Improving boot times with caching


A while ago, I bought a SanDisk ReadyCache to give my system a boost. With a machine with an older BIOS, I wasn’t too sure about going the full SSD route, and that, combined with the overhead of reinstalling the system and various software, I opted to give this a try. What it does is add SSD-like caching to your existing hard drive, making it a bit of a hybrid. It requires software (ExpressCache) to be installed and running on your system (in contrast to a dedicated hybrid drive, such as those from Seagate). This did improve overall performance, but it’s hard to say how close it is to a native SSD drive. It’s probably not quite as fast but it’s a significant improvement. Overall performance is smoother and even the boot time is improved. After the BIOS has loaded, Windows only takes 22 seconds to boot to the password prompt, and logging in, the computer is ready for use a few seconds later. Without the cache, it feels like an eternity, waiting for all of the startup programs to load.

In short, I’d recommend this as an easy system upgrade. Can’t beat the price either; I was able to find it for about $40.


Microsoft has an existing technology that does something similar – ReadyBoost. What would happen, I wondered, if I added a USB flash drive for use with ReadyBoost? I tried searching the ‘net for information, and a surprisingly large number of people suggested that it didn’t do any good or was only good if you had only 1 GB of RAM, etc. A few people described it as enhancing the cache system built into Windows; if that’s the case, the amount of RAM in your system seems irrelavant unless you have so much available RAM that it can be used as a giant cache itself. However, normal RAM is volatile, lost when the computer is rebooted; a USB stick dedicated to ReadyBoost still contains contents from previous usage, and could theoretically cache information to be used upon the next boot. If this is the case, it has the potential of greatly speeding up system boot times.

I think if someone is interested in ReadyBoost, they should try it and see if it helps. Keep in mind that you might have to reboot a couple of times before it is optimal. I tried adding ReadyBoost to my existing system, but results showed no improvement; I think this is largely because the ExpressCache software used by ReadyCache is optimal, and adding an additional layer probably does no good. In a different environment, I would be more interested in testing ReadyBoost on its own.