Windows Vista: ReadyBoost, ReadyDrive, and SuperFetch, oh my!

Here's a look at these performance enhancing features.

In order to keep the Windows Vista media machine going despite the release date delay, Microsoft recently released some official names for some of the new Windows Vista performance enhancing features. In the February 16th edition of The Windows Vista Report "Windows Vista: SuperFetch and External Memory Devices," I told you about SuperFetch, which retains it name, and the then-code-named EMD feature. Now, SuperFetch is joined by ReadyBoost and ReadyDrive. Let's take a closer look.


As I explained in the earlier article, SuperFetch is a technology that builds on and greatly improves on Windows XP's PreFetch feature. SuperFetch is essentially a a memory management feature designed to enhance Windows Vista's responsiveness when loading and switching between applications that you use most often by intelligently preloading these applications into memory and tracking them while in memory.

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ReadyBoost is now the official name of the External Memory Devices or EMD feature I described in the earlier article. As I explained, SuperFetch will retrieve prefetched data from the virtual memory page file and move it to physical memory as soon as possible to ensure the continuity of the performance enhancement. However, because the page file exists on the hard disk, which is less responsive than physical memory, SuperFetch is still going to be hindered by the time that it takes the hard disk to respond to its retrieval operation. In order to overcome this potential performance degradation in SuperFetch's retrieval operation, the ReadyBoost feature will monitor prefetched data that that is to be sent to virtual memory and instead direct it to a more responsive memory device--a USB drive, SD Card, Compact Flash, or other flash memory device that is connected to your computer.


ReadyDrive is the new kid on the block, so to speak, since it really hasn't been talked about much because it relies on a hard disk technology that is still emerging called a hybrid hard drive. Such a drive is literally the combination of traditional hard disk and flash memory. Since flash memory has faster read/write access times that a mechanically operating hard disk, the two can work together with the flash memory working on the frontline intercepting data and then dispatching it to the hard disk.

As you can imagine, this opens up all kinds of performance boosting potential for both desktop and laptop systems. For example, a desktop system will be able to resume from hibernation mode so much faster if the data is being retrieved from flash memory. In a laptop, flash memory will be able to handle the majority of the hard disk related tasks and the hard disk can actually sit idle until needed, which will greatly decrease battery consumption, thus providing more computing time per charge.


With the official release date of Windows Vista being pushed into 2007 and even though Microsoft has stated that the operating system is basically feature complete at this stage in the beta process, it's important to keep in mind that some of the information presented here may change between now and the official release date. You can learn more and keep tabs on the SuperFetch, ReadyBoost, and ReadyDrive features on Microsoft's Windows Vista Performance page. As always, if you have comments or information to share about the SuperFetch, ReadyBoost, and ReadyDrive features, please take a moment to drop by the Discussion area and let us hear.

By Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.