I was talking with the tech guy from one of our other office the other day and he mentioned something to me that I thought was very interesting. He was playing with his Vista beta and discovered that you can use a USB drive as a form of “extra RAM” in Windows Vista! I thought, “This is pretty cool!” and decided to do some research.
The Microsoft-speak for this feature is called ReadyBoost. According to the Microsoft website:
Windows Vista introduces a new concept in adding memory to a system. Windows ReadyBoost lets users use a removable flash memory device, such as a USB thumb drive, to improve system performance without opening the box. Windows ReadyBoost can improve system performance because it can retrieve data kept on the flash memory more quickly than it can retrieve data kept on the hard disk, decreasing the time you need to wait for your PC to respond. Combined with SuperFetch technology, this can help drive impressive improvements in system responsiveness.
So, if I understand this correctly, it is actually using the flash drive as a second page file. The transfer rates for flash drives compared with a standard hard drive is significantly better, thus reducing the amount of time needed for the system.
According to Wikipedia, there are some specific requirements for the device that you are going to use:
- The capacity of the USB device must be at least 256 MB and no larger than 4 GB
- The USB device must support USB 2.0
- The device must be capable of 3.5 MB/s read speeds for 4 kB random reads spread uniformly across the entire device and 2.5 MB/s write speeds for 512 kB random writes spread uniformly across the device.
- The device must have at least 64 MB of free space
Tom Archer, Program Manager for the Windows SDK Tools and Build Environment at Microsoft, writes that there is a one device per machine limitation. He also indicated that you can expect to get 10+ years out of a single USB device.
My first concern was about security, especially since the data is stored in a FAT32 volume. But, it appears that the data is AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) 128 encrypted in the drive. It is unknown how much of a CPU hit the encryption and decryption of the data will produce.
Now this evening we were told a very interesting concept behind Windows ReadyBoost. Apparently ReadyBoost wasn’t just developed to add memory to your PC via your USB port. Apparently ReadyBoost was designed to allow you to “barrow” memory from other PC’s over a network as well. When Mr. Allchin told us of this concept, everyone flipped. Currently, he was mum on when and if we can expect the feature to arrive for Vista. But imagine going and barrowing some memory from unused PC’s on your network? Or having a giant memory server serving memory when needed to boost performance when specific applications need it? This was great.
Setting up the ReadyBoost is a relatively easy as it is simply an option in AutoPlay. Simply select the ReadyBoost option and you are off and running.
While I think this could be a benefit for systems that are limited to less than 4 GB of RAM and have no way of increasing that RAM, I think that as time goes on and systems become more powerful, this technology will become more and more useless.
What do you think about this technology? Is it something that you would use? Do you think that it will have a long term purpose?If you found this post useful, why don't you buy me a cup of coffee to show your gratitude?