Windows Vista's Windows ReadyBoost sounds too good to be true, and based on our extensive lab tests, it is. The technology promises to let you speed up Windows by plugging an inexpensive USB flash drive into your PC. But we found that while ReadyBoost may speed up Vista a tiny bit, it can also slow it down in some instances.
The premise is this: Although writing data to and reading it from a flash drive is, in most cases, slower than writing and reading to a hard drive, if the data is scattered randomly in small chunks, then flash drives are faster. Vista's ReadyBoost is supposed to use that one speed advantage to create a faster, flash-drive-based cache of one of Windows' major bottlenecks -- the swap file on your hard drive that most Windows operations use. So ReadyBoost should theoretically speed up certain frequently performed Windows tasks such as loading programs.
The technology works with only the fastest flash drives -- those capable of 3.5MB/sec. throughput for 4KB random reads, and 2.5MB/sec. speeds for 512KB random writes. For this article, the PC World Test Center and I looked at three ReadyBoost-capable drives: Kingston's 1GB DataTraveler ReadyFlash, Lexar Media's 4GB JumpDrive Lightning and Ritek's Ridata 1GB Twister EZ Drive.
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