Turn A USB Flash Drive Into Extra Virtual RAM


It’s not hard to turn an extra USB stick lying around that’s collecting dust into extra memory for your computer, allowing it to run speedier and manage more applications better.

DIY site Instructables has a guide on how to put a flash drive to good use by using it to increase the virtual RAM on your Windows computer. For the best results, Instructables user MoritzB suggests using a USB drive smaller than 4 GB for this little trick. We’ve paraphased some of the instructions for you below:

  1. Rename your thumb drive as “RAM DRIVE” or something similar, so you can see which drive is being used as RAM.
  2. Delete all the stuff on the flash drive. Check for hidden files.
  3. Right click on My Computer, and go to Properties. Once there, click on Advanced and go to the system output’s Settings.
  4. Click on Advanced, and then Edit.
  5. Click on your thumb drive above, and select “user-defined size.” Here you can see the size of your flash drive.
  6. Calculate the size of flash drive, and subtract 5 Mb.
  7. Type this number in the first box. In the second box, type in the same number.
  8. Click Set and confirm all your settings, applying them wherever you can.
  9. Restart your computer.

Windows 7 users should go into their System Properties, under the Performance tab for these options. After you’re done, your computer will recognise your flash drive as extra virtual memory. Do not pull out your thumb drive after these settings are implemented. It could crash your computer. Instructables has the whole tutorial, with step-by-step screenshots below.

Use your USB flash drive as virtual RAM [Instructables]


  • Most cheap flash drives have slower transfer than your average HDD. So this could actually have a negative impact on your computer.

    The only benefit of this is the quick access rates of USB drives.

  • I wonder how long the flash drive would even last considering they have limited read/write. Then again, if you have a left over one lying around which you no longer use why not.

  • Also flash drives have a limited number of read/writes. Most guides instructing you on how to install a bootable operating system off a USB drive will tell you to disable the caching on the drive or move it to a hard drive. While virtual RAM might not be punished as hard as cache, expect doing this to considerably shorten the life of your usb stick (though if this is a dust collecting one you might not care)

  • @ Nodeity – It is Readyboost. They are just enabling it through the menu system as opposed to the auto start menu.

    With regards to the USB stick being slower than the hard drive, on the types of systems you would be using this particular trick on, I very much doubt that the disk would be faster than the flash on the USB.

    Transfer rate is important, but just as important is seek speed, and this is where the flash helps. Your hard drive might be skipping from point to point reading the movie you are watching while you are working in word. Therefore it takes longer to get back to the “cache” on your drive. The use of Readyboost eliminates this latency.

    I can vouch for it’s effectiveness on low to mid rate machines. You can quite readily see the improvement.

    This will, however, do stuff all for a computer with a serious amount of ram. Horses for courses as they say 🙂

  • If your computer has less then 1GB of RAM, then you need an upgrade!

    – Buy more RAM Its Cheap!
    – Upgrade Vista to 7, you’ll get more RAM free.
    – buy a Netbook for ~$300 – $500 (it is probably more powerful then the computer that needs ReadyBoost to work faster anyway.)

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