After upgrading the RAM on your Windows XP or Windows Vista computer (laptops and desktops) you should review your performance settings. The primary concern will be your pagefile.sys size to make sure it matches or exceeds the amount of RAM you have in the computer. For those of us that are familiar with Linux more so than Windows the pagefile is also called the swap file in Windows. The pagefile or swap file is used for anything that won’t fit into RAM so technically it is an overflow for RAM so the excess has somewhere to go.

RAM: Random Access Memory

The general rule on a Windows PC is to have the the pagefile.sys be 1.5 times the size of the amount of RAM in the computer. If you have 2 Gigabytes of RAM then you would want the pagefile to be 3 Gigabytes. If you had 1 GB of RAM you would want your pagefile to be 1.5 GB in size. I have found on my Windows XP laptop that I get the best performance with a pagefile.sys size of 2 Gigabytes when I have 2 gigabytes of RAM installed. I made sure to test the amount of data being dumped into the pagefile and over a longer period of time the peak usage of the pagefile. To test this on Windows XP download WinXP-2K_Pagefile.zipthat includes numerous pagefile tools created by Bill James. The specific tool I used from that zip file is WinXP-2K_Pagefile.vbs and will display the current pagefile size, the location of the file, the current usage, and the session peak usage. Extract the contents of the zip file you have downloaded and then double click the WinXP-2K_Pagefile.vbs application. You will see results like the below.

Swap File or Pagefile Info VBS Script

To get an accurate reading start some of the more memory intensive applications you run from time to time such as Adobe Photoshop or something similar. You should see the pagefile size really jump up after opening an application like that which will give you a more real world reading than if no applications are open.

If you decide that the current setting is not satisfactory then you can modify the pagefile settings by following the below instructions.

  1. Run an Application: Click the start button in the lower left of your Windows XP computer and then click on Run.
  2. System Properties:Start the System Properties application by typing sysdm.cpl into the run box and clicking enter.
  3. Advanced Settings: Now click the Advanced tab to bring up the Advanced System Properties.
  4. Windows System Properties Advanced Tab

  5. Performance Settings: Now click the Settings button under the Performance heading.
  6. Advanced Performance Options: Now you will click on the Advanced tab which brings up the Advanced Performance Options and will look like the below.
  7. Windows Performance Options Advanced Tab

  8. Virtual Memory:Click the Change button under the Virtual Memory heading to modify the pagefile settings. You will see a window like the below.
  9. Windows XP Virtual Memory Settings

  10. Custom Size: I recommend creating a custom size and entering the same size for Initial and Maximum sizes based on your testing the the VBS script previously. In my case the Initial and Maximum settings were 2048 MB or 2 GB.
  11. Save Settings: Click OK out of the Virtual Memory settings, then click OK out of the Performance Options Settings, click Apply in System Properties, and lastly OK in System Properties.
  12. Restart and Verify: You will be required to reboot for the settings to take effect so close all applications and then reboot. Once the computer is restarted click on the Visual Basic Script to make sure the settings have taken effect.

Visit this URL for other performance settings that can help improve performance with both Windows XP and Windows Vista.

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4 Responses to “Performance Settings and pagefile.sys Should be Investigated after Upgrading RAM on Windows”
  1. Larry Miller says:

    Actually the default settings will usually be better.

    If you have at least 512MB ram the defaults will usually be adequate. With 1GB or more the pagefile may be larger than necessary but this will not cause any problems. Unless disk space is short do not skimp on pagefile size. The pagefile allocation system works best when plenty of space is available. Peak usage should be no more than 1/2 the size of the pagefile and preferably less. Contrary to many uninformed sources, a larger than necessary pagefile will NOT encourage excessive use.

    There is no need or benefit in having initial and maximum settings the same. If the initial size is adequate there will be NO resizing or fragmentation. I have confirmed this by observation. Doing as suggested in the article is fine if the size is adequate. But you had better be right. If you quess too small you risk performance degradation, application failures, or a system crash. Far better to set the maximum at least twice the initial size. This provides a completely free safety net – just in case.

    I have heard all of the arguments for a fixed pagefile. They are based on ignorance of how the pagefile actually works and are thus invalid.

    Larry Miller
    Microsoft MCSA


    alex Reply:

    Hello Larry,

    Thanks for the information. All opinions are always appreciated.


  2. cpalead says:

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    alex Reply:

    Hello cpalead,

    We really appreciate the kind words. Comments like yours are the reason the Question Defense team takes the time to put forth effort to write these articles which we attempt to pack with information relating to technology issues while providing a format that is easy to follow for users of all skill sets. We are always working to improve and expand with sections like Engage and QD Tools.

    Again we appreciate the feedback and hope we continue writing technical articles that interest you and any others interested in the subjects we write about.



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