Many tech professionals use the terms virtual memory and paging file interchangeably. Virtual memory is a tool that the Windows operating system uses to increase the memory on your computer without having to actually buy and install more RAM. It takes images from RAM and stores them in a paging file on your hard drive in order to free up memory space.
The virtual memory system is a collection of RAM images that the computer stores on the hard drive to free up RAM space so that you can run several programs simultaneously. With more and more applications taking up large amounts of memory, most users don’t have enough RAM to run more than a few at the same time. Without virtual memory, you would have to close one program in order to open another one as the RAM would quickly reach capacity.
With virtual memory, the system looks for parts of RAM that aren’t used frequently, and copies the information and stores it in the hard drive in the page file. The operating system will then move back and forth from the page file on the hard drive to the RAM to run the programs, which can increase memory but can also slow down the system and compromise performance. As the images are copied from the RAM, it frees up space so that you can use it to run more programs. Much cheaper than adding more physical RAM, using virtual memory allows the system to operate as if it had unlimited memory.
The virtual memory paging file is the place on the hard drive where the virtual memory is stored when it is copied from the RAM. The paging file is created during the Windows installation and placed on the hard drive – it is always created and can’t be deleted off the system. Windows puts the paging file on the boot partition, which is the partition that contains the operating system and all of the supporting files that the computer needs to run. The size of the paging file is based on the amount of RAM that is installed, the default setting being 1.5 times the RAM, although many people like to increase that ratio to twice the RAM or even higher to avoid errors. If the paging file number is set too low, you may get an error message such as: “Your system is low on virtual memory. Windows is increasing the size of your virtual memory paging file.”
As files are added and taken away from the paging file, it increases and decreases accordingly. Many techs feel that setting both the initial and maximum page file values to the same number can increase both speed and computer efficiency.
You can find information on the paging file by getting into the virtual memory.
1. Go to Start and choose Control Panel.
2. Choose Advanced. Under the Performance tab, choose Settings.
3. You will see the Virtual Memory box on the bottom. Choose Change.This will bring you to the paging file information.