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Why do I have an 800 MB swapfile and do I need it?

Posted By : of Data Doctors on August 12, 1999

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I have 256 MB of RAM and for some reason Windows creates an 800 MB swap file. This seems to me to be a waste of space and time. When I use my own settings for virtual memory my computer crashes, on startup, in the middle of a program, for no reason. I was wondering if you had any insight for me. Is this a bug in Windows 98, or just the way it is?


This question was answered on August 12, 1999. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

The Windows swap file (used in Windows 3.x, 95, 98 & NT) is what is known as virtual memory Different programs put different demands on your computer as you load them and Windows needs a place to go if it runs out of RAM Swap files are also used to swap lesser-used information out of RAM and into the virtual memory so that the faster RAM memory can be used for current processes, which helps to speed the system up.

The question of how much disk space to allocate for your swap file has been the subject of discussion for years The general consensus seems to be between 150% and no more than 300% of your total RAM In your case you have 256 MB of RAM so the swap file should generally be between 384 MB and 768 MB With the release of Windows 95 and all subsequent versions, Microsoft has changed the way that the virtual memory is handled Although your system may be allocating close to 800 MB of space for the swap file, it actually only uses what it needs of that space Allowing Windows to handle your virtual memory is generally a good idea, especially as you get closer to filling up your hard drive as this number will change as your available space reduces If you feel compelled to change the setting, I would not recommend that you set it any lower than the 150% mark This will give you plenty of space to swap the entire contents of RAM, if necessary, and still leave additional workspace Many of you may have noticed that your computers hard drive seems to be running even though the computer is idle at the time When a computer is idle, Windows performs various housekeeping activities, one of which is compacting the virtual memory swap file after one minute of inactivity This is perfectly normal and is done to conserve disk space so that you are not using the entire allocated amount of virtual memory I have seen many systems that were having weird problems with performance because of an improper virtual memory setting Unless you have a very thorough understanding of all aspects of manually setting your virtual memory, you should let Windows administer it for you To check your virtual memory setting, do the following:

Right-click on the My Computer icon then on Properties Next, left-click on the Performance tab at the top right section of the window This should show a window that has a Virtual Memory button at the bottom Left-click on the Virtual Memory button and make sure the Let Windows manage my virtual memory settings. option is checked Your experience is common with users that go by the saying If it aint broke, fix it till it is!

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Posted by of Data Doctors on August 12, 1999

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