Virtual Memory – What is it?
I recently got an e-mail asking about virtual memory. The person who sent me the question was getting an error on random occasions from their Windows operating system stating “Your computer is low on virtual memory”. They wanted to know what is virtual memory, and if this error does occur, what can I do to fix it? Here is the answer that I sent out:
“Virtual memory is when your computer uses the hard drive as a memory relay once your real memory has been used up. This usually starts happening when someone has installed new programs or is using multiple large programs at one time. Have you installed something new recently, or changed how many programs you are using at one time? Does it seem to occur when you are using a specific program, or perhaps after running a specific program for a longer than usual period of time?
To check your virtual memory settings, follow these steps:
1. Click on Start
2. Select Control Panel
3. Click on System
NOTE: When you first click on System, it will show you the “General” information tab. This tab will indicate how much RAM (physical memory) your system has installed (usually towards the bottom, should be something like “128 MB of RAM”. Make a note of this number.
4. Click on the Advanced tab
5. Click on the Settings button under the top box, labeled Performance
6. Click on the Advanced tab, and this will show your current setting for virtual memory.
NOTE: Windows usually manages this number automatically, and usually doesn’t require any adjustment. Optimally, this number should be somewhere between 2X and 3X the number noted earlier for the amount of system RAM. You can change the setting by clicking on the Change button located at the bottom of this section. You can then set the minimum to 2X (put in the actual number) and the maximum to 3X of the physical RAM.
If you answered “yes” to any of the questions I posed at the beginning, you may need to re-evaluate the system requirements of any programs involved and consider an actual physical RAM upgrade, if your motherboard will support additional RAM. That can have a big impact on what’s happening.