Ralph Grabowski had some suggestions in a recent post on his WorldCAD Access blog about making computers run faster. One of his suggestions was to use ReadyBoost which is something I had heard of but never used before [On a side note if you aren’t reading Ralph’s various posts and articles get on it now, the guy is a legend and very well informed]

It got me thinking, what am I to lose to try this out?

What is ReadyBoost?

ReadyBoost is a built in disk caching option that Microsoft has built into Windows (starting with Vista). Microsoft describes it as a method to add “instant RAM” to your system. So as your memory gets full ReadyBoost provides another source for your system to use which is faster than your hardrive. It will also cache just about anything, not just the page file or system DLL.

With Windows 7, a FAT formatted device will give you 4GB of cache and with a NTFS formatted device the maximum is 32 GB of cache. What is interesting is that you can use multiple devices (up to 8) for a total 256 GB! [although who has that many unused USB ports!].

A big note here is that if you are using a solid state drive, ReadyBoost will be disabled as you don’t need it, just max out the page file on your solidstate for the best performance.

What do you need?

A USB thumbdrive (ideally 32GB or bigger) or a SD card. Make sure its faster than your HD being used as you’d be defeating the purpose. Look for a device with an access time of 1 ms (or less) and  2.5 MB/s read speeds (minimum).

Microsoft has some suggestions, but you should use something with at least double the amount of RAM in the system.

What do you do to use it?

Stick the device into the system.

Find the device using Windows Explorer, right-click, and access the properties. You should see a ReadyBoost tab in which you can enable it and specify how much space Windows can use

Windows ReadyBoost

What do I think?

I tested this in two systems. One was an older HP Workstation that has 6GB of RAM that we’re using as our test machine for betas and the such. The other is the Dell Latitude laptop I’m bringing with me to AU to teach my classes, it has 3GB of RAM. Both systems are running Windows 7 (64bit).

Its a tough thing to quantify but what was easy to gauge is how much faster applications start on these systems. I also noticed significantly less temporary freezes and delays (white screens – not responding) on the laptop, which in itself is a boost in performance.

So all I can say is for the cost and little effort to get setup, there is no reason not to use this. Especially, with older systems or systems a little bit lacking on RAM. Give it a try, you might be surprised… and worse case the stick goes back to being just a thumb drive.