We all know that Windows is prone to slowing down over time. It’s a curse of using the best operating system around, but one we live with and work around. We can assure you that it’s not your fault; it happens to the best of us. Often, low memory is to blame. Here is one more way to virtually unburden your RAM.
What is Virtual Memory?
Your computer has two types of memory: the hard drive or solid state drive, used for your operating system, photos, music and documents, and RAM, used for storing program specific data. The hard drive is perfect for long-term storage, whilst RAM is much faster and more volatile, acting as a working area for the programs and files you have open.
Virtual memory is extremely useful. If you use all of the RAM available to your system, it will utilise virtual memory – also known as a swap file – to provide a temporary expansion. It does this by using part of the hard-drive memory to effectively expand your RAM. This allows your system to handle more programs than previously available, but the hard-drive memory is much slower than RAM, so performance can suffer.
When the memory runs low, the swap file comes into play. Some of the data stored in the RAM will be moved to the swap file, providing additional space for high-speed memory functions.
Running Low on Virtual Memory
If you are reading this, you may have encountered the error message:
Your system is low on virtual memory. Windows is increasing the size of your virtual memory paging file. During this process, memory requests for some applications may be denied. For more information, see help.
You can alleviate this message by manually increasing the size of your paging file, as mentioned in the error message. By default, Windows sets the initial virtual memory paging file as equal to the amount of RAM you have installed, like so:
My laptop has 3GB of RAM, so my paging file, or swap file, is limited to 3GB.
You can give your system a boost by increasing the size of the paging file. Windows limits this increase to three times the amount of RAM installed on your device. In my case, I can increase the paging file to 12GB, though the system recommends no more than 4.5GB. This is to keep the system stable.
Increasing Your Virtual Memory
Let’s increase the size of the paging file to alleviate the virtual memory error message.
Open the Start menu, then type System. Under Control Panel, select System. This will open the System Information window.
For Windows 8 and 8.1 users, from the Start screen, access the Search bar, on the right-hand side of your screen. Type System. Select Settings from the available options. System should appear as one of the first options on the corresponding screen.
In the left-hand panel, click Advanced System Settings. Switch to the Advanced tab. Under Performance, click Settings. Again, click the Advanced tab. Here you’ll see the Windows default virtual memory size, as seen in our earlier image. Click Change.
The default setting is for your system to “Automatically manage paging file size for all drivers.” Uncheck this to enable the currently greyed out section below. Select the drive you want to change the paging size file for. I’ve selected C:
Select Custom Size. Set the Maximum Size you want for the paging file. I’ve followed the recommended size for my system, capped at 4.5GB (4548MB), but you can set what is appropriate for your system. Remember, Windows restricts paging file size to three times the size of your installed RAM to ensure system stability. Set the Initial Size to the currently allocated paging file size.
Click Set, followed by OK. You’ve successfully increased the virtual memory size of your computer. +1 knowledge for the day!
Protip: Paging size increases aren’t usually met with a system restart message, but decreases are. Be sure to save your work before clicking OK.
Other Ways to Increase Virtual Memory
There are other ways of increasing your virtual memory. If you find that your system is still running slowly following a paging file size adjustment, you should consider upgrading your physical RAM. In recent years the price of RAM has fallen dramatically and installing new modules is an easy task.
There are countless tutorials to help you through this task, both text and video, and many can be found specifically for your device.
Windows on Hand to Help
If you don’t like the idea of meddling around with custom system settings, don’t worry. As ever, Windows is on hand to help with a “Microsoft Fix It” module. This handy application automatically sets the virtual memory paging file size to be between 1.5 and 3 times the value of your installed RAM, just as we did in the tutorial.
Download the file, locate the installer and double-click. Microsoft will take care of the rest. How good of them!
Your system should now be moving a bit quicker, and the virtual memory error message should have disappeared. As we mentioned, if you keep hitting the paging file memory cap even after increasing the file-size, you should consider upgrading your RAM. It can work wonders on older systems, and is quite handy in many newer ones, too.
Best of luck!
Did this tutorial help you? How much RAM do you have installed, and what do you use it all for? Let us know in the comments below!