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Boost Netbook Speed with an SD Card & ReadyBoost

Looking for a way to increase the performance of your netbook?  Here’s how you can use a standard SD memory card or a USB flash drive to boost performance with ReadyBoost.

Most netbooks ship with 1Gb of Ram, and many older netbooks shipped with even less.  Even if you want to add more ram, often they can only be upgraded to a max of 2GB.  With ReadyBoost in Windows 7, it’s easy to boost your system’s performance with flash memory.  If your netbook has an SD card slot, you can insert a memory card into it and just leave it there to always boost your netbook’s memory; otherwise, you can use a standard USB flash drive the same way. Also, you can use ReadyBoost on any desktop or laptop; ones with limited memory will see the most performance increase from using it.

Please Note:  ReadyBoost requires at least 256Mb of free space on your flash drive, and also requires minimum read/write speeds.  Most modern memory cards or flash drives meet these requirements, but be aware that an old card may not work with it.

Using ReadyBoost

Insert an SD card into your card reader, or connect a USB flash drive to a USB port on your computer.  Windows will automatically see if your flash memory is ReadyBoost capable, and if so, you can directly choose to speed up your computer with ReadyBoost.

sshot-9

The ReadyBoost settings dialog will open when you select this.  Choose “Use this device” and choose how much space you want ReadyBoost to use.

sshot-10

Click Ok, and Windows will setup ReadyBoost and start using it to speed up your computer.  It will automatically use ReadyBoost whenever the card is connected to the computer.

sshot-245

When you view your SD card or flash drive in Explorer, you will notice a ReadyBoost file the size you chose before.  This will be deleted when you eject your card or flash drive.

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If you need to remove your drive to use elsewhere, simply eject as normal.

image

Windows will inform you that the drive is currently being used.  Make sure you have closed any programs or files you had open from the drive, and then press Continue to stop ReadyBoost and eject your drive.

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If you remove the drive without ejecting it, the ReadyBoost file may still remain on the drive.  You can delete this to save space on the drive, and the cache will be recreated when you use ReadyBoost next time.

Conclusion

Although ReadyBoost may not make your netbook feel like a Core i7 laptop with 6GB of RAM, it will still help performance and make multitasking even easier.  Also, if you have, say, a memory stick and a flash drive, you can use both of them with ReadyBoost for the maximum benefit.  We have even noticed better battery life when multitasking with ReadyBoost, as it lets you use your hard drive less. 

SD cards and thumb drives are relatively cheap today, and many of us have several already, so this is a great way to improve netbook performance cheaply.

Matthew digs up tasty bytes about Windows, Virtualization, and the cloud, and serves them up for all to enjoy!

  • Published 04/23/10

Comments (36)

  1. Steven Taylor

    This is helpful, but if you already have a solid state disk in your netbook (ie.; Dell Mini 9) then Windows 7 won’t give you the option to enable ReadyBoost.

  2. purimcarnival

    my SD card is write-protected and can not be used for readyboost :(.

  3. Jim

    Some performance numbers would have been helpful. What I’ve read before about Readyboost is that it doesn’t really help much in most situations. However if it is worth doing anywhere it would be on netbook with limited memory and slow hard drives.

  4. Karl K

    “ReadyBoost” sounds like a really useful (and nifty!) utility, but how about a link on where it can be found/downloaded? Or is it your intention to make everyone do a Google search to find a source?

  5. Mysticgeek

    @Karl K ReadyBoost is a feature included in Windows 7

  6. Matthew Guay

    @Stephen Taylor – Good point, and you wouldn’t see any performance boost either since your main drive is already based on flash memory.

  7. mchlbk

    Something similar for xp would be nice.

    My netbook came with only 1 gb of ram. I’ve put in 512 mb more but unfortunately 1½ gb is the max amount.

  8. viper43

    If i have 3gb ram on my Notebook pc will ReadyBoost do anything for me?

  9. Matthew Guay

    @viper43 – It depends on what you’re using your netbook for. I have 3Gb of ram in my desktop, and occasionally use ReadyBoost on it when I’m doing a lot of memory intensive stuff (several virtual machines running, 30 tabs in a browser, images open in Paint.NET, etc.). However, if you’re just, say, writing email and checking the news online, you shouldn’t see any benefit.

  10. luyz94pt

    my ready boost ask me if i want format it
    help what i do?

  11. Hukommelseskort

    My SD card is also write-protected, how can I remove the write-protection??

  12. NotReallyaGeek

    My usb has 1080mb of space to readyboost, but windos said to leave 891mb of writable space, what should I do?

  13. puneet

    @Hukommelseskort :There will be latch on the side of the card, which moves too and fro. Just move it to the oposite to what it is now. Or you can move that nearest to the card pins to remove write protection.

  14. sdcharles74

    Thanks for all your help my ready boost seems to be working. at least the light flashes when I’m working.
    how do you know if how much ram your pc has after you have installed the ready boost?

  15. charlie

    it works nice thanks

  16. ASUS

    How can I delete this?

  17. Tim

    Hi,

    Just how much will a win7/64 use on a sd card??? I have 6 gb in my laptop is the ratio 2.5 like vista??? (I am buying a couple of 32gb sd cards for this).

    Thanks

  18. Barry

    It is wise to note that SD cards, as with all flash memory, has a limited lifespan when it comes to data being written to them. Using it for ReadyBoost will considerably shorten the lifespan of an SD card. Don’t be surprised if it lasts less than 3 months before failing.

  19. Scot Harkins

    Most folks are confusing ReadyBoost with a “memory enhancement tool”. That is not RB’s real purpose. RB’s real purpose is to cache frequently-accessed files from your hard drive. If you have an SSD drive then you will not benefit from RB, and in fact it may be disabled (as some have already observed). I’m betting some of the new hybrid SSD/Disk drives will supplant the need as well, since they, too, are using the SSD memory to cache frequently-access tracks from the physical drive, greatly increasing read speed. RB also helps with caching writes, but mileage varies with application (big images, little files, db versus docs).

    RB’s real purpose then is to act as a long-term high-speed cache for your hard drive. I can tell you that on my little Asus EeePC my experience was phenomenal, cutting my boot time for fresh boot and reload of hibernate by a factor of at least three. Practically the OS that needs to load on boot is now cached on my SD card, so the boot essentially happens from the SD, and only goes to the hard drive for anything not already cached.

    My overall daily experience has not particularly improved, but I suspect the card may be too slow to help much with operational functions. Besides, I have 2GB of RAM on a Win7-Pro-x32 netbook, and I rarely hit 90% physical in use unless I go tab-happy in my browsers. This means I am more or less running in RAM most of the time…if I had greater needs, like PhotoShop or whatnot, then I would need a bigger system with more RAM and x64.

    Even then RB can help, since it’s biggest help is with slower notebook hard drives, which typically run 5400rpm for energy efficiency at the sacrifice of speed. MS recommends 2-4 times physical RAM in order to allow the card to really help with caching pages. Even a system not using all the RAM will be sending pages to the swap…Windows does that pre-emptively based on the application and how it was coded and how it is being used. The big help again, however, is reads for common files, saving the CPU the trip out to the slow HD.

    Which card? I have a 2GB decent something or other I had sitting around. It passed muster and helped. Tech articles report that FAT32 is generally faster the NTFS, so 4GB seems to be a reasonable ceiling for now…doesn’t help much. There is a max speed that comes into play, based on how Windows manages the memory pages and files plus the encrypted compression it uses for the RB file. The upshot is that there is little if any difference between class 6 and class 10 when it comes to RB. This is especially true if your computer has its own bus limitations for the SD card slot.

    Another technical article explained why some folks _lost_ performance going from an old 2GB to a shiny new fast 8+GB: some of the older cards actually had better chips! Fewer chips, but the materials used in the chips gave them much better performance over the more common commodity materials used in larger cards (which helps get the price down). I do not have all the technical ins and outs, but I will find the articles and post them back here.

    In the end all the really counts is your experience. If it helps speed the boot process and speeds the loading of commonly-used apps then it’s a win! If not, then chalk it up to experience and move on.

  20. Ayex Death

    a easy tip if it doesnt let you use this feature try formatting your SD card to Fat32 it almost never fails to do this simply go to “computer” find SD card right click and then go to “format” and i dont really see the difference between quick format or not

  21. Beavermonk

    If you format it with Fat32 then windows will only be able to use 4gig of an 8 gig usb/flash drive. Format Exfat or ntfs

  22. Mike

    I have tried this with a flash drive, and can’t say I saw a big improvement. I thought the maximium size for ready boost was 4gb? Has this number changed? Is it higher? Personally I would like to try the SD card as it doesn’t protrude out of the computer. I have a computer with 2 gigs of ram. It seems that they recommend that you use a flash card of 2 gigs to go with the 2gigs in my computer, as anything more would be a waste. Does anyone know if this is true?
    Thanks for your input.

  23. Bigdaddy

    New netbook running W7 Starter will not boot with 8G SD card formatted Fat32 in card reader set up for Ready Boost.All that happens is i get the Lenovo screen over and over.It is a S10-3T.Boots fine if i remove the card,any ideas?

  24. moorechez

    @Bigdaddy – go into the startup options (F2 or something along those lines at startup) and change the order of your boot options.

    Question for everyone – I tried a class 4, 4 GB SDHC card and windows tells me that the device doesnt meet minimum read/write specs,
    – Is class 6 the minimum speed needed or is the issue my reader hardware?

    System Specs:
    Manufacturer Acer
    Model AOD255
    Total amount of system memory 2.00 GB DDR3 RAM
    System type 32-bit operating system
    Number of processor cores 2
    64-bit capable Yes

    Storage
    ——————————————————————————–

    Total size of hard disk(s) 220 GB
    Disk partition (C:) 189 GB Free (220 GB Total)

    Graphics
    ——————————————————————————–

    Display adapter type Intel(R) Graphics Media Accelerator 3150
    Total available graphics memory 250 MB
    Dedicated graphics memory 0 MB
    Dedicated system memory 64 MB
    Shared system memory 186 MB
    Display adapter driver version 8.14.10.2117
    Primary monitor resolution 1024×600
    DirectX version DirectX 9.0 or better

    I would just install 64-bit W7 and throw in a 4GB RAM chip but it seems that isn’t an option due to the hardware (that is the vague impression I got from searching for an asnwer, at least). Thanks for any information!

  25. drubio

    moorechez, I`m running RB on a W7pro 32bit with a 4gb noclass SDHC and it runs with no issues. I´m affraid there´s more than a read/transfer speed matter on your case.

  26. Tee

    So I got an 4GB SDHC and when I try to ReadyBoost on a 64-bit W7 it say’s something like the device can’t readyboost because it doesn’t have the performance characteristics necessary, is there any way I can change this?
    Thanks

  27. Knocka

    I know this is relating to ‘Notebooks’, but, I have a usb stick working on my PC using RBoost.
    Will a SD card work on my PC??
    I am using a Presario Compaq running WIN7 ….

    Thanks for your patience.

  28. dave

    This article was interesting and eye opening for me. I had 2 4 gig cards gathering dust because they were too big for use in my Nikon D50, so this gave me a purpose for them. The eye opener came when I discovered that neither of my laptops had the card reader drivers and software installed. I have rectified that situation and now have readyboost on 2 SD cards that would otherwise have gathered dust until I got a new camera.

  29. Note

    NOTE: Dont forget to slide the SD readonly switch.
    Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah i did it!

  30. repelsteel

    hartstikke bedankt voor je oplossing en de plaatjes …….zelfs voor de niet diga nerds is het zo te volgen

  31. sanju

    my 2 gb transend pendrive does shoe support the readyboost….
    error is “this device cannot be used for readyboost”
    plz help me i hv to increase my speed of my pc

  32. Cody

    I am trying to set this up to help my girlfriends netbook run quicker. When i put the USB in the port, it doesnt give me the autoplay menu screen like you show. it just opens the usb up automatically. Is there any way to set up readyboost without the autoplay menu?

  33. Sal Torre

    i wanted to knoow do i leave the sd card in my laptop sd slot

  34. Chris

    Cody
    go to windows explorer and right click on your jump drive and go to the properties and this will give you a readyboost tab if your autoplay is not set correctly.

  35. Velocepara

    Thanks for the tip Beavermonk :
    my FAT32 SD was limited to 4GB, it goes up to 16GB once formated under NTFS !

  36. Ladybug

    I should add that not only is my virtual memory cach filling up, but so is my hardrive. When I restart the computer my hard drive memory is back but the virtual cache still seems to be full as I will start getting memory full messages within a really short time and it keeps telling me to close down programs. I’ve scanned the programs that are running in the background and don’t see anything running that shouldn’t be, plus as I said, this only started a few days ago after updating my computer. I have tried shutting down bittorrent and it doesn’t make any difference (which I’ve run for months without any issues).

    Thanks again.

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