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Using usb flash drive as extra ram in XP

by 1Chris / December 30, 2009 3:08 AM PST

Just saw a video on somewhere called CNET and executive editor Tom Merrit tells how to use any usb flash drive as ram in Win XP. Just would like some more input here about this. Any other info than what's in the short video?

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I think you're mistaken
by Jimmy Greystone / December 30, 2009 8:55 AM PST

I think you're mistaken, as this is only available in Vista and Win7. And even on those systems, or if it were available on XP via some means, it's intended to be a stopgap solution at best. Temporary and short-term. As in, you're editing a particularly large photo in Photoshop, and need a little boost.

Flash drives are unreliable, they wear out quickly, and if you plan to use this as a long term solution, just buy some RAM. Less hassle, less waste, and cheaper ultimately.

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Yes, flash drive as memory In XP
by 1Chris / December 31, 2009 1:04 PM PST

Quite a few folks showing how to do this including, as I mentioned, executive editor at cnet - Have you experienced these wearing out? A few posts elsewhere here that they last forever, can even make it through a washing machine, etc.
This would undoubtedly be cheaper, faster and easier. Plus the original configuration could be retained if needed later for numerous operations.

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by nerd4real / December 31, 2009 2:47 PM PST
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That's not the same thing
by Jimmy Greystone / January 3, 2010 1:49 AM PST

That's not the same thing as ReadyBoost, and it's far from some kind of "insider secret". People have been using tricks like this since before XP ever came along.

Put simply, it's not really going to improve things all that much. Even if your average flash drive is faster than a hard drive (assuming no other USB devices are active at the time) it's by a fairly insignificant amount compared to RAM. RAM is many THOUSANDS of time faster, while a flash drive might be a few times faster.

There is simply NO substitute for additional RAM, period. You can waste time, effort, and money on flash drives, or you can just add more RAM and get a benefit far greater for only a little more up front and a lot less overall effort.

Let's just cut to it in general. There are dozens, probably HUNDREDS of little tips and tricks that are supposed to speed up Windows. Most of them do nothing, others have nasty side effects if you don't know what you're doing, and the rest will have a cumulative <5% net gain. Windows is already pretty optimized, and there really aren't any secret registry hacks or whatever else people try and tell you. Do you really think Microsoft would ship a product with some secret turbo mode turned off? The answer to that is they wouldn't. At least not without a VERY good reason. It would simply be bad business to do so. Think of all the fodder it would provide competitors.

There's a whole lot of misinformation floating around out there by so called "experts". People who don't fully understand the full implications of something they read. One of my favorite examples is from a few years back. Back when systems only had 512K of L2 cache RAM at most, people started to realize that you can only cache a certain number of memory addresses with this. So there was a lot of hysteria about how if you add more than some amount of RAM (I think it was 1GB, but it really doesn't matter) your system would take a performance hit, and so you should never add more RAM than that. This was only partially true. It was true that 512K of L2 cache RAM could only properly handle a set number of memory addresses, and it was also true that you would take a performance hit on any memory above that amount. Where the lack of a full understanding came in, was in that even though you would take a performance hit, that performance hit was relative to cached RAM. Compared to the alternative of using the hard drive for swap space, uncached RAM was still HUNDREDS of times faster. Many people failed to grasp that final, crucial, piece of the puzzle. There are still many such people out there today, and some of them work for large organizations.

CNet is not alone in having a few of these people on its payroll. They have plenty of company in the world of tech journalism. Another quick example. The police chief for the city of San Jose in the San Francisco Bay Area recently (over the summer) gave a presentation talking about how great some Internet filter program was that they wanted to implement in public libraries and what not. All of the reporters covering this event, save one, didn't even bother to bring a laptop so they could actively verify the veracity of the police chief's claims. The one reporter who DID bring a laptop, found that the presentation was very tightly controlled to basically cherry pick results. But all the rest were just simply taking everything said at face value. I'm not certain whether or not Cnet sent anyone to cover this event or not, I just know they were not the ones who had the reporter with a laptop.

Long story short, there are basically three things that affect system performance, and they are universal across all operating systems.

1: CPU
2: RAM
3: Number of programs running

You want to see any kind of significant performance gain in a system, focus on those three things. Everything else is either a scam, a waste of time, or both.

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Thanks Jimmy for helpul explanation
by 1Chris / January 3, 2010 4:15 AM PST

Very helpful to know all facets of this even though I'm still trying to put it all together.
I have two machines, one is a Dell 8250 that came with a blazing 256 Mb of ram! It had two 128 Mb sticks and two continuity modules. I upgraded it to 512 a few years ago (nightmare working with Dell by phone and email) with two more 128 sticks. That was the only reason I was thinking of using the usb flash, as I'd have four useless 128 Mb sticks if I replaced them again.
Appreciate the useful info.
Other computer, no prob.

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Why memory alerts now when fine 1 year ago?
by 1Chris / January 3, 2010 7:13 AM PST

I regularly run Indesign, photoshop, an FTP client, MS Word and 8 tabs in Firefox. Ran fine a year ago on this machine. Now when I open Indesign, something comes up like 'memory low'.

I've kept this clean, running av, anitspyware, etc., which I hear can munch on memory like there's no tamarah.

So I figure putting some extra memory in this think might help. I'm still wonderin why this was fine a year ago and not now.

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Thanks Jimmy
by KenFF1 / January 4, 2010 11:36 AM PST

Good points, I used to have a partner who figured "if it's typed in black and white it MUST be right"!!

You missed one criteria. We all know that the longer you have a computer the slower it seems to get. And one thing that has nagged at me for years is the "registry". I learned how to fiddle with this 10 or more years ago but never had the inclination (found the time) to risk screwing up my computer by trying it.

I know the registry is a problem and my machine gets slower and slower. When I installed a new drive and re-installed Windows I was very impressed to be re-united with the original speed of my machine.

Only problem is that I don't have all the old registry items that I used to run and I really don't fancy re-installing everything.

You will find that some applications have a .REG file in the "Program Files" directory. Did you know that if you double click on a .REG file Windows will ADD it to your registry?

Hmmm,,, Why don't ALL applications include a .REG file??

Did you know that you can Export an application's registry entries to a .REG file very easily? Wouldn't that be a nice little backup feature?

So here's the problem... If you're like me, when you get a FREE copy of Photo-shop Home Edition Lite as an option with your digital camera, printer, fax, cell phone or what-ever... you install it in case it will come in handy later. Okay, now take a look at the .REG file that comes with Photo-Shop - IT'S A MILE long!!!

So now you know that you figure to uninstall it huh?

That's fine but the registry is "active" whenever Windows is running so un-install deletes the entries but what happens to the space??

BTW there is a tweak on MS that will let you print out listing of a directory. So you can get a list of the programs you have installed, for instance. (You may want to remark the last 2 lines and delete the /W and /P - you don't need to open a new window and you can print it yourself once it's in Wordpad)

SO HOW ABOUT THAT? You can get a list of the programs you are running, export the registry entries, re-install Windows and re-build the registry. Now that WILL speed up your computer and reduce the memory usage.

One word of warning... I am part way thru' doing this and it is amazing, though not incredible, that many software packages that you are running (e.g. Thunderbird) have never been tested by installing on a fresh install of Windows XP (er... Win 5.1 cerca 1999!) so you may encounter some problems - backup first!!

One reason I haven't messed with the registry before is all those stupid warnings you get from MS! I guess they just want you to call an MCSE. Well I AM an MCSE and they even scared me!! Just make sure that you have a proper backup and that you understand what you are doing and "have at 'er"! One last word.. Fine to do a Registry Backup by Exporting the Registry, but I would STRONGLY ADVISE that you "Create a Checkpoint" also. (See MS knowledge database). As mentioned previously you can export PART of the registry!!! It would be a shame if you thought you were exporting the whole thing and didn't have the right thing selected!!!

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The problem with that
by Jimmy Greystone / January 4, 2010 12:24 PM PST
In reply to: Thanks Jimmy

The problem with that, is that you fail to take into account that for all intents and purposes, the registry is simply a database. It's a very simple, very crude, and very ugly, flat file database. I'm sure it was only intended to be a temporary solution, and like so many temporary solutions, ended up being extended well beyond its original scope and intent. Unfortunately, now we're all stuck with this rather ugly and ineffective solution.

Flat file databases do have a couple of small things going for them however. One, is that they are very easy to construct. Someone with only a minimal knowledge of programming can make these things. They're also generally very fast on account of their low overhead. As they get bigger, it does get a bit harder to search them, BUT much of that is negated by the entire thing being loaded into RAM. Part of being essentially a specially formatted plain text file, is that you can cram a huge amount of info into a very tiny amount of space. While the registry has certainly ballooned beyond what it was when it took center stage in Windows95 (it existed at least as early as Windows 3.1, it just was almost never used) the amount of RAM in computer systems has more than kept pace.

I'd be surprised if the registry on the average computer was over 64MB. Which, granted, is a lot of text, but when we're talking systems with 4-8GB of RAM being pretty standard, it's nothing. And if the entire thing is loaded into RAM, you can search through every single entry in a minute or two. But you generally don't have to do that, because if you look a little closer at the registry the designers clearly anticipated this. There's a path system that programs can use to quickly locate the bit of info they need. It's one of the few good things you can say about the design of the registry, though why you want to store that much sensitive info into a single location, providing an excellent single point of failure... Well, only Microsoft can answer that one. I much preferred the old DOS system, where every program was it's own self-contained ecosystem. I rather like the way Apple puts kind of a modern spin on this. Under the hood, every .app file on OS X is really a directory tree for that app. You can probe it with the command line if so inclined. Everything the program needs to run is contained within, and the Finder shell automatically looks for the main executable in a specific location within that directory tree. Installing an app is as easy as dragging the icon to /Applications, and uninstalling is as easy as dragging it to the Trash. None of this wizard crap Microsoft has had a hard on for since Windows95.

But, long story short, it's a myth that leftover bits of programs in the registry have any non-negligible impact on system performance. It's simply not true. System performance really doesn't degrade over time, it's that our perceptions change. The expectation bar is raised as we become accustomed to our computer's performance levels, and as we are aware of faster computers being made. If you format, the process of reinstalling is usually slow slow and arduous, that by the time you're done, the system seems very quick and responsive. It's all in your head.

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by KenFF1 / January 5, 2010 1:20 PM PST

I am maxed out at 1GB! Trust me, it makes a difference.

Having said that, maybe I should try upgrading again? The specs aren't always right and 2 or 4 Gig stick doesn't cost that much now!!! My machine (2.9GHz dual P4) is plenty fast enough - just that people (like MS) keep chewin' up hunks of it without my sayso!! lol

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a nice idea, and it works, but
by jonah jones / December 31, 2009 4:29 PM PST

it seems to have a built in 4G limit



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Faster Swap File
by KenFF1 / January 3, 2010 1:07 AM PST

You got me thinking - I have the same problem. My second memory slot doesn't work (you only find this out when the warranty is over - right?)

So my solution is to add a faster C: drive with a large cache. My C: drive is only 80 GB and the upgrade is overdue.

I'm no longer an expert but I checked out the speeds. I think my memory should run at about 4,200 MB/sec, my new hard drive tests out at 75 MB/sec and a USB stick runs 7 MB/sec.

Its only 16 MB but 10 x faster!! Think about what you are using memory swap for - too many windows open? Working with Video recordings? Editing photo? More memory won't help you with video or sound files unless you are editing them and most of us don't do that. If you did you would probably be on a Mac! More memory doesn't really help when you are just reading, writing or moving files around.

If you don't want to go thru' the agony of replacing your C: drive, think about adding a drive and moving your swap file to that (I think you can still do that). You can use the drive for archiving stuff but if it's more or less dedicated to the swap file you would get max speed. 16 MB isn't a lot but if you close windows when you are not using them and avoid MS Bloatware it might be enough. And it will still be faster that a stick even if you're using more swap.

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Ever Try eBoostr?
by jharper001 / January 3, 2010 2:54 PM PST

eboostr4 has a feature where it can use your unmanaged additional RAM on your system if you are running a 32 bit windows OS & have more than 3.25 GB. Although it is in beta stages it works pretty well & its free to test

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