USB Flash Drive as RAM: System Performance with ReadyBoost

By · Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Flash drive as RAM Once you have your computer for awhile and fill it with applications or multimedia galore, you come to realize that you’re working with a finite amount of RAM, which is essentially the short term memory of your system.  Consequently, your computer may slow to a crawl.  To fix this, you could go out and spend a small fortune on extra RAM for your motherboard, but there’s a much easier, more affordable solution: using your USB flash drive as RAM.

This method is effective because flash drives can be quickly accessed and read by your system compared to your hard drive.  In order to have a USB drive as RAM it’s required that you have one important Windows feature called ReadyBoost.  With a debut in 2006 with Vista and included in Windows7 two years ago, ReadyBoost is a cache component that is meant to enhance the performance of your computer by using your USB flash drive as disk cache.

You don’t need a specially equipped USB flash drive made just for ReadyBoost, but there are some requirements of your storage device that you’ll need to consider.  You’ll need at least 1GB of free space to speed up your computer.  In some cases, it’s recommended that you have your flash drive completely clear of any files at all so it can be dedicated to your computer’s performance.  However as a general rule of thumb, the flash drive storage allotted for use should be no more than triple the RAM of your computer.  Most systems will not accept more than 4GB of this extra RAM.  What’s more is that you can only use one flash drive at a time for this purpose.

You’ll want your ReadyBoost USB flash drive to have at least a little speed behind it if it’s going to help carry your system:  at least 2.5MB per second read and 1.75MB per second write.

Here’s some simple steps to make it all happen via Windows Vista or Windows7:

Once you insert your USB drive, you’ll right-click on its properties under My Computer.

From there, you can choose how much space you want to use as RAM by clicking “Use this device.”  If you want all of the flash drive’s memory to be used, select “Dedicate this device to ReadyBoost.”

If your system is operating well without the USB drive as RAM, ReadyBoost will automatically be disabled for your convenience.  Additionally, Microsoft minimizes privacy risks by encrypting the flash drive’s cache.

Have you ever used your USB drive as RAM?  How did it work?  Any special tips or tricks you would like to share?

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