Feb 26, 2008
My Digital Life Editorial Team

Tweak Windows Vista Virtual Memory (Change or Disable Paging File Size)

Memory or RAM is very important for normal operating of computer, as all computer programs and processes will have to execute through system memory. If user is running too many applications, especially resource intensive large programs that consume huge amount of memory, the memory will be used up and causing system to be running out of memory. To prevent instability and possible system halt due to insufficient memory, Windows operating system, including Vista, makes use of virtual memory technology.

Virtual memory works by allowing memory to be physically fragmented and overflow on to disk storage space while a software program still assuming that it’s running smooth without problem on a contiguous working memory. Windows Vista accesses the needed memory as virtual memory in page file (pagefile.sys) on local system drive, which used to store page cache and swap or transfer unused inactive memory space to ordinary disk file. The default location of the page file is in the root directory of the partition where Windows is installed.

Virtual memory or paging implementation in Windows Vista ensures that the operating system can properly handle and open large set of data that does not fit into physical memory. As a result, the paging file in Windows Vista can grows in size over time. However, uers can tune and configure Windows Vista to use free space on any available drives for page files storage, set a minimum and maximum size allowed for the paging files, or simply turn off virtual memory paging feature. The following guide will show you how to tweak virtual memory settings in Windows Vista by setting the size of paging file (pagefile.sys).

  1. Open Control Panel -> System and Maintenance -> System.
  2. In the left “Tasks”, click on Advanced System Settings.
  3. You should come to “Advanced” tab. In “Performance” section, click on Settings button.
  4. Click on Advanced tab.
  5. In the “Virtual Memory” section, click on Change button.
  6. By default, “Automatically manage paging file size for all drives” setting is selected so that Windows Vista system can manage the paging file without user’s interruption. If you want change the paging file size, move the pagefile.sys to another drive, or disable virtual memory paging, uncheck the check box of Automatically manage paging file size for all drives.
  7. Select and highlight the appropriate drive that users want to change the paging file settings under the box of “Drive [Volume Label]”.

    Virtual Memory Settings

  8. To fix a permanent size for the paging file, click on Custom size button, and set the values of Initial Size (MB) and Maximum Size (MB). Both values can be of same size to make the size of pagefile.sys static. Then click on Set button.

    System managed size is useful for users who do not want pagefile.sys to locate on system drive root and want to move its storage location to another drive, but still want Vista to dynamically manage and allocate the drive space for the paging usage.

    To move the paging file to another drive, click on No paging file radio button, and click on Set button. Then select a different drive to set a new pagefile.sys with custom size or system managed size.

    To disable paging file or virtual memory, simply set no paging files on all drives.

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  • MLO

    I don't know who this Larry Miller is but he is so far off the mark that it's not even funny. If that guy works for Microsoft, that sure doesn't say much about them. Virtual memory was made to compensate for small amounts of physical memory. That was back when people still shot buffalo. Now people are starting to use large amounts of physical memory. I have 12 gigs. According to Microsoft's out of date formula, I need an 18 gig swapfile. I'm all screwed up according to Larry because I have my swapfile disabled. Microsoft really needs to get their own people up to speed on this and make adjustments as necessary.

  • Leandro Chao

    to Larry Miller:

    Microsoft Designers don´t seem to know so much more about it.

    Windows shows significant performance issues with its implementation of memory paging.

    Windows will unnecesarily swap back and forth the paging file even when there is unused free physical RAM.

    If enough physic memory is installed on the computer there is no need for the paging file and a great performance gain will be noticed.

    The only problem is you MUST ensure you never get more applications running that your memory will allocate. If you don´t, you will have programs crushing and posible data loss.

    (I've been using windows with 4 GB of RAM and no paging file in both my desktop and laptop for 4 years)

  • Larry Miller

    There is considerable confusion in the article and comments concerning both the pagefile and virtual memory. Virtual memory is NOT the pagefile, disabling the pagefile will not disable virtual memory and it will not prevent paging. Virtual memory is a system in which the pagefile is a component. Applications use virtual memory exclusively – no exceptions.

    The pagefile is used to store rarely used modified data, thus leaving more RAM for more important uses. It is not used for executable files, DLL's etc., as they can be restored from the original files. The pagefile was designed to improve performance, not merely to make up for a shortage in RAM. It is not an extension to physical memory.

    Virtual memory is a mature technology, having been in regular use in large systems for almost 40 years. It was not invented by Microsoft as some people seem to think.

    Best advice concerning the pagefile: leave it alone unless there is a specific need to change it. Windows designers know more about memory management than you do.

    Larry Miller

    Microsoft MCSA

  • j

    If I set no paging file and apply that for all my hard drives, then still I have following text on task manager:

    Performance tab:

    System:

    paging file 460/3483mb

    Why is that, is it impossible to remove paging file on vista? Computer is restarted..

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  • GInetta

    You should not switch off page file with anything less than 3GB on Vista.

    Remember, it uses a rediculous encryption algorythm which creates great overhead and performance hits.

    If you have more than 4GB you can turn off VM without any problems.

    Remember to use the PAE switch in Boot.ini

    Cheers

  • cheapskate vista use

    "If your system has memory of 2G and above, it’s possible to turn off virtual memory and set no paging file at all. In fact, by doing so, Windows will probably run at faster speed. To do so, refer to guidi to manage, change or set paging file size in Vista"

    GREAT ADVICE I brought a pc for $500 that has 3 gb of ram . HATE PAGE FILE.

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