Using ReadyBoost in Vista

Another way to improve performance on systems with 2GB or less of RAM is to use a new Windows Vista feature called ReadyBoost. This technology uses spare storage space on USB-based memory devices such as memory fobs to increase your computer’s performance. It does this by caching information to the USB device, which is typically much faster than writing to the hard drive. (Information cached to the device is encrypted so it can’t be read on other systems.)

There is a number of caveats to ReadyBoost. The USB device must meet certain speed characteristics or Vista will not allow it to be used in this fashion. Storage space that is set aside on a USB device for ReadyBoost cannot be used for other purposes until you reformat the device; and you cannot use one USB device to speed up more than one PC. (Likewise, you cannot use more than one ReadyBoost device on a single PC.) In my testing, ReadyBoost seems to have the most impact on systems with less than 1GB of RAM, and it clearly benefits notebooks more than desktops, as it’s often difficult or impossible to increase the RAM on older portable machines.

When you insert a compatible USB device into a Windows Vista machine, you will see a Speed Up My System option at the bottom of the Auto Play dialog that appears. When you select this option, the ReadyBoost tab of the Properties dialog of the associated device will appear, enabling you to configure a portion of the device’s storage space. It recommends the ideal amount based on the capacity of the device and your system’s RAM.

Obviously, ReadyBoost won’t work unless the USB memory key is plugged into your PC. This can be a bit of a hassle because you need to remember to keep plugging it in every time you break out your portable computer. Still, ReadyBoost is a great enhancement and a welcome feature, especially when a PC would otherwise run poorly with Windows Vista.

ReadyBoost provides an
inexpensive and simple way to
boost performance on
low-RAM PCs.

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