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Tweak Virtual Memory Settings in Windows for Better Performance

Tweak Virtual Memory Settings in Windows for Better Performance

Jul 11, 2012

“Windows has lots of options for tweaking the virtual memory settings, but I’m afraid of doing something that could slow my computer down or break something. What virtual memory settings should I use so my computer performs the best that it can?”

Virtual Memory is a great feature that enhances the stability of Windows-based computers by allowing them to utilize the hard drive for temporary storage space when physical memory runs low. In simple terms, when you open a file or program that won’t fit in physical memory, Windows swaps an inactive program to the virtual memory or “paging” file on the hard drive to increase free memory.

By default, Windows manages the size of the paging file automatically. The file begins with a relatively small size and grows when necessary, only to shrink again when memory demands are lower. The constantly changing file size leads to fragmentation. This decreases the performance of virtual memory because the hard drive may need to reposition its read/write heads several times to modify the paging file. In addition, with a slower hard drive, virtual memory can cause thrashing if the operating system tries to modify the paging file while doing something else. You can improve the overall performance of your computer by tweaking the virtual memory settings to lock the file to a single size and, if possible, moving it to a hard drive other than the one on which Windows is installed.

Tip: Consider creating a 4-8 GB partition at the beginning of an empty hard drive and devoting it exclusively to the paging file. This eliminates the possibility of fragmentation and ensures that the paging file resides on the fastest part of the hard drive.

If your computer has IDE — also known as parallel ATA — hard drives, the hard drive storing the paging file should be connected to the computer’s secondary IDE controller so the full bandwidth of the primary controller remains available to the operating system hard drive.

The ideal size for the paging file in Windows is usually about 1.5 – 2 times the amount of physical memory in the computer.

These tips do not apply to computers with solid-state drives. SSDs are not susceptible to fragmentation and do not have faster and slower areas like conventional hard drives.

Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP

  1. Tweak Windows 7 Vista XP Virtual Memory SettingsOpen the Start Menu. Right-click Computer or My Computer and select Properties.
  2. Click Advanced System Settings on the left side of the window.
  3. Click the Advanced tab.
  4. Click the Settings button under the Performance heading.
  5. Click the Advanced tab.
  6. Click the Change button.
  7. Clear the check from the Automatically manage paging file size for all drives box (Windows 7 and Windows Vista only).
  8. Click the C: hard drive on the list.
  9. Click the No Paging File radio button.
  10. Click the Set button.
  11. Click the D: hard drive on the list (select a different drive letter if needed).
  12. Click the Custom Size radio button.
  13. Enter the same value in the Initial Size and Maximum Size fields. For example, to use a paging file size of 4 GB, type 4096 in both fields.
  14. Click the Set button.
  15. Click OK in each window and restart the computer.

 Windows 2000

  1. Tweak Windows 2000 Virtual Memory SettingsRight-click the My Computer icon on the desktop and select Properties.
  2. Click the Advanced tab.
  3. Click the Performance Options button.
  4. Click the Change button.
  5. Click the C: hard drive on the list.
  6. Change the values in the Initial Size and Maximum Size fields to 0.
  7. Click the Set button.
  8. Click the D: hard drive on the list (select a different drive letter if needed).
  9. Enter the same value in the Initial Size and Maximum Size fields. For example, to use a paging file size of 4 GB, type 4096 in both fields.
  10. Click the Set button.
  11. Click OK in each window and restart the computer.

Windows Me and 98

  1. Tweak Windows Me 98 Virtual Memory SettingsRight-click the My Computer icon on the desktop and select Properties.
  2. Click the Performance tab.
  3. Click the Virtual Memory button.
  4. Click the Let me specify my own virtual memory settings radio button.
  5. Select C: on the Hard Disk drop-down menu.
  6. Change the values in the Minimum and Maximum fields to 0.
  7. Select D: on the Hard Disk drop-down menu (select a different drive letter if needed).
  8. Enter the same value in the Minimum and Maximum fields. For example, to use a paging file size of 4 GB, type 4096 in both fields.
  9. Click OK in each window and restart the computer.
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