How to Adjust Virtual Memory Settings

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How to Adjust Virtual Memory Settings

What are virtual memory settings? How can they be changed? Read on, to know all about it.

An important parameter that affects a computer’s performance, is its working memory. Besides the clocking frequency, which decides the speed of the computer processor, what matters most is the RAM (Random Access Memory) capacity. This hardware memory is supplemented by ‘Virtual memory‘, derived from the free space on a hard drive.

About Virtual Memory

RAM is the primary working memory of the computer, which is used to run all the computer applications. However, when you have multiple programs running simultaneously, it may happen that your processor falls short of working memory space on the RAM. That’s when, virtual memory space comes into action. Virtual computer memory is hard drive space, that is allocated for working memory usage.

When the RAM gets used up to full capacity, a part of its data is transferred to the hard drive, in the form of a ‘Paging File’. It is ‘virtual‘, because the computer processor does not recognize that the extra working memory is part of hard drive space. On Windows machines, the page file typically has a ‘.swp’ extension.

How to Change its Settings?

Here are instructions on modifying the settings on all the Windows operating systems. Remember, that to make changes in virtual memory size, you need to be signed in as ‘Administrator‘. In each case, paging file size recommendations will be provided, which you may choose to follow.

In Windows XP
To modify the memory settings on a Windows XP machine, go to My Computer > Properties > Advanced > Settings > Advanced Tab, click on ‘Change’ to modify the amount of hard drive space that you want to allocate for virtual memory. You can select the drive on which you want the space to be allocated and set a minimum and maximum value for it. There is no ‘optimal’ size specification as such. Set as much space, as you can afford to allocate.

In Windows Vista
On Windows Vista, right click on My Computer and go to Properties > Advanced System Settings > Advanced Tab > Performance Settings > Advanced Tab. To modify settings, click on the ‘Change’ Button and set the minimum and maximum memory size in MB (megabytes). The Windows 7 settings are accessible by the same path as specified above, for Windows Vista.

In Windows Server 2003
Changing the settings on Windows Server 2003 or later editions is similar to other versions. All you have to do is go by the following path – Start > Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management > Properties > Performance > Settings. Then, under the ‘Virtual Memory’ section, click on the change button to specify minimum and maximum allocation size.

Increasing virtual memory is beneficial when you have a large multitasking workload on your computer. Still, its retrieval is not as fast as RAM, because the data needs to be transferred back and forth from the computer hard drive. It is better to increase RAM capacity of your computer, than relying on increase in memory, to boost processing speed. Nevertheless, the expansion might just provide you with a fractional increase in working efficiency.

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