Announced at the Vista Launch, using USB flash as additional system memory is a very interesting concept, and I’m very curious as to how it will function in real-world applications. The computer can read from the USB disk faster than it can from a hard drive, but not as fast as it can from its board-mounted RAM. Then again, if you need more memory it’s better to have slow memory than no memory (and speed will be relative anyway based on applications running and the hardware involved.

ReadyBoost allows your PC to use any “Enhanced for ReadyBoost” flash drive as additional memory. In effect, the flash drive becomes an extension of your system’s RAM. Because applications can retrieve data from the flash drive more quickly than from your PC’s hard drive, your system responds faster and runs better.When you plug in any “Enhanced for ReadyBoost” flash drive, Windows Vista gives you the option of using the drive to speed up your system or as storage only.

With ReadyBoost, data stored on a flash drive to boost system performance is also backed up on your PC’s hard drive. You can remove the flash drive any time without losing any information or harming your system.

This would be a good way to temporarily enhance a non-personal machine (library, hotel, etc) for memory-intensive applications.


  1. Olo Baggins of Bywater says:

    The computer can read from the USB disk faster than it can from a hard drive

    Call me skeptical about this.

    What’s the scoop on this ReadyBoost thing?

  2. Mark Derail says:

    How can Vista be faster when using external, slower than RAM, slower than a hard disk, USB, is beyond me.

    I can see power requirements less than HD, and you can put 2-4 gigs in the PC Card Slot (PCMCIA) so you don’t have a dongle to knock on your laptop.

    Just put 2 gigs of RAM in your lappy or box and forget about it.

    Why would you want to put Vista on a 7yr old laptop, with the Designed for Win98 logo, is also beyond me.

  3. John says:

    I read some where that the real boost in speed was using it for boot up.

  4. Dallas says:

    Congratulation, Dvorak !

    Your blog’s popularity has really expanded to the broad, non-technical audiences !!

  5. Tippis says:

    @ 2
    As far as I understand (and I mean that as a caveat), it’s because of the nature of the data that is being transferred: tons of very small transfers means that the lower access time wins out over slower transfer speed.

    Under these circumstances, neither one comes even close to using the maximum bandwidth, so seek- and access time becomes the most important thing.

  6. Whaapp! says:

    Sounds like a stop gap measure.

  7. justme says:

    Why not just add the flash memory to the motherboard?

  8. Mark says:

    If true, an excellent development. We just purchased 4GB USB Flash drives for resale at $35.00 a stick. This could be huge.

  9. JT says:

    Just another marketing gimmick to promote USB flash memory and Vista.

  10. fearless says:

    I am confused John, didn’t you or someone on Cranky geeks or one of the twits try this and report that the boost was not noticable?

  11. tallwookie says:

    Finally!! A reason to purchase that “One Gig Watch” advertised on the left

  12. @4 Lol, I unfortunately agree.

    As for ready boost, it has been there in all the beta’s, its not a new feature. It is mostly used to speed up boot up, but it can also be used to greatly increase the speed for loading programs. What it does is it basically saves the open application in the memory, and it just loads that. Its like the Hibernate option in XP, only its for individual applications.

  13. curmudgen says:

    Why is John taking all the heat??

  14. James Hill says:

    Because it’s his name on the blog.

    And since no one else has said it…

    Leopard > Vista

  15. Tippis says:

    @ 7
    It’s working its way there… although I suppose you always want it as a separate module for upgrade reasons. The Hybrid drives that are due to come out in large(ish) numbers are based on the same principle, only they put the memory together with the hard drive.

    @ 6
    It’s not so much a “stopgap measure” as a “middle-of-the-road” measure. What they’re after is something that is faster than mechanical hard drives, capable of holding more data than your standard cache, and not volatile like RAM. There are many kinds of data which benefit from this not-one-and-not-quite-the-other form of storage.

  16. Al says:

    Been using a 2Gb SanDisk Cruzer micro for Readyboost since installing Vista RTM back around 11/2/06, makes a noticible difference on my 3 yr old 1.5Ghz Centrino w/ 1.5GB RAM laptop. Just run a high memory situation (normally lots of swapping to disk), and pull the key and you’ll see a difference. Put the key back in and speed comes right back. Works great.

    Disk drives are by far the slowest aspect of machines now for a long time, anything to speed up disk access is a really useful development. I can’t wait for full flash HD’s. Heck if I could afford it I would figure out how to make one of those battery backed up RAM drives like they used to make for PCs.

  17. Ron Larson says:

    Doesn’t flash memory have a write life span? In other words, it can only write so many times? If true, then wouldn’t using a USB flash memory as a cache cause it to die an early death?

  18. GregA says:


    So what? You had a faster computer while it lasted. Worn out? Buy a new one.

  19. Mark says:

    17. At $45- $65 bucks for 4GB flash drive, like GregA says, its a moot point. By the time it dies, that will probably be $10.00. By the way, I tried this yesterday and it has definitely improved performance.

  20. Snappy! says:

    Think of it this way. Virtual memory currently comprises a paging file on the harddisk. When the system runs out of physical ram, it swaps out chunks of memory to the page file. With the flash mem in place, the swapping would occur first with the flash mem, and if the flash mem is full, the hdd.

    This means that the currently active app can easily have most of its code either in ram or flash, while those idle processes in the hdd page file.

    Of course, another way to make things faster is to make windows less bloated … but even then, having this flash mem extender thingie will make such a system faster as well. 🙂


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