Disable the page file to avoid using the slow HDD

19 June 2002 by Snakefoot | Comment » | Trackback Off
It is possible to disable the page file, but it is not recommended.
  • Disabling the page file will put a hard limit on the available virtual memory. Thus in extreme situations there will be no page file working as safety net.
  • Disabling the page file will cause some applications to stop working, or make them behave odd.
  • Even when the page file is disabled, then the operating system will still be paging when needing to load other files (EXE,DLL,etc.) into RAM.
  • The Performance Monitor (PerfMon) depends on the pagefile and requires minimum a 2 MB pagefile or else the counters will be missing for the following objects: Cache, Memory, Objects, Processor and System.
There are circumstances where one might consider to disable the page file:
  • If booting from a readonly media (Like a CD-ROM) where there is no available writeable media (Like an embedded device).
  • If having an insane amount of memory compared to the most extreme memory usage expected. The paging algorithm is rather eager to page out memory, to have as much memory available for the 'awaiting' extreme situation, independent of how much memory there is available already. This hurts performance if using an application that is very memory intensive, but doesn't access all the memory constantly, thus generating many page faults. Though usually the problems with running without a pagefile will cancel out the gain.
Note if finding out that you don't have enough memory to disable the pagefile then instead Configure the pagefile for best performance.

More Info MS KB Q316528
More Info MS KB Q259184
More Info MS KB Q196839
Disable the pagefile in Win9x
  1. Start Button -> Settings -> Control Panel -> System -> Performance tab -> Virtual Memory.
  2. Select "Let me specify my own virtual memory settings".
  3. Select "Disable virtual memory (Not recommended)".
Disable the pagefile in WinXP
This can only be done if meeting the requirement of having minimum 512 Mbyte RAM installed.
  1. Start Button -> Control Panel -> Performance and Maintenance -> System -> Advanced.
  2. Under the "Performance" section press "Settings" button.
  3. Under the "Virtual Memory" section press the "Change..." button.
  4. Select "No paging file" for all drives.
Disable the pagefile in Vista
  1. Start Button -> Control Panel -> System-applet -> Advanced System Setting-task -> Advanced-tab -> Performance Settings...-button -> Advanced-tab -> Virtual Memory Change...-button (phew).
  2. Untick "Automatically manage paging file size for all drives"
  3. Select "No paging file" for all drives.

Updated: 18 January 2009

Comments:

Comment by Faraaz - 17 January 2009 @ 20:54 Reply

Hi.
I have 4Gigs of ram but a 5200rpm 250gb hdd. Would it be beneficial for me if I reduce the paging file size so that the ram would be used more? I am running vista and the ram usage doesn’t go any more than 36% unless any memory intensive applicattion is run. Any ideas?

Comment by Snakefoot - 18 January 2009 @ 15:28 Reply

Faraaz wrote:

Would it be beneficial for me if I reduce the paging file size so that the ram would be used more?

People from Microsoft have argued when having lots of RAM, then the old rule about the pagefile size should be 1.5 times larger than the RAM installed is no longer true. But the general recommendation is that one should not disable the pagefile, but instead resize it so it matches the computer usage.

Comment by Larry Miller - 17 March 2009 @ 16:24 Reply

Having a pagefile is a good thing BECAUSE RAM is faster than the HD. The pagefile is used to hold rarely used mdified data, leaving more RAM available for more important uses. Without a pagefile, Windows will be forced to make poorer choices about what must be paged out when RAM is short, thus leading to a net INCREASE in paging.

During quiet times Windows will preemptively copy rarely used to data to the pagefile to make more RAM available (but not free). The original contents of this RAM is still available if the owning application requires it. It is considered available because it can be reused for other purposes if necessary. This paged data will never be read back unless the memory was reallocated for other purposes. If you have adequate RAM pagefile activity will rarely impact performance.

Do not be mislead by what XP’s Task Manager calls “PF Usage”. This is not actual pagefile usage but is more accurately describled as potential usage. Actual usage will typically be much less. In any event the frequency of pagefile usage is far more important then it’s size.

Unless you have a very good reason and fully understand what you are doing it is best to leave the pagefile settings alone.

Larry Miller
Microsoft MCSA

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