May 03 2012

Experimenting with ReadyBoost: A quirky tale of caching.

So, sometime last year, I decided to see just what the Windows ReadyBoost feature would do on my desktop machine.

Yes, I know the feature is designed with laptops in mind, but at the time I did not yet own a Windows 7 based laptop, so there really wasn’t much I could do, save for test the feature on my desktop.  I had good enough reason though: My desktop only has 3GB of Ram; while that gets most things done that I wanted to, if I were to do some heavy image or code editing along with web browsing, things would get a little congested. I figured a ReadyBoost setup might allow me to multitask without the slowness of HDD based swap file access.

So, I purchased a 16GB usb flash drive and set everything up.   I loaded up some game source code, several large graphic files, and did some random web browsing, slowly letting the flash drive build up a cache of common programs and associate data. Things went smoothly for the first few days, and I was happy.  Then, I decided to go to and watch some old episodes of “The Computer Chronicles”. That’s when things went south.

Things behaved rather oddly. The videos would not load properly, or would play in odd ways. As far as I could tell, something was wrong with my computer itself. I actually for a time thought the video card was failing on me.  It would turn out that ReadyBoost was actually caching the ENTIRE video as it would download! I don’t know why it was doing this, but it was effectively causing the whole computer to act oddly, probably due to all the read/write activity going on.

ReadyBoost simply failed at this level of usage: Any kind of video file downloaded would result in this same situation, regardless of the site. YouTube garnered the exact same result; slow system response with a virtual inability to view the videos.

Once I finally realized this was going on, I said goodbye to ReadyBoost and just decided to stick it out with the 3GB of Ram in the system. The slight slowdown caused by some file paging was nothing compared to the disaster of having everything in the Ram be dumped to that flash drive.

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