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Using Storage Devices for ReadyBoost

Have you ever wished that you could give your computer a quick and cheap performance boost? You might be in luck, depending on your system requirements. A Windows feature called ReadyBoost allows you to attach some storage devices and use them as extra memory.

ReadyBoost is a feature that was launched with Vista and is still around today on Windows 7. If you plug a flash storage device into your computer then you can use it as memory cache. So what exactly does that mean and how does it work?

Your computer is constantly accessing data. Every action you perform requires it. Some of these actions will be ones that you perform regularly. For these, the relevant data is stored in your RAM. This means that the system can pull the information needed and perform the action quicker than if it were a blank slate.

When your RAM runs low, this data is then stored on your hard drive. This can be problematic if you’re using a hard disk drive. This is a mechanical device, made up of moving components. Whenever it needs to access data it physically has to move, spinning the internal platter and floating the read/write head. This is called sequential data access.

An alternate type of data storage is called flash storage. This has no moving parts inside and accesses data randomly, meaning that it can do so much quicker than a hard disk drive. ReadyBoost makes use of these flash devices, essentially storing data that can’t fit onto RAM onto the drive. Although flash devices don’t perform memory cache access as quickly as RAM, it’s a far sight faster than using a HDD.

The majority of modern flash devices will work with ReadyBoost, but there are some requirements. These are that the drive must have as a minimum:

• 256 megabytes capacity, at least 64KB free
• Access times of 1 millisecond or less
• A read speed of 2.5 MB/s for 4KB random reads
• A write speed of 1.75 MB/s for 1MB random writes

It’s likely that a USB stick you have lying around will match these requirements if you purchased it in recent years. Something like a USB stick or SD card is probably the best type of device to use for ReadyBoost. Although you can use a SSD, there’s really no point – it’ll be much more effective, both in terms of cost and computer speed, to use that as an actual storage drive. Buying more RAM would be cheaper than having a SSD for ReadyBoost.

To activate ReadyBoost, simply plug your storage device into the computer and AutoPlay should allow you to ‘Speed up my system’. If not, load up Computer, right click the flash drive, select Properties and then click ReadyBoost.

You can either choose to use the entire device for ReadyBoost or just a certain amount. Anything you don’t use can still be used as regular storage space.

ReadyBoost does provide performance enhancements, but really only if you’re low on RAM (something like 1GB or less) and/or have a slow performing hard drive. The best option is to buy more RAM, which can be purchased relatively cheaply.

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