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Windows 7: USB3 drive for swap, registry and temp files ?

13 Nov 2012   #1

7 64bit Ultimate
USB3 drive for swap, registry and temp files ?

I use an SSD for the Windows system files on my machine, and it works wonderfully; as is the case, I notice it most when going to use a HDD based system. In the same vein, I'm taking advantage of a fast (250Mb/55Mb) USB3 drive for some things. The Windows and User TEMP/TMP files are on the USB stick (that makes a big difference, especially for things like WinRAR), and the browser cache files.

I've also put the swap file on it. That seems to work fine - there's no reason it shouldn't - and am thinking of the next step, moving the registry on to USB drive. My thinking for these last two is this: both the swap file and registry files are huge files that are written to very frequently. If an SSD has a minimum writable storage unit, it'll end up doing a lot more writing/freeing than the odd update here and there.

This is then a tradeoff; I'm using relatively cheap USB storage for things that are written often - temp files - and also for critical files - swap and registry. If I start getting errors on the USB stick it's no great bother to replace it, whereas replacing the SSD would be a lot of work.

I don't know how to move the registry though, that is my question in this post. And it isn't easily dispensed with either, so I'd need frequent backups, I realise. Losing the swap file is unimportant, same for temp and cache files.

I'm also wondering if anyone has comments on this? Is it a good idea, or as useful as Win98 memory optimisers? I've never seen these ideas discussed anywhere, which I find a bit odd as they seem genuinely useful, and in some cases like WinRAR can be proved with a stopwatch to be of use.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Nov 2012   #2

Windows 8 Pro x64

Do you want to rely on the Universal Serial Bus to handle critical parts of your system?
To date I am having random issues with USB equipment like game controllers, thumb drives, card readers and even external HDDs.

Are you sure about this? This is risky.

If you're worried about writing to your SSD too much, don't be. They last longer than your conventional mechanical drive in my experience... I still have my first SSD in my main system.
There is a sensible level of precaution to take that you can find exemplified across any SSD information or tutorial source.

  • I recommend leaving the Windows registry alone.
  • Losing the swap file is actually a little bit more important than you think.
  • If you're worried about free space, there are other things you can do, like disabling Hibernation for example.
  • Optimizing your system (and/or your SSD) for real-word performance is probably not worth the risk, and can be done by more conventional means, but that's up for you to decide.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Nov 2012   #3

7 64bit Ultimate

I'm VERY concerned about reliability, putting vital system state data on a USB3 stick sounds incredibly risky to me; as you say, this is the same bus that has my slightly flakey PS3 controller on it for example. So, I'm being very careful; I don't think that USB memory is that unreliable, or I wouldn't use it for anything, and I don't think that there's a question that temp and cache files belong there. Even if it's just because the temp files are on a different physical drive / controller, it does make a difference.

There's the issue of write cycles, which I agree with, SSDs should last a long time in a home environment. But why not use disposable storage for it? There are thousands and thousands of temp files created and destroyed, daily, and 'net cache files number in the thousands, too. If they can be offloaded from the SSD then that's good, and it really does make a big difference; I keep going back to WinRAR, but it's something I use a lot, and the difference in speed is amazing.

My main concern was, though, that writing a single byte in say, the swap file, will involve much more than a single byte being written, and those writable units are larger than on a HDD. An error in swap on a running system will more than likely bluescreen it, yep, I'm on the lookout for that. But people routinely wipe swap each boot for security reasons, its contents don't need to be persisted.

So, back to the registry. Lots of small random writes and reads, according to sysinternals tools. At that rate does the cleaning and garbage collection on an SSD start to get overwhelmed? Even a competely idle system will sit there 'talking to itself'.

I don't fiddle with the way that Windows uses RAM, or resources in general; some very clever people have worked on it, and in general I let Windows do whatever it wants. But newer hardware with mSATA SSD caches onboard are available, so there's room to improve the hardware it seems, and I don't mind doing that if it's productive. Yep, big difference between mSATA and USB. Same idea though, so it's a risk assesment - is USB3 safe enough? I think so, for temp files, but one vote says not for the registry.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

13 Nov 2012   #4

Windows 10 Pro (x64)

You cannot move the registry nor would you want to, it would benefit most by being on the SSD. As it is the registry is held in RAM most of the time anyways. According to reports of users here who have been testing SSDs for a while now have found them to handle random long term writes like temp files just fine, barely affect the life of their drives.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Nov 2012   #5

7 64bit Ultimate

OK, two votes for not using a USB stick, or at least that doing so is a waste of time.

What about a very silly and contrived thought experiment though. Just say I had a computer, with a new, fast SSD, an older but very respectable SSD and a hard drive. I think I'd put temp and cache stuff on the second SSD. Kind of the same principle as using a USB stick, but just to get that stream onto a different hub and drive would make it worthwhile, I'd think. I've been following that practice for years, using two (hard) drives and splitting off temp, swap etc onto the second drive.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Nov 2012   #6

Win 7 Pro 64-bit 7601

Moving temp files, cache, similar out of the SSD is actually a good idea, not for read-write cycles (as that number is so huge that you don't need to care about it unless you are running a server farm with hundreds of GB moved per day), but for sheer performance. Your choice of USB3 is poor. It will hurt performance.
Screw USB3, and make a RAMdisk out of some of your RAM and use that for browser cache and temporary internet files, system's temp files and whatnot. Being RAM put to work in another way, it will smoke even SSD performance. An article with more details.

About pagefile, since you have 8 gigs of ram you don't really need a swapfile (that's disk memory used for emergency situations when ram is low, if you need more ram and you are at 100% the less-used data is dumped from RAM to that dedicated disk space), as it's pretty damn hard to fill 8 gigs unless you like to keep 30+ browser tabs open. Nowadays it is rarely if ever used for its real purpose, but since it is needed for some minor error logging you can easily reduce it to 200 mb with no impact. (yes, you could place it in a ramdisk but it would be kinda pointless as i explained above and you need error logs to last after system restart, while a ramdisk is erased when the computer is shut down just like normal RAM).

I think moving registry is completely pointless, if possible at all. As the name implies, that's a list of all stuff for the OS to lookup whenever it needs it, it's not anywhere near write-intensive (unless you are an obsessive registry cleaner user or you install/uninstall tons of things per day), so leaving it in the SSD is the best (and only) choice.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Nov 2012   #7

7 64bit Ultimate

Yes, seeking greater performance has always been what this is about, as well as avoiding constant large writes to an SSD. In my opening post I wrote

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by emueyes View Post
I use an SSD for the Windows system files on my machine, and it works wonderfully; as is the case, I notice it most when going to use a HDD based system. In the same vein, I'm taking advantage of a fast (250Mb/55Mb) USB3 drive for some things. The Windows and User TEMP/TMP files are on the USB stick (that makes a big difference, especially for things like WinRAR), and the browser cache files.
all of which is true - I honestly think that using separate drives contributes a lot to some operations, and I'd considered, after some tests with AS SSD that a USB3 stick was 'fast enough', results at USB3 read | Flickr - Photo Sharing! (those figures are worst case scenarios - the HDD is nowhere near that slow to seek, for example).

The idea of using a RAM disk hadn't occurred to me though. Even 16G ( 2 x 8G sticks) is inexpensive enough to be considered a sane purchase, and something I'd been considering anyway. Splitting off a few hundred meg wouldn't be noticed. This sounds promising.

The idea of having no swap concerns me though; I'd thought that _some_ swap was required, by some archaic programme perhaps. If not, then I can save some disk space; putting a swap file on a RAMdisk doesn't make much sense.

Both of these thought trains may just me 'falling behind the times' a little, though the irony of using RAMdisks isn't lost on me; it was the best use for that 1 Meg board full of RAM and some apps that couldn't use extended or expanded memory.. I digress.

I'll set up an AS test on a RAMdisk and see how it fares, and I'm glad that the idea of moving some things to fast volatile storage seems to have some merit.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Nov 2012   #8

7 64bit Ultimate

Nothing is going to match the GB/s speed of a RAMdisk, and as a place for frequent creation / deletion of small temporary files it's a winner. But, there's still the issue of large temp files; unpacking archives and such activities can easily require gigabytes of temp storage. Infrequently, true, though often enough to have come to mind. Those GB of RAM would be sitting empty a lot of the time unless dynamically sized disks were possible.

However, RAM really is cheap. 16G (2x8G) of brand name 1600MHz DDRIII costs about a hundred bucks in Australia ATM. A hundred bucks will also buy (almost) 2x64G USB sticks or a cheap 120G SSD. The predominant value of USB is then that smaller quantities can be installed. Tradeoffs everywhere, but they all have appeal.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Nov 2012   #9

Win 7 Pro 64-bit 7601

Yeah, but you aren't going to need more than 4 GB of ram even while gaming. People reported that even while doing video encoding/editing the computer won't really use more than 8 GB of RAM.

Anyway, quick googling for "dynamically sized ramdisk" gave me this program that does exactly what you ask. It costs around 30$ for two PCs.
More extensive googling may yeld free programs that do what you ask as well, but you should be able to do it on your own.

A hundred bucks will also buy (almost) 2x64G USB sticks or a cheap 120G SSD. The predominant value of USB is then that smaller quantities can be installed.
USB sticks suck regardless of 2 or 3, period (write speeds drag down everything).

Also, the performance difference between 1600 and 1333 mhz ram is negligible (somewhere less than 10% in benchmarks, nearly indistinguishable in real life).
So if you want to save some cash on that, you can.
Since your board has 4 slots for RAM, you can look for 4x4GB ram banks (still 16GB in the end), which are usually cheaper. As long as you don't overclock anyway.

But anyway, I were to blow some money on your system I'd rather upgrade the processor than RAM or buy another SSD. Possibly a i5 3570k, but that may be too expensive in Australia.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Nov 2012   #10

7 64bit Ultimate

I find the biggest benefit of having more RAM is in using it, as RAM. I tend to use Visual Studio, Corel Paintshop, Outlook, a browser with a few dozen pages, a PDF doc or two, and want them there, open, not swapped (oh, there's that word again). It's very nice, and makes for a spectacular productivity increase spread across the two monitors.

The 2x8 vs 4x4 sticks of RAM is not that important to me, though as a rule I like to upgrade rather than side-grade to more of the same. I'm well aware that RAM makes so little difference in overall system speed it's irrelevant - the 8G I have ATM is the cheapest, no-flashy-useless-heatsink but still namebrand stuff I could find. I'd be more interested in stuff that'll run at lower voltages.

Umm, yeah. The G620. That was a quick and cheap solution from a previous system that somehow has become a bit more permanent. I keep meaning to do something about that. A 3570 will cost me about $200, not much in AU$, so it's not going to hurt me and is the obvious next step.

But all of that, really, isn't going to make that much of a difference to me. Yes, using the HTPC as a computer (see specs) is a bit slow in comparison, that is certain, but I rarely have to use it other than with the remote control where it acts fine, and this desktop system is taken for granted.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 USB3 drive for swap, registry and temp files ?

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