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  1. Run Applications Directly from Your Flash Drive
  2. Boost PC Performance Using Windows ReadyBoost
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Boost PC Performance Using Windows ReadyBoost

Starting in Windows Vista and included with Windows 7, Microsoft has included a new feature called Windows ReadyBoost. It helps boost your PC performance by making use of spare space on your USB flash drive, SD card, or CompactFlash card.

Essentially, it expands your computer's available memory, which can help speed up multitasking and other performance-heavy applications such as video editing or gaming. Though it's not as good as adding more real RAM, it is free and easy if you have space room on a drive.

In Windows Vista, you're limited to an additional 4 GB, using only one USB device. However, in Windows 7, you can use up to eight USB devices with a total limit of an additional 256 GB.

You can enable and change the ReadyBoost settings via the USB drive's Properties dialog. In Computer, right-click the drive or card, click Properties, and then hit the ReadyBoost tab (see Figure 2).

Save or Distribute Your Wi-Fi Settings Using Windows Connect Now (WCN)

Windows Connect Now (WCN) debuted in Windows XP SP2 and has been included in Windows Vista and 7. It lets you save and/or transfer your wireless network profiles. This includes the WEP, WPA, or WPA2 encryption key or passphrase, so you don't have to manually type it on all your Windows PCs. You'll just have to insert your USB drive to import all the settings.

To export your Wi-Fi settings in Windows XP SP2 or SP3 and Windows Vista, you can use the Wireless Network Setup Wizard. On the Start Menu, click Programs > Accessories > Communications > Wireless Network Setup.

In Windows 7, you can export your Wi-Fi settings via the wireless network profile. Open the Network and Sharing Center, click Manage Wireless Networks, double-click the desired profile, and click Copy this network profile to a USB flash drive (see Figure 3).

To import the profile into Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7, insert the USB flash drive. Then on the AutoPlay menu that pops up, click the Connect to a Wireless Network using Windows Connect Now (see Figure 4) shortcut or the Wireless Network Setup Wizard shortcut.

If the AutoPlay menu doesn't pop up, you can just run the SetupSNK.exe program that's on the flash drive.

Encrypt it to Transfer Sensitive Information

You can also use your flash drive to store and transport sensitive files by encrypting the drive. Encrypting it protects it with a password, so your data is safe if the drive gets into someone else's hands.

After the drive is inserted into a computer, the password must be entered before the files are accessible. Although it doesn't stop others from deleting your data, it also doesn't let anyone else see or access it.

Some flash drives are sold with encryption already set up. However, they are usually more costly. You can quickly and easily encrypt any drive yourself.

FreeOTFE is one encryption utility that's great for protecting flash drives. Unlike other encryption solutions, it doesn't require you to be logged into a Windows account with administrative privileges.

You can access and edit encrypted files and documents from any PC. You can create and store files inside encrypted file containers or you can encrypt an entire partition or drive.

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