Jim Alchin, a group vice president for Windows, said that the flash drive option will be accessed by the new Superfetch technology, which is designed to speed up application start-up times.
Superfetch will monitor the system, then pre-load .dll files of the most-used applications during the OS boot process. When the user actually launches the application, it loads considerably faster, since some of it is already in memory.
"Superfetch works great if you have a reasonable amount of memory, and it works fantastic if you have boatloads of memory," Alchin said at PDC.
To that end, Superfetch will be able to call on memory it finds in connected flash drives, the gum-sized USB devices designed to store files for easy transport between PCs.
Superfetch will add the flash memory it finds in the USB drive to Vista's virtual memory, said Alchin. That virtual memory in turn is used to hold the pre-loaded.dll files.
Data stored in the drive's flash memory will be encrypted, said Alchin, and removing the drive while the OS is running won't destabilize Vista.
Windows Vista, while in its first round of beta testing, isn't expected to debut until late 2006. The Superfetch technology is included in beta 1, but the USB option won't appear until a later version of the preview OS.