ReadyBoost is a little-known technology that utilizes free space on fast removable devices to augment system memory. I usually use this service to make my Windows 10 a bit faster just by inserting a flash drive. But it is not compatible with all systems, so it is essential to know how it works.
If you have not heard of ReadyBoost or how to use it, this guide will help you get the most out of this Windows utility.
ReadyBoost is a Windows program that caches frequently used files. It stores this cached data on your removable devices, such as flash drives, CompactFlash memory cards, and Secure Digital. Microsoft first introduced ReadyBoost in 2007 with the promise of accelerating the performance of Windows Vista. To be sincere, the claims fell flat for most of us. Thankfully, this utility actually does work in Windows 10.
This program works in conjunction with SuperFetch, a service that uses an algorithm to decide which files should be kept in the cache. Here, the cache could be application files, system files, and user documents. When you launch ReadyBoost, Windows 10 uses your flash drive’s memory as RAM. In any case, RAM is what influences the system speed. So, when your Windows 10 needs to access frequently used files, it fetches it from the disk drive instead of the RAM.
The data stored in ReadyBoost cache is safe, as it is protected using the 128-bit AES encryption standard by default. But to simplify its functionality, a device manufacturer installing a ReadyBoost supplement in the device itself can deactivate the encryption.
So far, ReadyBoost is a great speed-boosting utility, but there is a catch; RAM is usually faster than USB storage. So, don’t assume ReadyBoost will turn an ages-old Celeron into a brand new core i7 machine. ReadyBoost makes the system run faster, but it usually depends on the setup. This disk caching feature is beneficial if your system runs a slow hard drive or has a small amount of RAM. Also, if you are running Windows 10 on fairly standard hardware, then ReadyBoost will offer a nice performance enhancement.
Unfortunately, if you are running your Windows 10 on high-end hardware with a top of the range i7 CPU, then probably ReadyBoost won’t offer much help. If you have enough RAM, then it is better to store SuperFetch data on your system’s RAM than on a USB flash drive.
Just to clarify what we touched on above, ReadyBoost does not speed up RAM or process, but it enhances hard drive access times for minor random reads. It is also important to keep in mind that ReadyBoost is just a helper tool for SuperFetch. Its impact is most noticeable when starting huge disk-intensive applications, such as Microsoft Outlook and Adobe Photoshop, among others.
SuperFetch is a disk cache management system that enhances Window’s responsiveness when loading and switching between frequently used programs. The way it works is that SuperFetch constantly monitors system data for these programs and preloads them into the cache to be loaded faster into RAM. For instance, the Chrome browser is the first program that I use every time I Start my Windows computer, so SuperFetch loads Chrome files on the RAM to minimize the launch time.
The SuperFetch technology works perfectly while using the computer's hard disk for the cache, but as you know, hard disks rely on physically moving parts. This often limits the speed at which data is transmitted between RAM and the cache. This is the point where ReadyBoost comes into play, where it stores application data and files as cache in removable devices.
We have found out that you can use both USB2 and USB3 ports with this feature on your desktop, as long as you have a USB flash drive for ReadyBoost. But since the USB3 port is much faster, we would recommend that you use it. You can also use a memory card for laptop computers.
For it to work, you need to use a memory card or USB stick with at least 1gigabyte of free space depending on your RAM. Follow this rule of thumb: If your PC uses 1 gigabyte of built-in RAM, then your flash drive should have about 2 - 4 gigabytes of free space. The good thing is that you might not need to do any test since Windows 10 usually checks the performance of removable hardware automatically.
If you are running a 32-bit version of Windows 10, and on FAT32 file system disks, you can only use up to 4 gigabytes of storage space for ReadyBoost, even if the disk itself is larger. You can also use the older FAT16 file system, only that you can use up to 2 gigabytes cache size.
For 64-bit Windows, you can create up to 32 gigabytes of the cache and can be created on an NTFS-formatted removable device. Windows 10 can also support the exFAT file system for ReadyBoost.
Now that you know how the ReadyBoost feature works, let’s activate it in Windows 10. To make sure that your PC is ready to use the ReadyBoost feature, you have to make sure that the SuperFetch or SysMain (depending on the Windows 10 version you are running) service is active. If you are using Windows 10 version 1809 or later, the service is referred to as SysMain.
Additionally, you need to make sure your computer meets the minimum requirements as we stated earlier. To use ReadyBoost, you need either an SD memory card, USB flash drive, or CF card. Your system will use any of these removable devices to function as a hard drive to boost disk read performance.
To check the status of the SysMain/SuperFetch service, follow the steps below:
1. Press the Windows + R shortcut on your keyboard to open the Run dialog box.
2. Type service.msc into the text box and press Enter.
3. Now, scroll down the list of results until you spot SuperFetch or SysMain.
4. Check if it is active and set to start automatically.
If everything is okay, then you are almost ready to set up an SD memory card or USB flash drive for use with ReadyBoost. What you need to do next is to turn on the ReadyBoost feature in Windows 10.
Follow the steps below to activate the ReadyBoost feature in your device:
1. Insert the removable device you want to use with ReadyBoost. It could be a USB flash drive or SD memory card.
2. Open the File Explorer utility by pressing the Windows and E keys simultaneously. Alternatively, you can search for File Explorer on the Taskbar.
3. Next, navigate to the removable device you want to use with ReadyBoost.
4. Once you have located the desired drive, right-click on it and then click on the Properties option.
5. After that, navigate to the ReadyBoost tab. The system will take a few seconds to analyze the drive. If the device is not compatible, you will receive a message with the details informing you that the disk does not have the minimum performance characteristics for ReadyBoost. Likewise, if your system has an SSD, you may also get a message informing you that the device cannot be used for ReadyBoost. But why this? The main reason is that a system with an SSD hard drive can outperform ReadyBoost, so ReadyBoost won’t offer much value in this situation.
6. If your removable device is compatible with ReadyBoost, the system will prompt you to enable this feature. You will see three options, which help you to configure your USB drive for ReadyBoost. But first, you need to reformat the drive. My suggestion is that you format your drive using the exFAT system instead of NTFS. The former was designed for flash drives.
7. Now, choose the option you want to use as shown in the screenshot below. If you won’t be using your USB for any other purpose, then choose the Dedicate this device to ReadyBoost radio button. Otherwise, choose the Use this device option. Since these types of storage devices are super affordable nowadays, I would recommend that you dedicate it fully to ReadyBoost. This way, you won’t struggle to locate your work files amid ReadyBoost cache.
8. To activate your selection, click OK. From here, Windows will automatically configure the USB drive or whatever removable device you used to use the caching system. It does so by creating disk cache file ReadyBoost.sfcache, which is usually found in the root of the flash disk.
Once a drive is set up with ReadyBoost, it will lock the drive space until you turn off the feature.
If, for whatever reasons, you decide that you no longer need ReadyBoost. For instance, if you upgrade to a faster computer, you can always stop the feature. Here is the process:
2. Once there, choose the first radio button, which reads: Do not use this drive.
3. After that, click OK to activate the changes.
4. You also need to manually erase any ReadyBoost file stored in your removable drive.
You may also be interested in keeping an eye on the performance of Windows 10 ReadyBoost. To check its performance, use the Windows Performance Monitor:
2. Next, add the ReadyBoost counter to this Windows utility by clicking the green plus (+) button.
3. Once the Add Counters window opens, scroll down the list of available counters until you find ReadyBoost cache.
4. Highlight it, then click the Add button and then OK to save the changes.
5. Now, you can monitor the ReadyBoost cache in use.
If you still have an old PC that keeps nagging you with performance issues, don’t write it off yet. You can enhance its performance with ReadyBoost. But if the idea of disks and changing settings in your system seems too cumbersome, then there is a simpler option: Xtra PC.
This Linux distribution based system will give your old computer a new lease of life. It is designed with simplicity in mind, so it is ideal for non-techie guys. Xtra PC is also optimized for popular platforms, such as Amazon Prime Video, Facebook, and Netflix. Other web-based products and services, such as Google Docs, work just like in any other operating system.
Besides simplifying things for non-technical people, extra-pc comes with several popular. In fact, you can run it off a flash drive, DVD, or even install it directly to your hard drive. I have tried this product on a few XP-era PCs and I didn’t need any drivers. The only challenge is that you have to stop Windows and learn the Xtra PC’s way of doing things.
ReadyBoost's performance boost is pretty subjective, as it depends on the kind of application you are running on your PC and the type of read/write operations that these applications execute. Moreover, the feature may not work on all systems. Other than these influential factors, ReadyBoost is a great utility to boost your computer’s performance if you have a fast USB drive and run a system with a small RAM.
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