried that sensitive user data might be at risk on your removable flash drive, relax. The nice folks in Redmond use AES-128 to encrypt everything that is written to the device. And you needn't worry about wearing out your flash drive, either. Microsoft research shows that you should get at least 10 years of service out of flash devices that are used with ReadyBoost.
Alternatives to ReadyBoost
It should be said that the best thing you can do to boost your overall system performance is to add RAM - the real kind that plugs into the motherboard. See my article Adding Memory for details on how to do that. Physical RAM will be faster than a flash-based memory cache any day of the week. But if you don't want to get your hands dirty, or if you've already maxed out the memory capacity of your motherboard, ReadyBoost is a good thing to try.
But what if you don't have a Vista (or newer) system? Are you out of luck as far ReadyBoost goes? Good news, there is at least one third party program that is designed for Windows XP users that mirrors the offerings of Windows ReadyBoost. This program is called eBoostr. It works very much like ReadyBoost, and even allows you to use multiple flash devices. To use it you will need to buy the program ($19-$39 for the various versions) and install it. Fortunately, this program comes with a free trial so you can take it for a test drive before you buy.
Have you used ReadyBoost or eBoostr? Post a comment below with your experience or questions about ReadyBoost…
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 24 Jun 2008
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Vista ReadyBoost (Posted: 24 Jun 2008)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved