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How to manage Windows 10 Virtual Memory

Your computer has two types of memory, Random Access Memory (RAM) and Virtual Memory. All programs use RAM, but when there isn't enough RAM for the program you're trying to run, Windows temporarily moves information that would normally be stored in RAM to a file on your hard disk called a Paging File. The amount of information temporarily stored in a paging file is also referred to as virtual memory. Using virtual memory, in other words, moving information to and from the paging file, frees up enough RAM for programs to run correctly.

The more RAM your computer has, the faster your programs will generally run. If a lack of RAM is slowing your computer, you might be tempted to increase virtual memory to compensate. However, your computer can read data from RAM much more quickly than from a hard disk, so adding RAM is a better solution.

If you receive error messages that warn of low virtual memory, you need to either add more RAM or increase the size of your paging file so that you can run the program on your computer. Windows usually manages this automatically, but you can manually change the size of virtual memory if the default size isn't large enough for your needs.

How to calculate Windows 10 Virtual Memory / Pagefile

There is a formula for calculating the correct pagefile size. Initial size is one and a half (1.5) x the amount of total system memory. Maximum size is three (3) x the initial size. So let's say you have 4 GB (1 GB = 1,024 MB x 4 = 4,096 MB) of memory. The initial size would be 1.5 x 4,096 = 6,144 MB and the maximum size would be 3 x 6,144 = 18,432 MB.

How to change Windows 10 Virtual Memory / Pagefile

All the information and links you will need are going to be on the System page.

  1. Bring up the System page by either:
    Power user menu inside of Windows 10
    • Pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + Pause
    • Pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + X to bring up the Power User menu and press Y to select System
    • Right-clicking on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start menu to bring up the Power User menu and select System
  2. Make note of the installed memory (RAM)
    System page inside of Windows 10
  3. Click on the Advanced system settings link
  4. Click on the Advanced tab of the System Properties dialog box
    System Properties dialog box inside of Windows 10
  5. Click on the Settings ... button in the Performance section
  6. Click on the Advanced tab of the Performance Options dialog box
    Performance Options dialog box inside of Windows 10
  7. Click on the Change ... button inside of the Virtual memory section
  8. Deselect the Automatically manage paging file size for all drives check box
    Virtual Memory dialog box inside of Windows 10
  9. Select Custom size and enter the initial size and maximum size using the calculation shown above
  10. Click on the Set button

Comments (5) -

Still a little unclear about the actual memory size number calculation, but will try. thanks.

Reply

Why is the initial and maximum amounts so much higher than the recommended amount? And for my aging brain, can you confirm that by "memory", you mean RAM?

Reply

Scott St. Gelais

Virtual memory is a file (pagefile.sys) that Windows uses when you run out of space in the Random Access Memory (RAM). The virtual memory will expand and contract as need, so this why there are initial and maximum sizes. The calculation was originally used when computers had small amount of RAM, but can still be helpful if you have up to 8GB of RAM. Remember that the 64-bit version of Windows 10 requires 2GB of RAM just for itself. So if you have only 4GB of RAM, the 64-bit version of Windows 10 is taking 50% (2GB) right off the top. Once you start running programs, the amount of free RAM will drop until Windows pages it out to the virtual memory. That's why it's called pagefile.sys.

Reply

Would there be any risk? Like system failure or total damage to my laptop?

Reply

Scott St. Gelais

There is no risk of damage to your computer in changing the virtual memory settings.

Reply

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