Virtual Memory in Windows® XP
Learn about the virtual memory feature in Windows® XP.
Computers have mainly two types of memories, Random Access Memory or RAM, and permanent memory, which include hard disks, CD/DVDs, etc. In order to execute a program or application, an operating system needs to load the required instruction set into the RAM. The applications are requiring more and more memory. The physical capacity of the electronic memory or RAM capacity (measured in Gigabytes, for example 2GB or 3GB) is not increasing with the same speed. The obvious question is how the operating system is handling this ever-increasing requirement of memory. That is where the virtual memory comes in. We will discuss about virtual memory and will present mainly three aspects of it.
- What is Virtual Memory?
- How is Virtual Memory managed in Windows® XP?
- Tips regarding the management of Virtual Memory
What is Virtual Memory?
The virtual memory is a combination of different memory hardware components encompassed in a single entity and presented to the application as a form of electronics memory. So a virtual memory may consist of actual RAM or partly hard-drive, but the application will recognize it as a memory space equivalent to electronics memory and perform its task. An operating system like Windows® XP plays an important role in preparing the virtual memory for the application.
How is Virtual Memory managed in Windows® XP?
Windows® XP allocates 4GB of virtual memory to any application that is running on it. Out of the 4GB memory, 2GB is allocated for private use of that particular application and the rest 2GB is for sharing among other applications and operating systems. The operating system also tracks how much of the total 2GB memory is coming from which physical location. If the application requires less than 2GB memory, the required RAM capacity is assigned to the virtual memory. The operating system considers the total memory as a block of 4KB pages. In Windows® XP, the page file is saved as .swp files and usually in the root partition.
RAM has a physical limitation while virtual memory is practically unlimited (because it can use hard drive to make up for low memory). However, increased task loads decrease the computer performance. This is because of physical or architectural limit so much so that even the virtual memory is not sufficient. The common problems with virtual memory in Windows® XP are too low size of private and shared memory spaces (2GB each). You need to use the “Performance monitor” that comes with Windows® XP to decide when and how the limit is reached. Another common dilemma is to decide how to set the page file. There is no specific answer to this question. It depends mainly on the physical limit is and how much loaded the computer becomes.