Adding more RAM is a good first step to speeding up your PC, and the easiest and cheapest way to do so is using a simple USB drive and Windows' ReadyBoost feature.

Adding more RAM is a good first step to speeding up your PC but, if you’re running a 32bit version of Windows or you’re relatively inexperienced at working with your system’s innards, this may not be a feasible option. However, Vista and Windows 7 PCs have a ReadyBoost feature that lets them make use of memory from a plugged-in USB flash drive.

Windows 7 builds on Vista’s ReadyBoost functionality by allowing the use of other storage media – such as an iPod, for example – and supporting several devices simultaneously.

ReadyBoost can use a minimum 256MB and maximum 4GB of external memory, but Microsoft recommends a flash-memory-to-system-RAM ratio of between 1:1 and 2.5:1.

Get started with ReadyBoost

Step 1. Windows ReadyBoost gives your PC a temporary memory boost. Simply plug in a USB flash drive that supports it. You’ll need to use a USB 2.0 port and a drive that has at least 64MB of free space. The smallest cache that ReadyBoost can use is 256MB; the largest is 4GB.

ReadyBoost step 1

Step 2. Plug the USB flash drive into your PC. As soon as the computer has registered the device, Windows Explorer will offer a menu of AutoPlay options for opening and viewing files stored on the drive. Scroll down the list and choose ‘Speed up my system using Windows ReadyBoost’.

ReadyBoost step 2

Step 3. In the next screen, select ‘Use this device’. Use the slider to indicate how much of the space on the drive you want to dedicate to ReadyBoost. Alternatively, select ‘Dedicate this device to ReadyBoost’ to automatically assign all the available space to supplement your system RAM. Press Apply, Ok.

ReadyBoost step 3

Step 4. You can continue using the USB drive in the usual fashion, but less space will be available on it. If you need to free up more space to save a file, go to Start, Computer, right-click the drive and select Properties. Now simply adjust how much space is reserved for ReadyBoost.

ReadyBoost step 4

Also see:
How to install a solid-state drive
Upgrade Advisor
Windows 7 Advisor