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Windows Vista Kernel “The Case of the Missing AutoPlay”

I’ve been presenting talks on Windows Vista kernel changes since TechEd US in the summer of 2006 and one of the features I cover in the session is ReadyBoost, a write-through disk caching technology that can potentially improve system performance by leveraging flash media as a disk cache. I explain ReadyBoost in depth in my TechNet Magazine article, “Inside the Windows Vista Kernel: Part 2”, but the basic idea is that, since flash has significantly better random access latency than disk, ReadyBoost intercepts disk accesses and directs random-access reads to its cache when the cache holds the data, but sends sequential access to directly to the disk. During my presentation, I insert a USB key, whereupon Windows displays an AutoPlay dialog that includes an option to configure the device for ReadyBoost caching:

The first time I gave the talk, the demonstration went flawlessly, but in subsequent deliveries I didn’t get the AutoPlay experience. I would notice the lack of AutoPlay as I ran through the demonstrations before a session, but was always pressed for time and so couldn’t investigate. As a workaround, I would manual open the properties dialog of the device’s volume after insertion to show the ReadyBoost page that’s displayed when you click on the “Speed up my system” link on the AutoPlay dialog.

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