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Windows Vista's SuperFetch and ReadyBoost Analyzed

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January 31, 2007 11:12:29 AM

Vista is finally here, and it is controversial. We looked under the hood of Vista's performance-enhancing features SuperFetch and ReadyBoost and analyze why the new OS "feels" fast.
January 31, 2007 11:42:22 AM

Quote:
Vista is finally here, and it is controversial. We looked under the hood of Vista's performance-enhancing features SuperFetch and ReadyBoost and analyze why the new OS "feels" fast.


Why is this posted in the coolers & heatsinks section?
January 31, 2007 11:59:37 AM

ReadyBoost gives swapspace better latencies on small files right ?

then could that give a better gain on an AMD cpu rather than on an intel cpu which has shared 4mb of cache instead of 2x512k or 2x1mb cache.

i know it's not on the same level but it's why i'm asking.

which systems will benefits the most ?

how much improvements will it have in games?
how flash speeds will interact with readyboost as fast flash refers essentially to transfer rate ?
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January 31, 2007 12:20:41 PM

I have to confess I don't see what the big deal is with SuperFetch or ReadyBoost.

The system feels faster because Outlook starts in 4 seconds rather than 10? While that's nice, I don't start Outlook 20 times a day. So it starts quicker that one time that I start it up. Big deal.

The downside: just wait a few minutes after your system boots up and it will feel faster. Who wants to wait a few minutes to make it seem faster? Where is the time savings here? Wait 3 minutes and you can save 7 seconds!!!!! Wow!! Amazing!!!

I just plain don't get it. Am I missing something here???
January 31, 2007 12:50:42 PM

I'm a network admin, and I haven't seen much difference using readyboost for work apps. There is a small gain, but the files I open stay open most of the day. There is a slight increase but nothing crazy.

At home on my gaming machine it has made a world of difference. Esp, when zoning between two areas on the map it has dropped the time to almost nothing. It also has stopped a stuttering issue I had with frequent data reads from the hd. Now everything loads at the beginning and I usually hear the HD power down during gameplay.

I'm playing Vanguard SOH with 2 gigs of ram and a 4 gig flash drive...
January 31, 2007 12:59:21 PM

Nice article. Well written.

Would liked to have seen some gaming benchmarks in there.

~~>Vista review != Cooler and Heatsinks<~~~
(im starting to think you are doing this on purpose now) :lol: 
January 31, 2007 1:16:33 PM

Doesn't Flash memory have a limit # of times it can be written too? Wouldn't this be a potential issue with ReadyBoost?

http://www.imation.com/didyouknow/technology_info/USB_F...

Quote:
Flash memory has a write endurance limit. This limit is the number of times the flash memory cell can be written until it can not be restored to its initial condition. The industry refers to this as the erase cycles. The endurance is rated between 10,000 and 100,000 erase cycles for different types flash memories.


Granted that is alot of writes, but it seems like that limit could be hit alot quicker using ReadyBoost than just using flash drives to transfer files.
January 31, 2007 1:49:06 PM

Quote:
Doesn't Flash memory have a limit # of times it can be written too? Wouldn't this be a potential issue with ReadyBoost?

http://www.imation.com/didyouknow/technology_info/USB_F...

Flash memory has a write endurance limit. This limit is the number of times the flash memory cell can be written until it can not be restored to its initial condition. The industry refers to this as the erase cycles. The endurance is rated between 10,000 and 100,000 erase cycles for different types flash memories.


Granted that is alot of writes, but it seems like that limit could be hit alot quicker using ReadyBoost than just using flash drives to transfer files.
Never heard of that before, that could be a problem.
January 31, 2007 2:05:05 PM

Superfetch sounds almost like a redone "Smart" Start-Up. The question to MS really is if I use these applications all the time anyway why wouldn't I just start them up in the first place. That is what is happening for the most part since it is taking the time to load most of the application in memory at startup. Outlook and my common programs are in my startup routine at work, this works just fine while I get my cup of coffee.

Overall I have to use my analogy with MS Word 2.0 This program still does about 90% of what people use MS Word for today. It took a while to open on the old 386-33Mhz chip, 125M HD, and a whole whopping 24MB of RAM. With a 486-100Mhz chip, 500M HD, and 64MB of ram it took only about 2-3 seconds, compared to 10-15 for MS Word 6.0. (This was without the Office Startup) On the PII400, 6G HD and 256MB of Ram with Win98SE it opened as fast as you could click the mouse. No prefetch needed. Just cleaner programming and much less junk.
January 31, 2007 2:09:23 PM

I'm not quite clear on how you turn Superfetch On/Off. If I want it to learn something, do I turn it On somehow, then Off when I'm done? And if I don't want it to constantly be learning but still running off of what it has aleady learned, does it run? I don't want it to be in constant "learning" mode but I love the idea of it learning 10-20 things I do.

Any info on this?

Also, anyone seen a good USB Flash Drive review? Which models support the highest (30mb?) transfer rates?

Thanks all. I love the THG site.

AP
January 31, 2007 2:49:09 PM

If the Flash drive is being used for application cache it will be loaded once per boot and should last a good long time. 10,000 loads at 1 boot per day will last 27 years. Data cache would be a different story.

In my local market I can buy an additional 2Gb RAM (which would give me 4Gb total) for about the same price as a 4Gb Flash drive. Prices are changing so quickly that statement may no longer be true by the time I post this reply but it would have been nice to see a test with 4Gb RAM since that's the maximum most motherboards will accept and the maximum 32 bit Windows is capable of addressing.
January 31, 2007 3:28:44 PM

"Wait a few minutes" :roll:

Wouldn't you accomplish the same thing in the same amount of time by just loading the programs yourself and you could still get that cup of coffee.

This seems more like a workaround to allow the OS to work on older systems with low RAM.
January 31, 2007 4:29:03 PM

Basically, if you have a USB pen drive lying around with little use, you should plug it in to readyboost (it must meet the minimum speed requirements though). Buying one on purpose just to speed your system will be a waste of money.

PS: The test was made with WD raptor, with a normal 7200 hard drive readyboost is bound to make greater improvements
January 31, 2007 6:55:35 PM

Quote:
If the Flash drive is being used for application cache it will be loaded once per boot and should last a good long time. 10,000 loads at 1 boot per day will last 27 years. Data cache would be a different story.

The flash drive would not need to be re-written everytime you rebooted. It's non-volitile. Irregarless, I'm pretty sure that if a flash drive was being used for a paging file it would get thrashed like crazy with writes in almost any real-world situation.

Quote:

In my local market I can buy an additional 2Gb RAM (which would give me 4Gb total) for about the same price as a 4Gb Flash drive. Prices are changing so quickly that statement may no longer be true by the time I post this reply but it would have been nice to see a test with 4Gb RAM since that's the maximum most motherboards will accept and the maximum 32 bit Windows is capable of addressing.

4gb flash drives can be had for ~$40 from etailers in the US. Where are you that you can buy 2gb of RAM for the same price as a 4bg flash drive? Is your 'local market' on the same planet as me? Prices don't change that quickly and don't vary that much by location...
January 31, 2007 7:12:56 PM

Quote:
I'm not quite clear on how you turn Superfetch On/Off. If I want it to learn something, do I turn it On somehow, then Off when I'm done? And if I don't want it to constantly be learning but still running off of what it has aleady learned, does it run? I don't want it to be in constant "learning" mode but I love the idea of it learning 10-20 things I do.

Any info on this?

This is a good question. The logic overhead of SuperFetch "learning" could be something you want to turn off without turning of SuperFetch entirely. Also, is there a way to manually tell it to keep something superfetched (ie: if there was something that you used infrequently but wanted to keep in RAM anyway, like maybe some financial software so you could sell your MS stock in a hurry). And, also, you might not want SuperFetch "learning" bad habits (ie: "I don't care how often my G/F plays DinerDash, do not SuperFetch it").

Quote:

Also, anyone seen a good USB Flash Drive review? Which models support the highest (30mb?) transfer rates?


I second this question. I poked around a bit but didn't find any current reviews. While the flash drive is more about latency then bandwidth I assume there would be a big difference between a drive that can push 22mbps and one that can only do 2mbps (supposedly there are some USB 2.0 flash drives out there that really are that slow).

SuperFetch is the only good new feature of Vista... all the MS Fanboys should hop on this and figure out how to tweak it out and sort through all the flash drives for me while you're at it so I can get a fast one to use in a different OS.

But really, I've been purposefully turning quick launchers off and disabling startup items for years because RAM is EXPENSIVE and it makes bootup take longer. "wait a few minutes" :roll:
January 31, 2007 7:18:04 PM

Quote:
Basically, if you have a USB pen drive lying around with little use, you should plug it in to readyboost (it must meet the minimum speed requirements though). Buying one on purpose just to speed your system will be a waste of money.


If you've already upgraded your hardware and bought vista what's another $40 for a flash drive? If you're running vista it seems like a waste of money NOT to use ReadyBoost. You paid a premium to have a flash drive swap file that sets itself up all easy like, use it.

But really, if you don't get Vista... you won't need a flash drive swap file OR more ram :) 
January 31, 2007 7:41:17 PM

Yeap, if a 2GB flash drive + 2GB Memory works as well as 4GB (Or at least shows some improvements) in gaming, that'd be sweet to know. 2GB flash drive is way cheaper than 2GB Memory.
January 31, 2007 7:43:13 PM

Quote:
ReadyBoost gives swapspace better latencies on small files right ?

then could that give a better gain on an AMD cpu rather than on an intel cpu which has shared 4mb of cache instead of 2x512k or 2x1mb cache.

i know it's not on the same level but it's why i'm asking.

which systems will benefits the most ?

how much improvements will it have in games?
how flash speeds will interact with readyboost as fast flash refers essentially to transfer rate ?


Completely different kinds of cache... should have no difference in performance gained due to the size of the on-die CPU cache. The CPU cache holds stuff in the CPU that would otherwise be in memory, SuperFetch caches things in memory that would otherwise be on the HD, ready boost puts thing on a Flash HD where it has latencies <1ms instead of on a spinning platter where you have +10ms latencies.

Most applications, including games, that need extra stuff running in RAM already take care of it themselves so the performance benefit on the application performance level will be nil. If an applicaiton could have really used more things running in ram (WoW comes to mind. It has a ~3.5gb datbase and another ~1.5gb database that it accesses constantly as objects pass in and out of your proximity) and IF that application doesn't already take care RAM cacheing and IF you bought more RAM and IF SuperFetch can figure out how to cache them efficently without fist killing your performance in overhead then you could potentially remove IO bottlenecks and significantly improve "smootheness". There's one guy further up in this thread that mention a game he notices this affect with. Will it improve maximum or average framerates? No. Will it get rid of "jitters" and "pauses" caused by IO bottlenecks? IF it works right: yes, which could significantly improve minimal framerates. You could do the same thing with a virtual RAM drive in WinXP, but you would have to set it up manually and you would probably need to allocate more RAM permenantly then SuperFect would allocate dynamically.

For the most part any application performance gains from SuperFetch will be from enabling poorly-coded applictaions to run better. If this encourages publishers to release more poorly coded applications this isn't exactly a good thing as the software will run "well" on Vista machine with lots of extra ram, and run like complete crap on anything without a SuperFetch-like feature and a buttload of RAM to back it up with.
January 31, 2007 8:18:53 PM

Quote:
Yeap, if a 2GB flash drive + 2GB Memory works as well as 4GB (Or at least shows some improvements) in gaming, that'd be sweet to know. 2GB flash drive is way cheaper than 2GB Memory.



Nope. In fact, Flash memory is slower then Hard drives, though the access time is near 0 as the article says.

If it was as good as memory, then memory makers would have a big problem.
January 31, 2007 8:37:24 PM

I'd like to see information as to whether Aero was on etc. as most of that crap was turned off in the last article benchmarking application performance versus XP. It would also be interesting to see tests done with XP or even Win2K for comparison, as perhaps these caching routines speed up Vista when compared to Vista, but not compared to earlier, smaller OS installations. My copy of Office opens virtually instantaneously on both Win2K and WinXP Pro, and .2 seconds begins to look like no speed gain at all, if you have to wait a couple minutes for the first 3 times you open an application.
M$ should also think about adding DX10 to Win64 Pro, or was that OS just a money grab to pay for Vista? I haven't been impressed with their follow through on that one, so I will not be purchasing Vista in the near future, until I see more questions answered about the whole OS as bloated spyware with a DX10 baited hook (oooh-look at the shiny chrome on those shackles!)
January 31, 2007 9:26:26 PM

I wonder if there is or there will be the feature to use multiple flash drives in a RAID 0 like configuration or some other configuration that take the sudden removal of flash memories into consideration. Does anyone know about this?

Flash memories are kind of cheap and it would be interesting to see how windows will perform if we attach multiple flash memories through a hub as a cache!

have 4 256mb flash memories connected through a hub and as soon as you click on Crysis icon you will be in the game instantly, click on quick load and you are in the game, cant even see the loading screen ;-)
January 31, 2007 9:56:21 PM

Software RAID 0 has been done before with USB Flash drives in Linux and OS X. Don't know about Windows.
January 31, 2007 10:35:58 PM

Quote:
I wonder if there is or there will be the feature to use multiple flash drives in a RAID 0 like configuration or some other configuration that take the sudden removal of flash memories into consideration. Does anyone know about this?

Flash memories are kind of cheap and it would be interesting to see how windows will perform if we attach multiple flash memories through a hub as a cache!

have 4 256mb flash memories connected through a hub and as soon as you click on Crysis icon you will be in the game instantly, click on quick load and you are in the game, cant even see the loading screen ;-)


Pretty sure you an raid them in WinXP right now from the disk management panel (never actually tried it though).

If you were going to RAID USB drives you would have to do it in software, which is slow. You would probably also want to put each drive on it's own root controller, not all on the same HUB (it's a bus so it could screw up your latencies, but bandwidth would be minimally affected), but I'm not sure how much of a performance difference it would make.

Also, you'd need a lot more than 1g for a modern video game.

SATA Flash drives in raid-0 is what I think you're looking for. If they made them small enough and cheap enough it would certainly give us a use for the 6+ sata channels that come on our mobos. a 1tb platter-based drive, an Optical drive, 4x30gb Flash drives in Raid-0 should give read speed of about 240mbps and you could do it this summer if you wanted.
January 31, 2007 10:41:44 PM

You know what I want back?



The ability to partition memory into a virtual drive. I would love to have a 1gig mem partition. oh well.
January 31, 2007 11:11:30 PM

I agree-RAMDisk was too good an idea. Not sure why it's been abandoned in later M$ OS releases.
February 1, 2007 12:27:22 AM

Ok, once again it's time for a reality check. Can anyone name even one REAL advantage Vista has over XP? Because it sure isn't speediness! And No DX10 doesn't count as it will be available for XP in a few weeks.... Anyone?
February 1, 2007 12:32:48 AM

Ah finally an example of a "Real Genius". Chris Knight rules...
February 1, 2007 12:36:15 AM

Wow, what an intelligent response... I'm so inspired and awestruck that I think I'm going to wet myself... Really! There might be actual tears... :roll:
February 1, 2007 7:09:01 AM

Quote:
I have to confess I don't see what the big deal is with SuperFetch or ReadyBoost.

The system feels faster because Outlook starts in 4 seconds rather than 10? While that's nice, I don't start Outlook 20 times a day. So it starts quicker that one time that I start it up. Big deal.

The downside: just wait a few minutes after your system boots up and it will feel faster. Who wants to wait a few minutes to make it seem faster? Where is the time savings here? Wait 3 minutes and you can save 7 seconds!!!!! Wow!! Amazing!!!

I just plain don't get it. Am I missing something here???




Boom badda BANG! Vista sucks eggs. ANNNNND MS can stick their DRM up their behind. :x
Im sticking with XP. After that Im moving to Linux. I joined this forum because I hate Vista.... a lot. [/img]
February 1, 2007 10:31:06 AM

Quote:
But really, if you don't get Vista... you won't need a flash drive swap file OR more ram :) 


or a new cpu, or a new GFX ... Lol, can't you see what's behind such new "technologies" ? They just want you to spend your money on new hardware :roll: . Vista requirements are ridiculous to say the least, then they put the whole eye-candy in front of you, so you "have" to desire their product, but alas, you have to desire new hardware as well ... One thing i must admit, M$ really knows how to steal money from people pockets, and not only they benefit, the whole hardware industry must be quite happy with this scenario ...
February 1, 2007 10:37:47 AM

Quote:
Wow, what an intelligent response... I'm so inspired and awestruck that I think I'm going to wet myself... Really! There might be actual tears... :roll:


Lol, what would you expect ? A whole article with benchmarks and the entire technical "enchilada" ?

Judging by your responses, www.google.com is in fact the best advice anyone can give you ... :roll:
February 2, 2007 6:52:07 PM

Dear THG,

Why didnt you compare these load speeds to XP? When I open Office or any other app in XP, close it, then open it later, I always notice that it opens faster. Doesn't XP cashe DLL's (leaves them loaded until space is needed). Oh, and doesnt Office pre-load itself with that shortcut it installs to your Start folder in XP?

I notice that IE and Windows Explorer always stay loaded after you run them once.

I think you were affaid that XP would kick Vista's ars yet again ;) 

To those that wish for RamDisk: there are 3rd party apps that do that.

JB
February 4, 2007 4:08:12 PM

with superfetch you hard disks are going to fail sooner (more so with users who use More then 1gb of ram and longer After desktop loading times)

i turnd off superfetch on mine as all my hard disk do on start up is Dump the programs that it thinks i want to start into the cache and to load 1.3gb of cache takes disk time up and superfeche does not seem to give Disk Priority to other programs so it can be conterproductive on start up (i use 4 disks in RAID 0 )

and games with superfetch ON my games whould stutter as well its off now no stutters any more
February 5, 2007 4:39:00 PM

This article only scratches the surface....

Now what I really want to know is:
1) Some benchmarks of modern USB flash keys from various supplier to see which is the fastest and how that affects super cache.
2) As (1) but what flash cards (SD, CF etc.) can be used in place of a USB drive and again which are the fastest / best for this caching.
3) Since sustained data transfer rate of flash memory seem to lag behind HD - is there an option to Raid multiple USB flash drives for super cache?
4) Sustained R/W to a flash device until it starts generating end-of-life errors/symptoms (for it's limited number of write cycles) - I want to know how that would translate to typical operation lifetime of a supercache usb drive and what happens to Vista when the USB drive gets these end of life corruptions ? BSOD??
February 5, 2007 6:44:15 PM

Quote:
Ok, once again it's time for a reality check. Can anyone name even one REAL advantage Vista has over XP? Because it sure isn't speediness! And No DX10 doesn't count as it will be available for XP in a few weeks.... Anyone?


One thing that I really, really like is that you can use the search box to type commands. In particular with you're used to use command prompts, this is really useful.

To launch Word now, for example, what I always do Windows-Key and type "winword".
February 5, 2007 6:49:35 PM

Quote:
You know what I want back?

The ability to partition memory into a virtual drive. I would love to have a 1gig mem partition. oh well.


I'm not sure if this is really better than letting the system use this memory as cache, since you have to pay the performance penalty of going through the file access API's, file system and the implementation of the RAM drive itself. I'm sure it is possible to write a cache implementation that is way cheaper in terms of CPU cycles.
February 5, 2007 7:00:22 PM

Quote:
Dear THG,

Why didnt you compare these load speeds to XP? When I open Office or any other app in XP, close it, then open it later, I always notice that it opens faster. Doesn't XP cashe DLL's (leaves them loaded until space is needed). Oh, and doesnt Office pre-load itself with that shortcut it installs to your Start folder in XP?

I notice that IE and Windows Explorer always stay loaded after you run them once.



Given that the XP uses less memory than Vista, essentially you have more memory for caching for free. So I think that all other things being equal XP can be a little bit faster in cases where this memory difference was enough to cause Vista to unload exactly what you need from the cache.
February 5, 2007 7:19:17 PM

Quote:
And No DX10 doesn't count as it will be available for XP in a few weeks.... Anyone?


I can not find a news release about it. Can you give a link? Is it true?
!