Adding cheap extra USB flash-drive memory to a Windows 7/8.1/10 PC

If you have a desktop or laptop PC that could use some extra RAM memory but which can’t take any more or it would not be worthwhile buying additional RAM, it is possible to use an inexpensive USB flash drive and make Windows 7 and 8.1 and 10 use its memory as extra memory.

I have just bought a 32GB flash drive for just over £10 that qualified for free delivery from Amazon. Postage and packaging had to be paid for the 16GB model, so I chose the 32GB model – double the capacity for a few pounds more than the 16GB model. I now use an old 4GB flash drive with a feature called ReadyBoost on a Windows 7 laptop and use the much bigger 32GB drive to store files. I installed the 64-bit version of Windows 7, which requires twice as much memory as the 32-bit version. It works well on the 2GB of RAM, which is the maximum that can be installed, but works better using the flash drive and ReadyBoost.

Windows Vista, 7 and 8.1 all provide ReadyBoost. Windows XP doesn’t have this feature, but setting the flash drive as the location of the virtual memory paging/swap file that, if run from the hard disk, increases performance when run from a much faster flash drive. Windows uses virtual memory to swap data in and out of RAM memory.

To use ReadyBoost in Vista and Windows 7, open Computer, locate the flash drive’s drive (E:, G:, etc), right-click on it, click on Properties in the menu that comes up and open the ReadyBoost tab that has two options – to dedicate this drive to ReadyBoost or to use this drive. For the last option, Windows recommends how much space should be reserved for ReadyBoost. In Windows 8/8.1, you have to find the flash drive to make it run ReadyBoost. From the Start screen type the word computer and then click the Search box that contains the word. Click “This PC” that returns a screen showing the installed drives, of which the flash drive should be one. From the desktop screen, right-click the bottom left box and choose File Explorer.

In Windows XP, to use the flash drive to run the virtual memory, follow this click path: Start => Control Panel => System => Advanced => Performance => Settings button => Advanced => Virtual memory => Change.

If Windows XP is running by default from the C: drive, set it (or the alternative drive letter that Windows is using) to have no paging file and then set the flash drive’s drive to have a system-managed size (recommended) or a custom size. For the latter option, research which sizes can be used for minimum and maximum paging-file sizes.

Note that a flash drive has a limited number of times that it have data written to it and Windows XP is not optimised to use a flash drive as efficiently as possible, as is the case with Windows Vista, 7 and 8/8.1 using ReadyBoost. After that limit has been reached, the drive becomes unusable. A flash drive should last several years if it is used to run the virtual memory in Windows XP.

ReadyBoost – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ReadyBoost

Leave a Reply