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USB Flash Drives and Windows 7/Vista Readyboost: The Facts

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Here is the real skinny:
There are a lot of misconceptions floating around about Readyboost and really seeing it's benefits. Based on all my reading and personal testing, I've come up with the facts on Readyboost.

Begin with a device that has at least twice the amount of available space as you have RAM on your system. Be sure it has good Read/Write times, see Event ID 1000. Format it it to exFAT & dedicate it to Readyboost. Fill as many primary USB ports as possible/affordable with more of the same drives. If you have 2 open ports, for example, use 2 32GB sticks, one in each port, instead of just one 64GB stick in one. More pathways are better than one large data buffer.

Readyboost speeds up you system by not letting it slow down. Interesting concept. The idea is that when an application is loaded, information required to run it is accessed from the hard drive. Most hard drives contain moving parts and cannot compare to the Read/Write times of a flash storage (solid-state) device.

So, now we have Readyboost. It is not a PageFile drive, as you may hear, because it can be pulled out of the system at any time without causing problems. It functions similarly, but is more of a cache or data buffer on steroids.

So how does it work?
The true beauty of Readyboost lies in the way the OS compresses and writes/reads data from the device. Thanks to exFAT Formatting, I have been told that an 8GB USB memory stick dedicated to Readyboost is like a 16GB sand-table for the OS to work with. Imagine cruising down the streets of a GTA style 3D environment where buildings are popping up based on the computer's access time to the texture files, which is, in the end, limited even by a 7200-10000 RPM hard drive with a 64MB buffer. Window 7 can use a total of 256GB, and any number of devices to achieve that size, for Readyboost data buffering.

Format that stick to exFAT! If you cannot, get one that can.
The bits of data exchanged through ReadyBoost, much like a paging file, are much smaller than picture files and others files we are used to dealing with. The new exFAT format is THE format to use for your flash device when in ReadyBoost, as the new operating system(s) were designed with such data-transfer speeds and formats in mind.

Price vs. Benefit
In my opinion, the benefit per cost is higher here than even RAM upgrades, as you can max out your RAM one time before needing a better motherboard. It is true, you have to begin with the right USB device, not just your old jump-drive stick hanging on that lanyard. Read/write speeds are important and increase the price, of course. Luckily, price per size of stick is going down super fast, and 32-64GB sticks are within reach of the common gamer.

Readyboost has a speed limit, so far: 5 milliseconds Read/ 3 milliseconds Write, I believe. This means current USB sticks with Read/Write times of ~4800/4300 are sufficient for the price. Also, try using memory cards in a PC or laptop's empty card reader to have an always present speed upgrade!

Test the Speed of any Readyboost Capable Device:
To see the event ID 1000 that shows the speed of any Readyboost device referenced above, in Windows 7, first connect the device and enable Readyboost for it.
Now, press start and type "view event logs" (press enter). On the right, select "Create Custom View".
Under "Logged:", select Last Hour (narrows the view, not exactly necessary for first timers)
Click "By Source" and under "Event Source", click Readyboost and PRESS ENTER.
Enter 1000 in "All Event IDs" and press OK.
Give it a name and description or NOT and press OK. (it is not necessary unless you plan to return and check again - be sure to refresh if you do load a custom view, just to be sure you see all)

Click an entry. The General tab will show the read/write speeds. The Details tab will also show free space, useful when testing multiple devices and knowing which one is which. If they are the same size, use the Date and Time to differentiate.

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I dont have a lot of experience with ReadyBoost in Win7 but I would think the limiting speed of the USB interface would be an issue? Especially compared to a SATA drive.. remembering that USB requires CPU overhead to transfer data. Have you tried using RB on your PC and does it actually speed things up?

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I run 12 GB or RAM. I haven't touched that ceiling yet.

And I agree with Savage. USB is SLOW so I only see this as a bandaid. Maybe I'll cruise ovet to anandtech or tomshardware and see if they have talked about it yet.

Okay, here is the anandtech article. It's talking about VISTA performance but the first portion deals with READYBOOST.


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Yes, Salvage. And in medium-powered PC's, it can really help load times and speed up multitasking.

Awesome articles, PITN. Never seem graph forms, and it proves on paper the performance boosts. Yeah, not many gaming systems should consider this as the first or any speed upgrade. These are just the facts.

I will add that on laptops, when gaming, this is a great boost! Laptops are limited in upgradability and this option opens up a "fourth wall". You can squeeze out the maximum potential of your current PC using this Readyboost ability when all other aspects are maxed out.

A 12GB RAM system with dual video card's like PITN has, would have a hard time telling if a program loaded in 1/2 a second or 1/3 a second. Once you own a beast like that, little speed tweaks like Readyboost won't be so noticeable, in any big way.

I found real visible benefit on my 4GB RAM laptop with 2 8GB USB's dedicated to Readyboost. It was THE difference in my (non-gaming) laptop's ability to load large or huge Civ V maps, and made texture pop-ups in GTA:IV nearly disappeared for me.

To upgrade this laptop's RAM to MAX (8GB DDR3, 2x4GB) would cost over $250. Both the 8GB USB's were $20 and I can use them for data transfer as well as speed boosters. That's their job now as I only game on my PC, and have no open USB ports on it.

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