PDC: "SuperFetch" to accelerate application boot time in Vista

Los Angeles (CA) - Microsoft executive Jim Allchin today previewed a new feature in Windows that can significantly increase the speed applications are loaded and extend the virtual memory of a computer system by accessing secondary and peripheral storage devices such as USB Flash memory sticks.

Improving the startup times of applications has been a focus area of the past two generations of the Windows operating system and it will not be different when Microsoft launches Vista at the end of next year. So far, load times were accelerated mainly by placing data of frequently used applications in favorable sections of a harddrive. This time around, the speed increase gets a bit more sophisticated.

Microsoft calls this feature "SuperFetch." According to group vice president Jim Allchin, library system codes of most used applications are pre-loaded during the normal start of the operating system (OS). For example, the vast majority of "Outlook" already is placed into the system memory during OS launch. When the user actually requests the application, only the container of the software needs to be loaded. Microsoft claims that this approach will cut down application boot times by about 80 percent.

It is unclear at this time whether Vista's boot time will increase as a result of the additional pre-loads. However, it was indicated that the feature will run in teh background and make use of multithreading capability. If a dual-core processor is present, we would expect boot times not be impacted significantly.

SuperFetch has another component to it, which apparently can boost overall system performance. Vista will be able to use the storage space of peripheral storage devices such as Flash memory sticks to expand its virtual memory space. Users who are connecting a 512 MByte or 1 GByte stick to their system will see an immediate bump in virtual memory space, Microsoft said.

Microsoft will detail the technology during the PDC in this week and explain for example what exactly happens to the contents of outsourced virtual memory when a USB stick is removed abruptly. At least we know that the virtual memory contents on a peripheral device are secure: According to Allchin, all virtual memory data is encrypted.

SuperFetch will be available in the final version of Windows Vista, the company said.