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Does your Windows 10 installation feel like it slows down over time? You’re not imagining it. As the hardware requirements for popular apps increase, your aging hardware suffers. Often there is a simple culprit: low memory. If you don’t have enough system memory, your system will slow to a crawl when you attempt to run multiple resource intensive programs.
Here’s how you fix your virtual memory size to make those issues disappear.
What Is Virtual Memory?
Your computer has two types of memory: A hard drive or solid-state drive, and RAM. Your hard drive is where your operating system lives, as well as your photos, music, games, documents, and otherwise. Your RAM stores program-specific data. It is much faster but also more volatile, acting as a working storage area for the programs and files you have open.
So, what is virtual memory?
Well, if you use all the RAM available to your system, it will utilize virtual memory—also known as a swap or paging file—to provide a temporary expansion. Your system virtual memory does this using part of your hard-drive memory to expand your RAM effectively. So this virtual memory is extremely useful. It allows your system to handle more data for more programs than previously available.
However, your hard drive memory (and even a faster solid-state drive) is much slower than your superfast RAM, so your performance can suffer.
When your memory runs low, the paging file comes into play. Some data stored in the RAM will move to the paging file, providing additional space for high-speed memory functions.
Running Low on Virtual Memory
If your virtual memory runs low, you will encounter the following 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.
Manually increasing the size of your paging file will alleviate this message, as per the error message. Windows sets the initial virtual memory paging file equal to the amount of installed RAM. The paging file is a minimum of 1.5 times and a maximum of three times your physical RAM.
For example, a system with 4GB RAM would have a minimum of 1024x4x1.5=6,144MB [1GB RAM x Installed RAM x Minimum]. Whereas, the maximum is 1024x4x3=12,288MB [1GB RAM x Installed RAM x Maximum].
Still, 12GB for a paging file is enormous. I would not recommend using the upper limit. Why? Because once your paging file increases over a certain size, your system will become unstable. In that, the paging file is a temporary fix.
How to Increase Your Virtual Memory
The natural question to ask is, “How much virtual memory should I set?”
Here’s how you increase the size of the paging file to get rid of the virtual memory error message.
- Head to Control Panel > System and Security > System.
- Select Change Settings to open your System Properties. Now open the Advanced
- Under Performance, select Settings. Open the Advanced Under Virtual memory, select Change. Here are your Virtual Memory options.
The default option is to Automatically manage paging file size for all drives. Uncheck this to enable the currently greyed out section below. Select the drive you want to edit the paging file size for. By and large, this is your C: drive.
Now, select Custom size. Set the Maximum size you want for your paging file, following the recommended size for your system. Remember, Windows restricts the paging file size to three times the size of your installed RAM. This is to ensure system stability. Set the Initial size to the Currently allocated size (found below).
Click Set followed by OK. You have successfully increased your system’s virtual memory size. +1 knowledge for the day!
Please note that paging file (virtual memory) size increases are not usually met with a system restart message, but decreases are. A sudden decrease could cause system damage.
Other Ways to Increase Your Virtual Memory
If you find that your system still runs slowly following the paging file size adjustment, you must consider upgrading your RAM. Upgrading your RAM is the only way you can increase your virtual memory, by increasing the amount of overall memory available to the system. In that, you will alleviate the virtual memory issue during the process and could see a boost to your system speed, too.
There are countless tutorials to help you through this task, both text, and video, and many can be found specifically for your device. A great place to start figuring out compatible RAM is PC Part Picker.
What Are the Best Virtual Memory Settings?
I’m inclined to leave my virtual memory settings alone. Windows 10 manages your physical memory and your virtual memory, along with it. If you keep hitting the paging file memory limit, you should consider upgrading your RAM. It will make a world of difference, especially for older systems.
Want to know more about your system RAM? Check out our quick guide to everything you need to know about RAM!