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 😉 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 😦 The first hint that leads to a solution (no, “reinstall Vista” doesn’t count) wins a SanDisk Extreme III SD card 😃
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