My wife’s laptop (an Inspiron 1720) sits near the living room, a perfect spot to keep an eye on the kids, and so it ends up being used by both of us. I browse using Firefox, with tons of open tabs, and my wife browses using IE. Browsing these days takes a lot of RAM, and it’s not at all hard to saturate the 3.5GB of RAM accessible to the 32-bit Windows 7 (out of 4GB in the machine).
When more than 3.5GB is in use, the laptop starts going into slideshow mode, when switching tabs, programs or even using the OS can take long seconds. That pain led me to consider various options, such as installing the 64-bit version of the OS or getting an SSD. I eventually remembered Readyboost, which can use a USB Flash drive to cache disk accesses, and so has a good potential to speed up systems with disk thrashing, for example due to virtual memory use.
We had a 4GB Flash drive that wasn’t in use, so I plugged that in and configured it. I’ve read a lot of comments of how Readyboost is only really useful on systems with little RAM (1GB and under), but since we started using it the laptop has become a lot more responsive. We no longer feel the need to shut down applications or reboot. It’s of course not as good as having extra RAM, but it’s a whole lot better than before.
I’m sure that a RAM upgrade (impractical in this case) would be the best, and an SSD could be a good solution (I’m considering it, though might go for a Seagate SSHD), but as a cheap upgrade (free in this case) this is a surprisingly good solution.