Windows XP not using all of my physical memory, using PF instead

Posted on 2009-05-18
Last Modified: 2013-11-10
I've got Windows XP set up on a machine with 3GB of RAM but I never use up more than 30% of it, even with loads of applications running. Despite this, XP fills my page file up. For example, right now I have 73% (2.2GB) of my physical memory free and Firefox is using 132MB of my page file and 147MB of my physical memory. If I launch photoshop, it uses 32MB of physical memory and 500MB+ of page file! This causes it to be really sluggish with large images.

I've heard that disabling the page file is a really bad idea (not sure why), but in this case I have so much memory that using the page file is completely pointless. How do I sort this?
Question by:burningmace
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LVL 14

Expert Comment

ID: 24412655

For a performance boost, I've always thought it would be wise to disable the PF if the machine has mucho ram.  WOW .. there sure are some opinions out there on the subject.  One thing I found will looking at a couple of articles: (note the comments)
and .. (note the free program)

Have you tried disabling the PF and checking out the performance gain.  The only warning know of is a performance dedrgation because of large memory blocks.  

The other think I'm going to look at is the free program that is used to defrag just the PF.

Let me know what you think about this.
LVL 94

Expert Comment

by:John Hurst
ID: 24412692
It is probably not a good idea to disable the page file. I usually keep the maximum memory in an XP machine to 2Gb. Refer to the following Microsoft article about greater memory sizes:

Try the suggestions in the article (/3Gb switch) to see if that helps. I have 2Gb in my XP machine and free memory is typically less than 1Gb at any one instant.
... Thinkpads_User
LVL 23

Expert Comment

by:Danny Child
ID: 24413754
Microsoft's stance has always been that a swapfile is necessary, and now that terabyte disks are uber-cheap, I see no reason to argue.  They even say that allowing XP to manage the size is recommended too.  

How are you checking what memory is being used, please?  Partly curious, and partly suspicious that something is being mis-reported....

Normally, the only thing that can pinch RAM is onboard graphics, but this would not be anywhere near the amount you report.  

There's a lot of chatter about defragging pagefiles, and so on, but I've never seen any actual benchmarks on configurations to prove their point.  If a complete ninja system is needed, I can see a case to move the swapfile to a dedicated hi-perf disk, but beyond that, I tend to just leave things be...

Author Comment

ID: 24415706
Task manager reports that around 2200MB of physical memory is free, and the My.Computer.Info.AvailablePhysicalMemory property in VB.NET agrees.

The so-called defragging of pagefiles is a load of rubbish, just like memory optimizers. They allocate a load of space in the PF and memory and make it look like you have loads of space free. It actually doesn't do much at all.

It's not a performance issue as such that I'm worried about, it's the fact that I have 3GB of RAM and XP insistrs upon dumping all of my applications into the PF instead of using the much faster medium that's available to it. I'll disable the PF later and see how it goes. I'll try the 3GB switch too.

Accepted Solution

burningmace earned 0 total points
ID: 24442920
Turned off PF and the performance was awful. Still not using more than 1.3GB of my physical memory though. Only thing so far that manages to eat up my RAM is VMWare when I'm hosting a guest OS.

Any ideas why this strange behaviour occurs?

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