What are you without a USB flash drive? Seriously, if you don’t have one you must be some kind of insane madman who’s still just hoopy about the invention of the digital watch. For carrying around important files there’s simply no easier way, and with flash memory being so cheap there’s little excuse not to have one.
As a result of this cheapness USB drives are ten-a-penny, and normally we wouldn’t bat an eyelid at a USB flash drive landing on our desks. But, in this instance, we were intrigued because this 1GB drive from Kingston was emblazoned with “Enhanced for Windows ReadyBoost”.
So, what is ReadyBoost you ask? It acts as an extension of Vista’s SuperFetch feature, which loads frequently used files and programs into the system memory so that they load significantly faster than if they loaded directly from the hard drive. As a result Vista is far better at utilising large memory configurations in excess of 2GB, and power users will certainly reap the benefits.
ReadyBoost does much the same as SuperFetch, albeit with some limitations because although flash memory boasts excellent access times, it’s still a good deal slower than a hard drive for transferring larger files.
Nevertheless, there are still some benefits to be had and ReadyBoost will utilise compatible flash memory for caching system files and the system page file in an attempt to give some kind of performance boost.
It’s worth noting that you can’t use any old flash memory for ReadyBoost, to prevent degradation of performance you must use flash memory that meets certain minimum requirements. If you’re using a USB flash drive then it must be USB 2.0, while any memory must be capable of 3.5MB/s for 4KB random reads and 2.5MB/s for 512KB random writes.
This applies to any flash memory you use, and you can use memory cards such as Secure Digital and Compact Flash too. Any memory drive also must have a minimum of 64MB free memory, and you can use up to 4GB of flash memory for ReadyBoost.
The USB Flash Drive Kingston has sent us is 1GB, and the company claims that it exceeds the data transfer requirements. Other than the ReadyBoost certification it’s a very typical and entirely unremarkable flash drive. It looks just like any you’ve seen or used in the past, and it isn’t so tough that it can survive being run over by a car or other such nonsense. It’s just some plastic; nothing to get too excited about.
Setting up ReadyBoost is an eminently simple case of inserting a compatible memory device into a Vista PC and then, when prompted, selecting the option to use it for ReadyBoost. By going to the ‘Properties’ dialog of the device you can select the amount of memory you wish to dedicate to ReadyBoost, so you can choose to keep some memory for storage should you wish.