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The page file is meant for use when the system runs out of RAM; reconfiguring it can be counter-productive if you have plenty of RAM available.

Good day and I hope you've been well! With many Windows PCs being sold with 16 GB of RAM or more, do you have any special advice regarding page file settings for systems with this much RAM? Thinking back, I can remember the day when some PC enthusiasts used a technique whereby a segment of RAM could be reserved and configured to appear as another logical drive and with the hope of improving performance, the page file settings would be adjusted to use this RAM based logical drive instead of a real hard drive. Obviously, the hope was for achieving improved performance as RAM accesses much faster than hard disk access.

In this excerpt from Answercast #31, I look at how your computer uses RAM and if it is necessary to configure a RAM drive if you have lots of memory.

RAM based logical drive

Unfortunately, setting up what we used to call a "RAM drive" is kinda counter-productive if you've got that much RAM and all you're gonna do is move your page file.

Remember that a page file is meant for use when the system runs out of RAM. By moving the page file into a virtual disk that resides in RAM, you're actually reducing the amount of available RAM for applications. So, you're increasing the likelihood that the page file would be used.

Yes, you did speed it up by having it in RAM – but if it wasn't in RAM, the system could have used all of that memory for the applications... instead of this virtual disk drive.

Turn the page file off

My recommendation in general is:

  • If 16 GB is enough memory for your system to do whatever it needs to do without pushing a page file,

  • Turn the page file off.

I actually did that for a long time on my desktop system here. I have 8 GB of RAM in this machine and I simply turned the page file off. 8 GB was, for the longest time, more than enough to do everything that I wanted to do.

Turn it back on if you need it

Now, eventually, of course, your needs grow to exceed the capacity of what you have in front of you. Sure enough, that happened to me as well.

In my particular case, I would run more than one virtual machine for example (and virtual machines tend to be kind of RAM hungry). So, as a result, I ended up adding a page file again.

I did so because the system needed more RAM. 8 GB wasn't enough. That means something needed to spill out of there. Unfortunately, my current motherboard is old enough that 8 GB is the maximum amount of RAM I can put in there.

Do you need a RAM disk?

So, no, don't use a virtual hard disk, a RAM disk; it just doesn't make any sense. If you really have that much RAM left over (if you're not using most of it) then, by all means, consider turning off the page file completely.

When you get to a point where you find that you're literally running out of memory, then it's time to turn the page file back on.

Page file location

  • Ideally, if you have second hard drive, put it on a hard drive that isn't the system drive.

  • If it's the system drive that's fine.

Just remember what matters is the amount of RAM you're using:

  • Which is almost always a function of the number of programs you're trying to run simultaneously,

  • and the kind of memory that they use.

Just make sure that your RAM usage is consistent with the amount of RAM that you have. Use a page file or not; depending on your situation.

Article C5537 - July 2, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
WHS
July 3, 2012 9:04 AM

I use SSDs on all my systems and keep the pagefile at 2GB. The hiberfile I turn completely off. That works well for me.

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