| By Fred Langa |
The low number of reads and writes supported by USB devices means active caching on a flash drive is a bad idea.
Moreover, Microsoft’s much-vaunted ReadyBoost won’t improve the performance of most Windows systems, making this “speed-up” technology more trouble than it’s worth.
Pagefiles wear out flash devices in no time
Windows Vista ships with ReadyBoost, a kind of flash-drive system cache that’s supposed to speed up the operating system. You can read more about it on Microsoft’s Vista Features page. A reader named George asks a logical question about the technique:
- “I’m using an 8GB USB thumb drive for ReadyBoost. ReadyBoost uses only 4 gigs of this space. How about using the free space as a pagefile?”
To put it another way, system caching is a heavy-duty task, and most flash drives are intended only for light-duty file sharing and such. That’s why I recommend that you avoid selecting the ReadyBoost option in the AutoPlay dialog that appears when you insert a flash device into a USB port. (See Figure 1.)
Figure 1. Take a pass on the AutoPlay option that appears when you plug in a flash drive and Vista offers to enable ReadyBoost.
ReadyBoost has other problems: It simply doesn’t do all that much for performance on most systems, and it’s a lot more finicky than most people realize. For example, tests were conducted by Patrick Schmid for the Tom’s Hardware site. He found that, while ReadyBoost can help some apps launch faster, the improvement is nowhere near the jolt you get by upping your system’s RAM.