The page file is a dedicated spot reserved on your hard drive that the computer refers back to when it needs extra memory for programs and applications. Page file, or virtual memory is the slowest component of the memory process, because your computer has to call to the hard drive to access the page file. By optimizing your page file you can speed up Windows’ responsiveness and performance.
Defragmenting The Page File
Defragmenting your hard drive is recommended by everyone, but what about your page file? Your page file too, like the hard drive, can get cluttered and fragmented so it’s important to make sure your page file is defragmented for optimum for performance.
There are two main methods for defragmenting your page file: Installing a page file defragmenting software, or disabling the page file then running the Windows Disk Defragmenter.
A good program for defragmenting your page file is PageDefrag.
- Download and unzip PageDefrag
- Launch the program and select ‘Defragment at next boot’, or if you want to select ‘Defragment every boot’, though it’s not really necessary.
- Now when you restart your computer PageDefrag will defragment your computer’s page file.
Windows Disk Defragmenter
To use the built-in Windows Disk Defragmenter to defragment your page file you’ll have to first disable your page file, so that way Windows can access it.
- Go to your Control Panel -> System -> Advanced -> Performance Settings -> Advanced Tab -> Click Change button -> No paging file -> Set -> OK -> Restart Your PC
- After you restart your computer, your page file will be free for the disk defragmenter to defragment. Run Microsoft Disk Defragmenter and defragment your computer like you normally would.
Now that your page file is defragmented we can work on optimizing it.
Optimizing The Page File
The page file’s size can be set by Windows, or specified by user-settings for the minimum and maximum size. Window’s default settings for the minimum page file size is the amount of memory installed multiplied by 1.5, and for the maximum page file size is the memory installed multiplied by 3.0 on your machine.
The best way to optimize your page file is to place one page file on a different hard drive partition, preferably without any system files or data. And also have a smaller one on the primary drive partition as well. Due to an internal algorithm in Windows it will fall back to the page file on the least accessed partition.
If you don’t have an extra hard drive, you can try setting your page file manually to 1.5x-3.0x your memory. I’ve heard that this is a good solution for keeping your page file in line. You can also try setting your page file minimum and maximum size to the same amount, either 1.5x or 3.0x your installed memory and see how that works. Theoretically by having your page file maximum and minimum set to the same size it should speed up Windows, because it won’t have to constantly resize the page file depending on what applications you’re running how much memory you’re using, and it won’t become fragmented due to the size no longer changing.
Should You Disable Your Page File?
Several people suggest that you disable the page file to increase performance, by doing away with the page file that means your computer won’t have to access the hard drive. So it should be faster, right? It can be, or it can cause several instability problems for your computer. Many programs won’t even run without a page file enabled.
Over at Tom’s Hardware Guide, they tested a Windows Vista machine with 8GBs of RAM, and promptly disabled the page file to see what would happen. The 8 GB system ran just like normal, but when they lowered the amount of memory available to 2 GBs, system instability occurred. “Applications immediately crash as soon as the system runs out of RAM and Windows is unable to write the files to virtual memory on the hard drive.” Their only solution was to reboot. Limiting the memory even further to 512 MBs resulted in no longer being able to open any applications without the system crashing. Even low resource Windows-based applications like Notepad caused it to crash. The systems also crashed while idling after a short while.
By optimizing your page file you can boost your Windows performance. Even though it is possible for a computer to run with the page file disabled, it is not recommended by anyone to disable your page file, even if you have access to large amounts of RAM. Defragmenting the page file, changing the size of the page file, and putting it on a separate partition are several different methods you can use, but it’s the combined effort of all these methods, that will provide the biggest performance increase.