Everyone wants maximum performance from their system. Although the price of memory is much lower than in the past, not everyone can afford to add more system RAM, or upgrade other components to benefit from a speed boost. But Vista includes two memory features that can be exploited to improve the performance of your computer. Readyboost makes it easy to get an instant increase inmemory simply by plugging in a USBmemory key or similar. Windows is able to cache frequently used system files so they can be accessedmuchmore quickly than normal. Readydrive,meanwhile, uses the latest hard disk technology to improve the battery life of your notebook PC and can allow it to use a special hibernation mode for faster startup times. Read on to find out more.
To use Readyboost, you’ll need a USBmemory key, or a memory card that can be used with a digital camera, such as Compact Flash or an SD card. Your removable media must also meet certain criteria in order to be compatible. It needs to have a capacity of at least 256MB and must operate at a high enough speed. There is often no way to determine the operating speed of such memory, but Windows will perform the necessary checks for you. Insert a suitable memory stick or card into the relevant port, and an Autoplay menu will appear giving you the option to open the drive or to speed up the computer. Click the option labelled ‘Speed up my system’.
If the Autoplay menu does not appear automatically, open Computer either from the Desktop or the Start menu. Right-click the icon representing the disk that has been inserted and select Properties before clicking on the Readyboost tab. By this point, Windows will have carried out the test necessary to determine whether the drive operates at the required speeds. Should it be found to be too slow, the contents of the Readyboost tab will display the message ‘This device does not have the required performance characteristics for use in speeding up your system’. To prevent this test from being performed unnecessarily in the future, ensure that the box labelled ‘Stop testing this drive when I plug it in’ is ticked and click OK. Alternatively, click Test Again, to perform the test once more.
Assuming the drive has been found to operate at a fast enough speed, the Readyboost tab will read ‘Speed up your system by utilizing the available space on this device’. Start by selecting the option labelled ‘Use this device’. Windows will recommend how much of the drive’s capacity should be set aside for Readyboost but, generally speaking, themore spacemade available the better. Formaximum performance, it is recommended that you set aside the same amount of space for Readyboost as you have system RAM installed — so if 2GB of RAM is installed, Readyboost should also be allowed to use 2GB or more. Use the slider to reserve more or less space as required and then click OK.
The performance boost experienced should make it clear that Readyboost has been successfully activated. However, it is also possible to check by opening the allocated drive. A file named Readyboost (or Readyboost.sfcache if file extensions are visible) can be seen in the root of the drive. Depending on the percentage of the drive set aside for the Readyboost cache, a certain amount of space will remain. This can be used as normal. The amount of space used by Readyboost can be adjusted by moving the slider in the previous step to the left. To stop using the drive, select the option labelled ‘Do not use this device’.
Readydrive is of particular benefit to notebook PC users. New, hybrid hard disks comprise a standard hard disk along with some faster flash memory. Frequently used files can be automatically cached from the hard disk to the flash memory, which can be read by Windows much faster. This can not only help to improve system performance, but can extend battery life. Readydrive requires no configuration and there are no options to set, but the feature will only be available on computers with a compatible hard disk. One such disk is the Seagate Momentus 5400 PSD, which comes in a range of capacities and includes 256MB of flash memory.
Readydrive hard disks can also make use of a special sleepmode for Vista. To enable this feature, open the Control Panel and double-click the Power Options icon. From the list of power plans, select the one that should be used and then click the ‘Change plan settings’ link below. Click ‘Change advanced power settings’ and expand the Sleep entry in the list of options. Now expand the ‘Allow hybrid sleep’ entry and make sure that the On option is selected from the dropdown menu. Further down the list, use the ‘Power buttons and lid’ section to indicate whether the computer should sleep automatically when the lid is closed.