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Windows Vista introduced ReadyBoost which lets you use a Flash drive as a third (after RAM and HD) type of memory.

It occurred to me that I could boost peformance on an old PC here w/ Win XP (32 bit, max'd at 4GB RAM) by putting it's swap file (page file) on a flash drive.

(Now, before anyone comments: apparently Flash drives (10-30MB/s transfer rates) are slower than HDD (100+ MB/s) (I'm asking that as a separate question on this forum).

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4 Answers 4

up vote 1 down vote accepted

ReadyBoost was introduced to help Windows boot faster. In the tests I read, it does not at all improve the performance of a running system.

If you have problems with swapping performance, the best way is to avoid it altogether. More RAM is way cheaper than a separate swapping drive. You can also turn off swapping by selecting a very small pagefile.

See the other questions regarding swapping.

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USB thumb drives have pretty lousy random write times which would seriously hurt use as swap drive. But if you already have 4GB of RAM your system shouldn't be doing all that much swapping unless you are a very heavy multitasking or running a memory intensive app such as Photoshop.

If the system does appear to be swapping madly then a clean re-install of XP might be a more effective speed up. XP always seems to accumulate crap and slow down on old installations.

But if you really need more memory then I doubt there is much you could really do to an old system to speed it up to any noticeable degree. I would suggest an upgrade to a new system with a 64bit OS and 8GB would be money well spent.

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Swap on a flash drive is a bad idea. Flash drives only have so many read/writes before they die, and this number is much lower than for spinning disks. If you were to put a swap partition on it, you would kill the drive very quickly.

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well, not very quickly... you still get quite a few million read/write cycles and remember the position is random each time... but agree, it will kill quicker having it on than not! –  William Hilsum Jan 8 '10 at 6:23

If the drive has a "Removable" attribute then no. This isn't really something you can change.

Now, there are some CompactFlash cards sold without this flag, and using an IDE to CompactFlash adapter, a good size card can be set up as a nonremovable drive letter, and this will allow you to put a swap file on it!

If you just have SATA, you could just add a SATA-IDE adapter to the mix. The key is finding a CF card that does not consider itself removable to the system.

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This (Flash Swap) not yield the best results...I have not tried it. What I did was use an old 36GB Raptor and put ONLY a swap file on it. That way, the drive arm doesn't have to move much, and it is very fast with a VERY low access time. –  Stephen Dec 9 '09 at 5:16

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