Does your Windows 10 installation feel slower over time? You don't imagine it. As the hardware requirements for popular apps increase, your aging hardware suffers.
Often there is one simple culprit: poor memory. If you do not have enough system memory, your system will slow down when you try to run multiple resource-intensive programs.
Here's how to fix the size of your Windows 10 virtual memory to make these problems go away.
What is virtual memory?
Your computer has two types of memory: a hard drive or a solid-state drive and RAM.
Your operating system as well as your photos, music, games, documents and others are located on your hard drive. Your RAM stores program-specific data. It's much faster, but also more volatile, and acts as memory for the programs and files you've opened.
What is virtual memory?
When you use all of the RAM available to your system, virtual memory – also known as a paging or paging file – is used to provide temporary expansion. Your system's virtual memory uses some of your hard drive space to effectively expand your RAM. So this virtual memory is extremely useful. This allows your system to process more data for more programs than was previously available.
However, your hard drive space (and even a faster solid-state drive) is much slower than your super-fast RAM, so your performance can suffer.
When you run out of memory, the paging file comes into play. Some of the data stored in RAM is moved to the paging file, which provides additional space for high-speed storage functions.
The virtual memory is running out
If you are running low on virtual memory, you will see the following message:
Your system is running out of virtual memory. Windows increases the size of the paging file for virtual memory. 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 reduce this message according to the error message. Windows sets the initial paging file for virtual memory to the amount of installed memory. The paging file is at least 1.5 times and a maximum of three times Your physical RAM.
You can calculate the size of your paging file with the following system. For example, a system with 4 GB of RAM would have a minimum of 1024 x 4 x 1.5 = 6,144 MB (1 GB of RAM x installed RAM x minimum). The maximum is 1024 x 4 x 3 = 12,288 MB (1 GB RAM x installed RAM x maximum).
Still, 12 GB is enormous for a swap file. I wouldn't recommend using the cap. Why? Because as soon as your swap file exceeds a certain size, your system becomes unstable. In this case, the swap file is a temporary correction.
How to increase your virtual memory
The natural question is, "How much virtual memory should I set?"
Here's how to enlarge the paging file to remove the virtual memory error message.
Go to Control Panel> System and Security> System.
Choose Advanced system settings to open your system properties. Now open the Advanced Tab.
Under performance, choose the settings. Open that Advanced Tab. Under Virtual memory, choose change. Here are your options for virtual memory.
The default option is to Automatic management of the size of the paging file for all drives. Uncheck this option to enable the currently greyed out section below. Select the drive for which you want to edit the size of the paging file. Usually this is your C: drive.
Now choose Custom format. Set the maximum size You want to keep the recommended size for your system for your swap file. Remember that Windows limits the size of the paging file to 3 times the size of your installed RAM. This is to ensure system stability. Set the Original size to the Currently assigned Size (found below).
click to adjust followed by OK. You have successfully increased the amount of virtual memory on your system. +1 knowledge for the day!
Note that Windows does not display a warning about the size of the paging file (virtual memory), but it does display system warnings about the size reduction. A sudden drop can cause system damage.
Other ways to increase your virtual memory
If you find that your system is still running slowly after resizing the paging file, then you need to consider upgrading your RAM.
Upgrading your memory is the only way to increase your virtual memory by increasing the total memory available to the system. This way, you can reduce the virtual memory problem during the process and potentially increase the system speed as well.
There are tons of tutorials out there to help you with this task, both text and video. You can find many specifically for your device. A good place to find out which RAM is compatible is PC Part Picker.
What are the best virtual memory settings?
I tend to leave my virtual memory settings alone. Windows 10 manages your physical storage and your virtual storage along with this. If you are still reaching the memory limit for paged files, you should consider upgrading your memory. This will make a huge difference, especially on older systems.
A Quick and Dirty Guide to RAM: What You Need to Know
RAM is an important component of any computer, but it can be confusing. Here RAM is explained in terms that anyone can understand.
About the author
(839 articles published)
Gavin is the Junior Editor for Windows and Technology Explained, contributing regularly to the Really Useful Podcast, and was the Editor for MakeUseOf's crypto-focused sister site Blocks Decoded. He has a BA (Hons) in Contemporary Writing Using Digital Art Practices Looted from the Devon Hills, as well as over a decade of writing experience. He enjoys plenty of tea, board games, and soccer.
By Gavin Phillips
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