Windows Vista and ReadyBoost
One of the new features in Windows Vista that I really want to take a look at is the Windows ReadyBoost, which allows you to use thumb drives, or jump drives, enter your favorite USB drive term here, to speed up Windows Vista. So, if you have a system that doesn’t have as much memory as you like, or as much as Vista wants, you can plug in your USB drive and Vista will use it as virtual memory, that is not quite as fast as system memory, but quite a bit faster than accessing the swap file on the hard drive. This one commenter said he has a 4gig USB drive and is thinking about just leaving it plugged in his computer, since it speeds it up so much.
If there is one thing that can really help applications on Windows Vista run better, it’s memory. When comparing the performance of Windows XP and Windows Vista on a PC with 1 GB of main memory, Windows Vista is generally comparable to Windows XP or faster. However, we also know that in some cases, on PCs with 512 MB of main memory, applications on Windows XP may seem more responsive. Why? Mostly because the features in Windows Vista use a bit more memory to do the things that make it so cool, like indexing your data, keeping the fancier AERO UI running using the desktop window manager (DWM), etc. The less memory in your machine, the more often the OS must randomly access the disk. This slows system performs in cases where your applications just barely fit in memory on Windows XP but not quite in Windows Vista.
While I fully expect the generation of PCs that ship with Windows Vista to include more memory, we also know that many existing PCs have 512 MB. While memory has gotten much less expensive, many (non-geek) people I know are just not comfortable opening up their PC and installing more memory. While there are some great PC shops that will do this for you, a lot of people may not want to bother. Well with Windows ReadyBoost, if you have a flash drive (like a USB thumb drive or an SD card) you can just use this to make your computer run better with Windows Vista. You simply plug in a flash drive and Windows Vista will use Windows ReadyBoost to utilize the flash memory to improve performance.
So, if you just want your PC to run faster with Windows Vista — it’s pretty simple — connect your flash drive through any USB 2.0 socket or PCI interface and when the auto play interface comes up, choose “Speed up my system using ReadyBoost.” You need to have at least 230 MB free on the flash drive and some flash disks are not fast enough to support Windows ReadyBoost, although you’ll be told if that’s the case. Source: Windows Vista Team Blog
What would be cool is if system manufacturers actually included some USB drives with their systems, you can get a 1gig drive for less than $50 nowadays. They noted that if you remove the USB drive, it won’t affect your system, because it is using files on the USB drive that are also on the hard drive, you will just loose the performance gains. The data on the drive is also encrypted, so you don’t have to worry too much about loosing the drive. He also noted that Windows Vista will learn what you do most often and will try to optimize your system for that as well.