How to Use the Backup Drive for Memory

Although some USB devices are known informally as memory sticks, they’re actually storage media in the same way as an internal or external hard drive. Memory, RAM, is built into the computer itself and is for temporarily holding data for quicker access, while storage is for keeping files permanently. Microsoft Windows editions from Vista onward contain a feature called ReadyBoost that enables you to use a USB device such as a memory stick, memory card or flash drive as a way to expand memory without needing to open up your computer.

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ReadyBoost requires a USB 2.0 device with at least 1GB available space. Your computer will need a USB 2.0 socket, preferably a spare port on the machine itself, not through a hub. You usually won’t get any benefit from ReadyBoost if your computer has a solid state drive rather than a traditional hard drive. For best results, the space you assign on the USB device should be at least twice the size of the memory on your computer and the total capacity of the USB device should be at least four times the size of the memory on your computer.


To use ReadyBoost, insert the USB device into your computer. The Autoplay function brings up a menu with the name of the drive and a list of options. If the menu doesn’t appear, you may have disabled Autoplay and need to re-enable it. Click on the ReadyBoost tab in the menu. If you don’t need to use the device for any purpose other than for additional memory, select “Dedicate this device to ReadyBoost” and click the “OK” button.

Space Settings

Click on “Use this device” if you still want to be able to use the device for storage as well as for additional memory. You can then use the slider icon to select how much of the space on the device you want assigned to memory; the rest will remain usable as storage. The menu will recommend a figure for best performance, though you can experiment with other settings if you want. Click the “OK” button when you’ve selected a figure.

Enhanced for ReadyBoost

Some manufacturers use the term “Enhanced for ReadyBoost” on packaging and in marketing. This means the device should definitely work well for ReadyBoost. Other devices may work as well, but this isn’t guaranteed; some devices are too slow for the feature.


If you unplug the USB device while ReadyBoost is enabled, you won’t do any damage. The computer will simply switch to using your hard drive to handle files temporarily, just as it would do if you’d never used ReadyBoost. If ReadyBoost is working well, you’ll probably notice a slowdown on your computer if and when you unplug the USB device.

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