Ever notice how each PC has a personality of its own? Or maybe even multiple personalities? In the course of a week, your computer may act friendly, moody, and sometimes downright mean.

However, don’t take a hammer to your PC just yet. The following is a list of common symptoms and treatments to help even the most troublesome PCs. You don’t even have to be a psychologist (at least not yet) to deal with your PC’s neuroses.

Windows 7 and Windows Vista usually manage this automatically, but overall you’ll find that these tips work for all versions of Windows, from Windows 95 to Windows 7.

1. You keep getting a “your system is running low on virtual memory” message

Perhaps you’re more than familiar with this scenario: You’re working on your PC and notice performance getting gradually slower and slower. Programs become harder to open and close. You wait forever for Web pages to be displayed. And then, you get some serious-sounding “virtual memory is too low” message, like the one in the following graphic.

Don’t worry: This message isn’t as scary as it sounds.

Virtual memory is the space your computer uses when it’s short of RAM (Random Access Memory), which is the memory used when running programs like Microsoft Office Word or Microsoft Office PowerPoint.

So what can you do to correct this problem and prevent this message from coming up in the future? The following are some solutions to keep your computer from displaying the “virtual memory minimum is too low” message.

Solution 1: Bump up the virtual memory size on your computer

The first solution is to increase your computer’s virtual memory settings. To do so, you first need to determine how much RAM you currently have.

Windows 7

1. On the Start menu, click Control Panel, then click System.

2. In the left pane, click Advanced system settings. If you’re prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

3. On the Advanced tab, under Performance, click Settings.

4. Click the Advanced tab, and then, under Virtual memory, click Change.

5. Clear the Automatically manage paging file size for all drives check box.

6. Under Drive [Volume Label], click the drive that contains the paging file you want to change.

7. Click Custom size, type a new size in the Initial size (MB) or Maximum size (MB) box, click Set, and then click OK.

Note Increases in size usually don’t require you to restart your computer for the changes to take effect, but if you decrease the size, you’ll need to restart your computer. We recommend that you don’t disable or delete the paging file.

Solution 2: Add more RAM to your computer

If you keep getting that dreaded “Your system is running low on virtual memory” message even after you increase your computer’s virtual memory then you may need to buy more memory for your computer. To really work well:

  • Windows 7 needs at least 1 GB of RAM to run. See more system requirements for Windows 7.
  • Windows Vista needs at least 512 MB of RAM to run, but for some applications (like gaming) 1 GB or more of RAM is recommended.
  • Windows XP needs a minimum of 256 MB of RAM.

The more RAM you have, the better.

Find out how much RAM you have in your computer

1. On the Start menu, click Control Panel, then click System.

2. Under System, next to Installed memory (RAM), you can see the amount of RAM your computer has.

Note In some cases, Windows reports both the amount of memory that’s installed on your computer and the amount of memory that’s usable. If you’re using a 32-bit version of Windows, the amount of usable memory might be less than the total amount of memory installed.

If you’re at work, contact your company’s IT administrator before updating the memory on your computer. They may have some memory available and can help you install it.

If you do need to purchase some more memory, stop by your local computer shop. You can probably buy memory from them, and they’ll probably install it for you. Or, you can buy memory online.

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