Windows XP Memory Tweak Guide



Configuring the Page File

Now that you’ve configured all relevant memory management options it’s time to get to grips with the final option: the Page File itself. Depending on the forums/sites you visit the question – What should I set the Page File to? - is sure to bring you a variety of responses and ensuing arguments (not to mention the usual fantasies).

The first thing to do is determine the Minimum Page File required for your system. The simplest way to do this is to open System Properties, then the Advanced tab and press the Performance Settings button, selecting the Advanced tab, finally pressing the Change button. Select the Drive which XP is installed to and set the Paging file size for selected drive to Custom size, setting the Initial size to 1000MB and Maximum to 1500MB (Lower the Initial accordingly if Hard Drive space is an issue). If you have multiple drives available ensure these are set to No paging file. Click Ok and restart as required for the changes to take effect.

Once restarted press Ctrl + Alt + Delete simultaneously and load the Task Manager, selecting the Performance tab. This tab allows use to monitor peak Virtual Memory use (The Peak value in the Commit Charge (K) section). This window can be minimized and you should then run your most resource intensive Applications in order to see just how Virtual Memory is  utilised. Once you’re satisfied with your testing switch back to Task Manager.

The Peak value records maximum Virtual Memory use during the session, in K, e.g. in the image above 324548K. Dividing this amount by 1024 gives you the value in MB – 317MB in this instance. For improved stability this value should be padded, so add at least 50MB to this value, e.g. 317MB should be increased to 400MB. This provides us with a Minimum Page File size to use.

Once more open System Properties, select the Advanced tab and press the Performance Settings button, selecting the Advanced tab, finally pressing the Change button.

A few general points to recall before you do anything;

If you have only 1 Hard Drive, split into multiple partitions, the Page File should be set to the partition XP is installed to, you should not create multiple Page Files for different partitions in this case, i.e. 1 Hard Drive = 1 Page File.

If you have multiple Hard Drives installed it is beneficial to locate the Page File on the Hard Drive XP is not installed to; but only where the other Hard Drive is of a similar or better performance, e.g. if you have a SATA Drive and ATA 100 Drive the Page File should be located on the SATA Drive regardless as it is notably faster.

The Page File should not be located on a mirrored Drive, e.g. RAID array, if possible as fault tolerance/backup is not required and may decrease performance.

Do not use a formula to determine Page File size (Such as RAM multiplied by X); it’s outdated and inappropriate.

In case you didn’t, please take note of how you’ve set Write debugging information and any requirements as to the Page File configuration (This can result in Page Files needing to be created on the Boot Volume and the faster Drive, e.g. if you selected a Small memory dump you’d need to set a MB Page File on the Boot Volume, while you could set the primary Page File (the one we’ve determined the Minimum for) to a different Drive).

It’s also worth noting that XP automatically increases the Page File size should it be necessary (reducing it afterwards); this essentially means creating a Permanent (Initial size = Maximum size) Page File is pointless. Having considered this and the above points, select the Drive(s) you wish to locate the Page File on and click Custom size, setting the Initial size to the value calculated, e.g. 400MB in my example. As noted, XP will increase the Page File size if required, so the Maximum size should be set to a much higher value (Several hundred MBs should suffice); this can avoid Windows prompting you that it has to increase the Page File size. Once set press Ok and restart your PC as required.

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