ReadyBoost? Not on my system, apparently…

After reading lots of stuff about ReadyBoost, hearing Dave’s song and having it recommended to me by a colleague, I decided to try it out on my system. Why hadn’t I done so before? Well… laziness ๐Ÿ˜‰ And, seriously, I didn’t think I’d really like it too much.

I’m using my main system (which is an Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi) on the road a lot, meaning elsewhere but standing on my desk. The most propagated option for ReadyBoost is to use a USB flash drive. Unlike (apparently) many people, I don’t have loads of those around… well, I found five or so, but they are all rather old (some of them are really old :-)) and slow. In the end, the idea of using a USB drive for the purpose actually put me off more than anything, because the USB drive would always be sticking out of the machine, so I’d have to unplug it every time I move my machine, and plug it back in when I want to use it.

Now I heard that it is also possible to use a memory card with ReadyBoost. The Acer does have a memory card reader built in, but it has a plastic cover that can’t be closed when a card is in the reader. Okay, I thought, I may just cut of the cover once I’ve found the perfect card that I’m going to leave in there. So I proceeded to test some cards that I had around to find one that would fulfil the requirements of ReadyBoost. I had a SanDisk Memory Stick Pro (too large really for my purpose), a Sony Memory Stick Pro Duo (not too large, but not directly compatible with my reader – adapter makes it too large), a SanDisk SD Mini card (good size with an SD card adapter) and a SanDisk Ultra II SD Micro card (good size with the adapter as well). Going for the SD form factor seems the best idea, as it only sticks out from my machine about a millimeter – hardly enough to pull it back out, actually.

So, the fact that I tested all these different cards gives a hint at the next problem I found: the cards were all assessed to be too slow for ReadyBoost. If you want to do such a test yourself, note that the ReadyBoost service logs to the Event Log. So open Event Viewer and navigate to Application and Services Logs | Microsoft | Windows | ReadyBoost | Operational. Then run a speed test (insert the memory device you want to use, find the drive for the device, right-click to get to the Properties dialog, select the ReadyBoost page and click the Test Again button.), and you’ll find a line in the Event Log telling you what speed was measured for the device.

All my cards were measured at only around 1600Kb/s, roughly half of what ReadyBoost wants (as far as I understand – the requirements list usually shows a value for each the read and write speeds, but the Event Log has only one value). I got myself another card, a SanDisk Extreme III SD Card which is supposed to really fast, but I get about the same value for that one as for all the others. When I rerun the test a number of times with any given card, there’s quite a lot of variation – up to 200Kb/s – but on average the results are always the same.

My next idea was of course that I had some wrong drivers. I found Intel’s driver page for the 945PM chipset in the Acer, but the drivers I was using were already the newest they have (and yes, they are specifically for Vista). All the other drivers that appear to have anything at all to do with the card reader are Microsoft drivers, and their version number all say Vista RTM. I’m somewhat at a loss what else to look at…

I’ve been thinking a few times that some things on my laptop may not be quite as they should be, due to the fact that I installed Vista during the RC phase (that was the last time I did a clean install) and upgraded to the RTM version. So I guess it is possible that a clean install of Vista RTM would help, but that takes too much time ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

The first hint that leads to a solution (no, “reinstall Vista” doesn’t count) wins a SanDisk Extreme III SD card ๐Ÿ™‚

13 Comments on ReadyBoost? Not on my system, apparently…

  1. You over-estimate the performance that ReadyBoost requires from the device:2.5MB/sec throughput for 4K random reads and 1.75MB/sec throughput for 512K random writes- some devices can do really fast sequential data transfers but suck when doing the random block reads/writes that ReadyBoost performs while doing the tests. This list shows the Sandisk III being compatible. So it looks like you are correct regarding it working but alas so far it isn’t.How much really RAM does your computer have? At least 2GB I hope! Vista runs like a dog with anything less than 2GB. Get more real memory.It seems that some devices perform differently depending on the format method used. Ensure you format the device when it is in your laptop, try FAT and NTFS – seen a report that said not to use FAT32. Try different block sizes. The smaller the better due to the testing methodology used by ReadyBoost. It may be necessary to make multiple format attempts.This registry hack allows you to override Vista’s decision:1. Let Vista test is, and check the Do not Retest this device checkbox. 2. Unplug the device 3. Go to regedit HKLMSOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionEMDMgmt 4.find the key related to you device (the device vendor and name is in the key) 5. Change the follwing values: Device Status 0x02 ReadSpeedKBs 0x1000 WriteSpeedKBs 0x1000 6. Plug the device, right click on it to open properties and enable cache.- But if the device is truly running slow then you’re only going to make your system slower!Seen reports that plugging in the slower SD cards and disabling them before trying your new shiny Sandisk III may work.There is always the chance that your Acer hardware just isn’t up to the job of running ReadyBoost when using SDRAM! It seems strange that all the different types of SD cards have the same performance, indicating the bottleneck lies somewhere else in the system. Have you thought about implementing an external SATA hard drive instead. It has been reported that this setup is super fast. I’ve no clue if it works or not!RegardsJohn

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  2. I also meant to mention disabling or shutting down as much as possible while doing the ReadyBoost tests.

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  3. From http://www.grantgibson.co.uk/blog/index.php/2006/09/16/readyboost-chart/Comment reads:"I can not stress this enough for those complaining that the feature doesnt work or you are having problems with performance with SD memory class flash drives.please ensure that your SD Memory host control is of the drivers from your manufacturer and not using the Standard Microsoft SD Host control. the standard one is designed for over all compatibility and basic performance levels.once you upgrade that you will not have problems so long as your memory fits the req."

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  4. Hi John – first of all, thanks a lot for all your comments. How much real RAM does my system have? 2GB, that’s the standard size for the Acer… it could theoretically take 4GB, but given the prices it doesn’t seem likely I’ll go that way.So, I think there are a number of things I’ll want to try: * Formatting with different block sizes. I tried different file systems already, all three of them actually, with no difference whatsoever. But I went for the default block sizes in all cases. * Disabling the device, or rebooting between tries. Well… that final test I did, with the Extreme III card, was done on its own anyway. Will see if I can find any new info that way. * Finally, the thing with the driver… my personal favourite before I ever read your comments. Problem is, there don’t seem to be any specific drivers for any of the devices that are relevant to this problem, other than those for the Intel chipset, which I have already installed. That comment you’re quoting is also not very clear to me – what is an "SD Memory host control"??? Here’s a shot from my Device Manager that shows my device:I suspect that the comment from the other blog talks about the entry called "ACER USB20 HS-COMBO USB Device". That one runs with Microsoft drivers, but I haven’t been able so far to find any other drivers for it. I shall have another look…Thanks again, John, I’ll post again when I have further info.

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  5. Here is another method if your device fails initially..First, format with NTFS, then select "Compress this drive to save space" in properties. You can enable ReadyBoost now.My 512MB Kingston SD Card, which initially failed, worked with this method.

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  6. The Kingston Data Traveller range works out the packaging! Tested the Kingston 1GB Data Traveller II USB 2.0 Flash Drive on a Toshiba Vista Home Premium system just a few days ago. No messing about, no reformatting, no magic hacks required.See http://www.ebuyer.com/UK/product/82210 for the exact product that worked for my customer.

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  7. At this point I’m pretty sure this problem doesn’t have to do with the media I’m using. I have now made it work two different ways: (1) using a fast USB flash drive and (b) using a flash card reader for the ExpressCard slot on my machine. So apparently the problem is exactly where I (and some of you) originally thought it might be, i.e. the card reader or its driver. I have done some searches for an updated driver, but there doesn’t seem to be one – I guess it’s also possible that the reader just isn’t fast enough. The big disadvantage with the ExpressCard reader is that the flash card sticks out from the computer… that’s just how it’s built. Oh well.Having worked with ReadyBoost active for a while now, I also have to say that I’m not seeing any enormous differences. But I’ll give it some more time…Thanks for everybody’s hints!

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  8. Oliver Wrote:"The first hint that leads to a solution (no, ‘reinstall Vista’ doesn’t count) wins a SanDisk Extreme III SD card"So who’s won the prize in your judgement? :-)Since you got 2GB of RAM then you might not be getting into the situation when "stuff" is being saved onto the Speedboost device all that often. Does it look like Vista is using it?I didn’t see any obvious difference in the customer’s laptop that had only 1GB of RAM that was using Speedboost with the Kingston Traveller II. That said, the memory stick was flashing like mad as Vista seemed to be constantly using it. When I think about it, all the Microsoft droids (both DPE and IT Pro types) always seem to use USB memory sticks with SpeedBoost. Perhaps there is a very good reason for that!

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  9. Hi JohnWell, I don’t think anybody’s winning my SD card at the moment, sorry…. I appreciate all the work you and others put into helping me <g>, but it seems that the issue with the internal card reader goes back to the driver after all, as I originally thought myself, and it isn’t solved as there doesn’t seem to be a newer driver available. And the idea that allows me to use ReadyBoost at the moment is one that I came up with myself – using an external (ExpressCard) card reader.Reading all the FAQs I found, I got the impression that ReadyBoost should definitely help with those situations that Windows gets itself into, where a good amount of swap file traffic suddenly occurs. Of course this doesn’t happen all the time with a system that has 2GB of RAM, I can see that. But it does definitely happen every now and then, and so far I still haven’t had the impression that things go much better with ReadyBoost in these situations. When I have a period where I’m going to work at home for awhile, I will probably try working with my USB stick for a period of time, as that one is nearly four times as fast according to ReadyBoost’s own measurements. Maybe I’ll see a difference then – or if I don’t, I can decide to drop it altogether.Thanks for all your ideas, John – if you feel you should really win that SD card, don’t hesitate to prove your case! Maybe I’ll change my mind…

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  10. No case to prove! I’ll just mug you at the next DDD :-).I’m beating that the hardware isn’t up to the job, rather than the driver being at fault. It is Acer after all! Have you complained bitterly to their tech support department?

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  11. Kraig Stubleski // November 24, 2007 at 4:15 am // Reply

    Just bought a 2GB Sandisk "Plain Jane" micro SD with SD adapter (On sale at Office Depot for $20 US). Failed out of the box. Formatted NTFS 512K. Failed again. Turned off virus scanner…success. Not sure if I even needed to format it differently in the first place. Most likely the virus scanner is what was causing the speed issue.

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  12. Thank you for sharing.

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  13. I’ve been looking at different benchmarks and Readyboost only gives a minor improvement if you have less then 1GB of fysical ram. None of the tests I have seen give more detail on the type of ram though. But I assume that the difference will be more significant when using older ram.
    So if you have an old computer with 512mb pc133 and a fast 2GB sdhc card, Readyboost would provide a big improvement in performance. But if you have 4GB DDR3, readyboost won’t give you any significant performance boost.

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