For all of you smart enough–or not risk averse enough–to take the plunge into Windows Vista, read on. Vista is lovely. It’s elegant. And, through a smart tweak, you can now use SD, CF, Mini-SD cards, and USB flash memory sticks to give your system a speed boost. The recommended ratio of USB flash memory to your computer’s internally installed system RAM is at least 1:1, while you may get even more of a benefit of 2:1.
My tests have borne this out. I have 2 gig RAM installed, and at first tried a 1 gig USB stick. Worked, but it dragged and the benefit wasn’t palpable. I’m now using a SanDisk Cruiser Micro 2 gig, and it works brilliantly. Much snappier performance.
Bottom line is, the USB drive caches frequently used information, including frequently loaded programs, caches of webpages, etc, so that they can in short bursts be pulled up quickly from the stick, rather than your hard drive having to search for the programs on the hard drive.
Requirement is, however, that the memory on your USB drive be of sufficient speed to do your system any good. Vista tests the USB stick (or CF card, SD card, etc) when you first install it, and determines whether the stick is compatible. For example, the $16.00 MicroCenter 2 gig USB drive does not work. Often this is because either all the flash memory on the stick has a too-slow transfer speed, or because the stick mixes and matches high and low speed flash memory.
Link here leads you to a site that’s tested multiple USB drives for ReadyBoost Compatibility. Good site–buy a USB stick and speed up your system. (And remember: though more expensive, you’ll get the best benefit from simply installing more internal RAM.)