My computer told me that my “Virtual Memory is too low”, and it’s moving very slow. What should I do about this?
“Memory” is what your computer uses to manage all of the applications you’re using and processes that are running — when there’s not enough memory present to manage all of your computer’s activity, things start to slow down. In the case of a virtual memory shortage, you can increase performance by closing unnecessary programs and processes, adjusting the size of your pagefile, rebooting your computer, and/or physically upgrading your computer’s memory.
Put An End To Unecessary Programs and Processes
A virtual memory shortage occurs because your computer is being pushed further than it’s able to comfortably go. If you’ve got a copious amount of programs hanging around, your computer many not be powerful enough to manage all that software at the same time. Identify open windows that you don’t need, save your work and close them.
Programs aren’t the only things that consume memory. At this very moment, your computer is running dozens of processes, programs operating quietly and invisibly, doing various jobs. Some of these jobs are probably unnecessary, and so you can speed up your system by putting an end to them. To access the list of running processes, go to the Task Manager and click on the “Processes” tab. From this window, you can use the “End Process” button to kill any process you wish.
The question now arises, which processes should you kill? Which ones are important, and which ones aren’t? There are so many different processes running on different people’s computers that it would be impossible for us to provide a list here, and so the best advice we can offer is that from this Lockergnome article on cleaning up processes. The article describes how to identify essential system processes to be left alone, and then use Google to figure out what all the rest are up to.
Oh, and if you don’t know how to get to the Task Manager in the first place, it’s easy: hit CTRL+ALT+DEL once. If you’re using Windows XP Home, the Task Manager will appear on your screen. If you’re using Windows XP Professional, a small window with six buttons will appear. Press the “Task Manager” button.
Adjust the Size of Your Pagefile
Virtual memory is not memory. Memory is the physical RAM memory chip sitting in a slot on your computer’s motherboard. Many times, your computer does not have enough RAM memory to manage all of the activity that’s going on. The solution to this problem is a memory management technique used by many operating systems (including Windows), wherein unused hard disk space is called upon to expand the system’s memory capacity. High-priority data is kept in RAM (because RAM is fast), and the rest will spill over into a file on the hard disk called the Pagefile. The total memory capacity of your RAM combined with your Pagefile is addressed by the operating system as virtual memory.
In the event of a virtual memory shortage, Windows will attempt to up its capacity by increasing the size of your Pagefile. You can manually adjust the maximum size of your pagefile like so:
- Right click on My Computer.
- Click Properties.
- Under Performance Options, click the Settings button.
- A new window will appear. Click the Advanced tab.
- Underneath Virtual Memory, click the Change button.
From this point, you can customize the maximum size of your system’s pagefile (don’t make it excessively large, though). If you’re not sure how large to make it, there’s a guide on the bottom this screen that shows you Windows’ recommended size for your pagefile.
Reboot Your Computer
For those of you working in an office setting surrounded by plenty of computers, how often has someone from I.T. immediately told you to reboot in order to solve a problem? A lot, I bet. I often joke, “rebooting is the solution to all life’s problems”.
Windows is sometimes affected by a “memory leak”, a phenomenon where you close down an application, but Windows forgets to free up the memory that application was using. That memory is not being used but still sits idle, unavailable the system. If your computer has been on for days, weeks or even months, I guarantee that rebooting the system will noticeably speed you up.
If too many startup programs cause your computer to take a year and a day to boot, you might want to stop some of those programs from starting automatically.
Upgrade Your Computer’s Memory
One of the most effective and permanent ways to increase the speed of your computer is to add more physical memory (RAM). When your computer demands more physical memory than is available, it compensates with the pagefile in the “virtual memory” memory management technique described earlier. The pagefile is on the hard drive, and a hard drive isn’t nearly as fast as RAM.