Windows XP Virtual Memory Tweak

Windows XP uses by default what is called a "paging file". This is an area on the hard disk that Windows uses as if it were random access memory (RAM). By using the paging file, Windows creates "virtual memory". Windows can use this memory as if it were RAM installed on your computer; however, the access time is significantly slower compared to RAM. For example, if your computer only has 512MB of free RAM on it, and you have an application that requires 1024MB of RAM in order to run, then Windows will use the 512MB of free RAM and 512MB of disk space on your hard disk (as virtual memory in a paging file) to accomodate the application. This works well in the situation where your computer has a small amount of RAM installed compared to the requirements of the applications you want to run in that you are not prevented from running the application. However, it would still be better to upgrade the computer to meet or exceed the RAM requirements of the application since the program would run significantly faster.

Now, what happens if you have 2048MB of RAM on your computer, and you have several applications open, but the total required RAM for the applications (and the Windows XP operating system) is less than 2048MB? Unfortunately, Windows XP will still use the paging file on the hard disk even though you never max out the usage of your RAM. The result is that Windows XP will run slower than it otherwise would without the paging file. The hard drive light will come on more often with the paging file constantly being accessed. Overall, the system will run slower, and the response time to your commands will be worse. Why wouldn't Windows XP be smart enough to not use the paging file at all if your programs aren't even near using the maximum amount of installed RAM on your computer? That's a question for Microsoft. Fortunately, if you know that you have ample RAM installed on your computer for the applications that you typically use, then you can safely disable the virtual memory paging file in Windows XP.

Disabling the Windows XP Virtual Memory Paging File

In order to disable the Windows XP virtual memory paging file, go to Start -> Settings -> Control Panel -> System. Alternatively, you can right-click on the "My Computer" icon on the desktop and select "Properties" at the bottom. You will see the "System Properties" dialog. Click on the tab named "Advanced", and you should see a dialog similar to that below in Figure 1.



Figure 1. Advanced Tab of System Properties Dialog

Next, click on the "Settings" button under the "Performance" section. The Performance Options dialog will appear. Then click on the tab named "Advanced", and you should see a dialog similar to that below in Figure 2.



Figure 2. Advanced Tab of Performance Options Dialog

Next, click on the "Change" button under the "Virtual Memory" section. The "Virtual Memory" dialog will appear similar to that shown below in Figure 3.



Figure 3. Virtual Memory Dialog

Next, click on the "No paging file" radio button, click on the "Set" button, and click the "OK" button. You may be asked to restart Windows. If so, then restart Windows XP, and you will no longer have a virtual memory paging file. You should see a noticible increase in system performance.
Copyright © 2008 Pierre Dufilie IV. All Rights Reserved.