How to speed up Vista using a spare USB thumb drive

This brief tutorial will take you through the steps to enable ReadyBoost, a feature of Vista that allows you to improve your PC’s performance by utilizing the faster speeds of flash memory vs. your hard drive. It’s similar to adding more RAM to your PC, without having to actually add more RAM.

It’s also very much worth mentioning that you can use this feature with SD cards and other flash memory devices, as long as you can plug them into your system.

  1. Start by plugging in the USB thumb drive. Windows AutoPlay will prompt you to either open the ‘folder’ to view the files on your thumb drive or to Speed up my system. Select the latter.
  2. autoplay usb drive in windows

  3. Vista will run a quick check to make sure the USB drive you’re using meets the performance criteria for ReadyBoost. If it fails, you’ll see a screen similar to the one below. But have no fear – you can use a registry hack to force Vista into allowing the USB drive to be used for ReadyBoost.
  4. usb device that failed to meet performance criteria
    click to enlarge

  5. Assuming your device did pass the test (or you applied the above mentioned hack), you’ll be taken to the ReadyBoost tab of the USB drives Properties page. Select Use this device and then decide how much space you want to dedicated for use with ReadyBoost. The general rule is to use about double what you have in system RAM – but that’s not set in stone. When you’re done, click Apply and then OK.
  6. usb device that failed to meet performance criteria
    click to enlarge

  7. If you open the thumb drive in Windows Explorer, you’ll find a file named ReadyBoost. Its size will depend on how much you allocated in the previous step.
  8. usb device that failed to meet performance criteria
    click to enlarge

  9. That’s it. You should notice Vista performs a bit faster now!

  • Guthrie

    What’s the story with removing the usb drive after enabling this? Even my card reader sticks out a little. Can you put it in when you want? Just curious before I try this out.

  • Guthrie,

    No problem on removing it. Just make sure you eject it via the Safely Remove option in your system tray. USB thumb drives certainly do stick out quite a bit – on a laptop I’m not sure I’d use ReadyBoost (with a USB drive) very often. But for a stationary desktop, it’s a pretty good way to improve performance esp. if the thumb drive was just sitting around collecting dust.

  • Norma

    Ross – Great website. I noticed you said you could use an SD card (since I have a laptop, I’d really like to do that instead of a nerdstick hanging out. Trouble is, I can’t seem to find the way to force it to the SD card. Can you help please?

  • edwin

    umm… if you have a 4 gb ram, already assuming you have a 32bit Vista.

    Will this still worked ?

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