Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Managing Virtual Memory Paging Files

Like most modern operating systems, Microsoft Windows XP uses virtual memory, which is created

by extending the physical memory assigned to an application to the computer’s

hard drive. Windows can assign some memory to an application, but not necessarily

enough to satisfy all that application’s needs. Instead, Windows monitors memory

access and continuously reorganizes memory structure to meet applications’ needs. By

correctly anticipating applications’ needs, and by storing pages of memory to hard disk

as necessary, Windows uses virtual memory to allow a computer to operate with less

physical memory.

When Windows stores memory to hard disk, it uses a special file called a paging file.

You can configure some aspects that relate to how Windows uses the paging file by

using the Virtual Memory dialog box. To open the Virtual Memory dialog box, follow these steps:

1. From the Start menu, right-click My Computer and select Properties.

2. In the System Properties dialog box, on the Advanced tab, click the Settings button

in the Performance section.

3. In the Performance Options dialog box, on the Advanced tab, click Change.

The Virtual Memory dialog box shows the size of the paging file for each disk on a

computer and the total paging file size for all the drives combined. The files on all disks

are combined and treated as a single area for paging memory to disk. Breaking the

paging file up across multiple disks (especially disks on different disk controllers) can

decrease the time it takes to write memory information to the paging file.

For the most part, Windows does a good job of managing the size of the file itself.

Unless you have a good reason for changing the paging file, you should probably just

leave it alone. However, if possible, you want to avoid having your paging file on the

same disk as your system files.

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