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Virtual memory doesn't (or shouldn't) fill an entire hard drive. There are better ways to maximize performance.

Virtual memory. Is there any advantage in installing an additional hard drive to be used entirely as virtual memory?

In this excerpt from Answercast #24, I look at the amount of disk space that should be allocated for virtual memory and suggest a better way to get more performance out of a machine.

Hard drive for virtual memory

Entirely as virtual memory? No, absolutely not.

Virtual memory should be on the order of magnitude of the amount of RAM in your system. At most, maybe two or three times that. If you've got an 8 GB machine then you're talking – at most – 16 or 24 GB of virtual memory. At most: at an absolute most!

Given hard drives these days are in the hundreds of GB of space, that is an awful waste of space if you're using it only for virtual memory.

Maximize computer performance

My recommendation, if you're trying to maximize performance on a machine, is to put enough RAM in it so that you don't need virtual memory: so that virtual memory, however much you happen to assign, isn't used. That's the way to get performance out of your machine.

So maximize the amount of RAM that your PC can take first, before you start configuring or tweaking virtual memory settings.

Second drive for memory or paging file

Now, does it make sense to put your virtual memory or paging file on another drive?

That depends on how you use your system. Typically the answer's actually yes.

It's not a bad idea to have your system programs, your temporary files perhaps, on one drive and your paging file on another. Particularly if your system is using your paging file, your virtual memory a lot. But like I said, that's a symptom of attempting to do more than your system's RAM is really capable of handling.

I see virtual memory and paging files as kind of a last resort. The performance implications are negative. So yes, putting it on another drive can help. But I would not use that as a first step to try and improve the system performance.

I'd actually look at increasing your RAM to its maximum first.

End of Answercast #24 Back to – Audio Segment

Article C5436 - June 7, 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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4 Comments
whs
June 8, 2012 11:49 AM

If you have more than 4GB of RAM, the virtual memory (pagefile) is pretty useless. In fact you can reduce it to 1 or 2GB. There will practically never be any real hard page faults. The ones you see e.g. in Resource Monitor are false faults that are immediately converted to real RAM addresses.

The only real use of an adequate page file is when you get a BSOD. Then the pagefile is being used to store the memory dump. But I have not seen a BSOD in years (knock on wood).

GREG JACKSON
June 8, 2012 1:29 PM

Re: "Second drive for memory or paging file"

Any comments about Windows "Ready Boost" for USB thumb/flash drives? It's supposed to utilize the memory on the flash drive in tandem with your current PC's memory, to enhance speed and.....
While it sounds cool, it also seems "rinky-dink".

Can this really be deemed as a benefit, or is it one of those things that, well....is not a good use of a USB flash drive. I have no real problem with my current 4MB RAM...... but I do have a few idle 2 and 4 MB flash drives.

Any comments?

bob price
June 8, 2012 3:45 PM

To Greg,
Yes, I used the testing on pcpitstop.com to test my system before and after using a 4gb thumb drive in the usb port. I don't have the numbers here now, but they did improve with the 'ready boost'. It must max at your onboard ram, because i tried an 8gb usb thumb drive then checked properties. It said only 4gb was ready boost, which is the same as my onboard ram. So, i put the 4 back in the usb slot.

Mahi
August 10, 2012 1:06 AM

Yes.. Increasing the Ram is the best solution. I found a ideat who created Ram Drive for the cache and bragging about it.

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