No matter how powerful, sometimes a desktop or laptop can get overwhelmed by too many applications, files, documents, and windows. And those of us who have to make do without the fastest system on the block tend to reach those limits a little sooner.

Fortunately, Windows 7 has a preposterously easy way to speed things up: ReadyBoost, which lets you plug in a USB storage device and tell your PC to add its capacity to your system's available RAM (random access memory).

How does that help? Well, you've probably heard that, other things being equal, the PC with the most memory wins. It's true—and Windows 7 knows that. When it runs out of RAM, it starts saving the overflow to your hard drive. Hard drives are fast—no question about it—but they're not nearly as fast as RAM.

Well, what IS nearly as fast as RAM? You guessed it: flash drives and flash cards. And Windows 7 knows that, too.

So, when you plug in a ReadyBoost-compatible storage device, Windows gives you the option of using the device's capacity to augment your system's memory. Simply plug in the device and choose Speed up my system using Windows ReadyBoost from the AutoPlay dialog box that magically appears:

AutoPlay dialog box

Windows will then offer you some choices: You can change your mind altogether (and not use ReadyBoost) or designate either some or all of the device's capacity to boost system memory (more details).

image

There. See? Your system is faster. You can get right back into Halo and blast aliens at record speed—I mean, er, you can run even more complex "what-ifs" on that company-wide budget spreadsheet without slowing down that all-important inspirational video from the CEO.

Either way, have fun—faster!

Jeff