Testing Vista ReadyBoost

I recently ordered a Kingston DataTraveler Elite USB Flash drive to try out Vista’s ReadyBoost feature (previously blogged about here). It arrived in the post from eBuyer today and I decided to run a few semi-scientific tests to see what difference, if any, it made.

Boot Times

I timed Windows startup from cold before and after adding the ReadyBoost device. I started the timer from the second I pressed the power button, as I wanted to include any time lost through BIOS recognition of the USB device. The timer was stopped when Vista reached the ‘select user’ screen.

Before: 49.5 secs
After: 51.0 secs
(yep, slower)

This slowdown seemed to be 100% down to device recognition time – it spent a bit longer on the initial BIOS screens, and there wasn’t any noticeable improvement in the rest of the boot process.

Adobe Photoshop startup times

Photoshop is always slow to start, especially if you have lots of filters, fonts and extensions installed. However, even with regular Windows disk caching it’s much faster to start the second time around. So for this test I’m timing both start and re-start times for Photoshop.

Before ReadyBoost, first start: 26.5 secs. Second start: 14.6 secs.
After ReadyBoost, first start: 16.0 secs. Second start: 11.7 secs.

That’s much more like it! The promise of ReadyBoost – that it will significantly speed up access for small files – seems to be proven here. Photoshop requires access to hundreds, perhaps thousands of small files when starting up. From listening to the HDD it certainly seems to be doing less work, and the application start times have reduced by 40%…. result!

iTunes startup times

I knew Photoshop was going to be an extreme case (like most Adobe apps) so to balance things out I thought I’d try iTunes too. With a massive music library, iTunes takes several seconds to start up, so it’s a reasonable one to test (unlike, for example, Word which starts so fast that startup times are difficult to judge).

Before ReadyBoost, first start: 8.2 secs. Second start: 6.8 secs.
After ReadyBoost, first start: 9.0 secs. Second start: 6.3 secs.

It’s likely that iTunes startup times were influenced by external factors here, rather than ReadyBoost making things slower. However, I don’t think ReadyBoost will improve startup times for an app like iTunes either.

Conclusion

As Tom Archer blogged previously on MSDN, ReadyBoost is all about speeding access to small, random file requests. When you’re doing that (e.g. starting an app that requires lots of tiny files) then ReadyBoost makes a significant improvement – at least 40% faster in my tests. For that alone, it makes it worth the investment in a fast USB Flash drive.

The only difficulty is finding the right drive! My Kingston DataTraveler Elite 1GB seems fine, but previous devices I’ve tried (e.g. Maxell 512MB, Kaser, etc) weren’t fast enough to register for ReadyBoost. If you’re in any doubt, please check out my ReadyBoost compatibility chart.