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Issue #112: September 13, 2009

Q: To take advantage of the “ReadyBoost” feature f Windows Vista Home Premium, I purchased an 8MB USB Drive for my Dell Inspiron Desktop Computer.  The USB drive package stated that it was Windows Vista Approved and “Read Boost” enabled. After installing the USB drive, I went to the properties window for the device and selected the tab “ReadyBoost”.  I selected “Use this device.” And reserved the maximum of 4090 MB of memory, the Windows recommended amount.  To all appearances, the system speed increased.  However, I have encountered a problem.  When I turn on the computer a message is displayed “Invalid System Disk.  Replace the disk and then press any key” and the power on sequence stops.  The only way I can turn on the computer is to remove the USB drive first and then insert the drive once the computer is fully powered up.  I’m sure this is not what Microsoft intended.  What can be done to turn on the computer without continually removing and reinserting the USB drive?

– Chuck K.
Niceville, Fla

A: Before I answer your question, Chuck, please allow me to give some background to those of my readers who have no idea what you’re talking about.  ReadyBoost is a neat little feature that Microsoft introduced in Windows Vista that allows you to use a removable storage device, such as a USB flash drive, or an SD chip plugged into an on-board reader, to get a slight boost in system performance.  It accomplishes this by using the ReadyBoost device as additional cache memory that the computer can access much more quickly than data on the hard drive.  Not all removable media are ReadyBoost-compatible. Vista measures the speed of each removable storage device you plug in, and decides whether the device’s performance is fast enough to be used as a ReadyBoost device.  You gave a pretty good explanation in your question on how to enable it, but remember: ReadyBoost is not a performance panacea for your computer.  The best way to increase system performance is still to add RAM, up to the maximum your system can handle.

Now, as for your question, your computer is actually already giving you the answer.  It’s just speaking Geekish (thanks, Bill) so you don’t quite understand what it’s trying to tell you.  The error message “Invalid System Disk” means that your computer is trying to boot from a drive that doesn’t contain an operating system; in this case, your new flash drive.  Being able to boot from USB is a nice-to-have feature if you’re a computer technician or a hardware tinkerer, but in your case, it’s causing some unintended consequences, and the feature needs to be disabled.  You’ll need to do this from within your computer’s BIOS settings, and each manufacturer has a different way of getting in to configure the BIOS.  You’ll need to power-on your computer and watch the screen carefully.  One of the first things it should say is something like “Hit <some key> to enter BIOS setup.”  Quickly hit whatever key it says.  On your Dell, it’s probably F2.  Once you’re in the BIOS setup, look around the menus for an entry that says something like Boot Order.  Change the order so that booting from external USB devices is either disabled, or is at the bottom of the list.


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