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Here’s Why Disabling the Windows Pagefile is Pointless

For years, Windows tweaking people have tried to convince everybody that if you disable the pagefile, you’ll get a big performance boost. One of our readers did a ton of testing to prove that this is not true.

Reader Eric did comprehensive testing using various test suites, boot and shutdown, and other testing to see whether disabling the page file break your system or give a performance boost.

Conclusions:

  • You can run Windows without a pagefile if you have enough RAM.
  • There’s pretty much zero benefit to disabling the pagefile.

You should definitely check out the full (very long) article for all the details.

The Windows 7 Pagefile And Running Without One [TweakHound]

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 10/10/11

Comments (33)

  1. Matt

    I turn mine off only because I need more space because I’m running windows off of an SSD, that seems like a legit reason.

  2. nt0xik8ed

    i’ve disabled it because i have 16gb ram on a 60gb ssd, it makes a huge difference in free space

  3. Redback

    The Pagefile is there so you don’t have to have 16G of RAM to get decent performance. Fitting 16G and a SSD to get performance certainly works but its not very cost effective.

  4. Kodess

    I have 12 GB Ram and an SSD, Im not going to turn on that pagefile, its horrible for my SSD’s lifespan.

  5. Grant

    Fun Linux only trick that is related:

    Create a compressed ram disk and put the page file there. Faster than SSD, almost as fast as real memory (just a little CPU overhead) and more room to play than just turning off swap! Can Win 7 do that? I am not sure, I haven’t tried Windows 7 out yet.

  6. macattack

    @ Grant… What a smug tosser you are…

  7. Anonymous

    I agree. Disabling the page file is somewhat pointless as long as you have enough RAM to compensate. About the best you can expect is to gain an increase in available hard drive space. But again that assumes you have enough RAM to compensate. You may actually regret disabling the swap file especially if you’re the type of user who minimizes running apps rather than close them – a habit that can potentially tax a system’s available resources. So it really comes down to what resources your system needs and what’s being loaded into memory.

    But if you need a little more hard drive space then you might also look into disabling the hibernation features too. Hibernation uses a rather large hidden file just like the swap file. In fact, if your system’s BIOS can’t deal with simple API specifications then disabling hibernation would be my first suggestion. But it’s still somewhat pointless since purchasing more hard drive real estate is probably easier and even cheaper than trying to tweak your Windows settings.

    (I assume we’re talking about Windows here since that’s the only OS I am aware of that actually uses a swap file – unlike most xNix’s including OSX which use an entire partition. Hint, hint Microsoft.)

  8. Anonymous

    One other point I think a few people have already mentioned, you do want to, and should disable the swap file if you use an SSD! It seems silly but the reason is so you don’t prematurely wear it out.

    You’d think that an entire hard drive made out of RAM – which is essentially what an SSD is – wouldn’t wear out. But you’d be wrong. An SSD (Solid State Drive) will give a significant performance increase over a conventional hard drive and it’s even somewhat immune to physical shock like dropping it too (not electrical shock). However, an SSD will wear out faster and that’s one very good reason to disable anything that wants to constantly read and write to a drive – like the swap file.

  9. Tom

    I think a lot of people are forgetting that you can move the swap file to another drive. If you’re worried about using up too much space on your SSD, buy a cheap standard SATA drive, and reconfigure the swap file on there.
    You’re not limited to running the swap file on C:. You can put it on D,E F. Whatever you wish. You can even span multiple disks.

  10. dcj2

    Anyone wanting to follow the example of nt0xik8ed and Kodess need to be sure they have a 64-bit version of Windows. The 32-bit version maxes out at 4gb of RAM – anything beyond that is a waste of money as it will never be used.

  11. শাওন

    Thanks man! Thats the ture fact. People thinks more swap = more performance. But I dont want to loose my 4GB hdd space for pagefile. Im running without it :)

  12. Liz

    I usually max it not turn it off

  13. Neil

    One tweak that is worthwhile if you have a swapfile is to set it to one size – ie the min & max numbers are the same – normally I set it to the maximum that Windows recommends. The reason is that otherwise the swapfile expands and contracts as Windows decides more or less is needed and as the hardrive fills the swapfile becomes fragmented – which then has a big effect on performance.

  14. Threv

    SSD users that’s what TRIM is for (though I’m sure some will debate that), also realistically you will probably replace that SSD with cheaper higher performance, larger capacity drive long before it wears out. (Been using the Same SSD for over 2 years with no issue and am replacing mine with one with twice the memory at half the price, but not for performance reasons).

    Linux guy -YES you can create a RAM drive (you just have to know DOS) and put a swap file in there (haven not tried compressing one -though I’ll put that on the list)

    Also with regard to partitions- While I agree that MS should put the Swapfile on it’t own partition it is trivial to do so in Windows.

  15. Donald E. Flood

    I am running Vista 32-bit; I use a single static page file (Initial size = max size = 4095 GB) and store it on a separate drive; also use Defraggler to defragment it at startup. Good results.

  16. bassmadrigal

    FYI, it was said there was no performance benefit to running without a pagefile. Not that there would be a performance drop. In the article, he mentions it is perfectly reasonable to disable the pagefile if the space taken is a concern, assuming you have enough RAM that windows won’t run out.

    As others have mentioned you can move the pagefile to another drive, or you can just disable it. All that is said in the article, is you won’t see any improvements in speed or performance in doing so.

  17. Paul DeLeeuw

    Help Folks:
    My 32 bit system has 2GB extra RAM. It is configured now as ReadyBoost RAM disk. I tried to move page file to RAM disk but it would not boot. Most “tips” suggest disabling the page file to move it. Disaster. Can I put the page file on a RAM disk? The data is stored on C:RAMsys file but how to tell Windows where it is, and to move it. Is it worth it?
    Thanks

  18. bobbo

    With 8 GB of RAM on my Win 7/64 quadcore AMD I turned off page file so that I would reduce the wear and tear on my hard drive. I became interested when doing some HP scanning was limited because it would only write to my C Drive and wanted to use about 12 GB of space which wasn’t there so I had to kluge the system. I have not noticed performance issues before or after this change but it works so why mess it with.

    I thought the read/write cycles on SSD’s was quite robust? Would expected mean time to failure be even less than when using a hard drive? Seems to go against what digital vs mechanical is all about?

  19. Paul

    @bobbo: The write longevity of HDDs generally isn’t an issue because the chances are they’ll fail mechanically before the magnetic media degrades. On the other hand SSDs are unlikely to break down but do gradually degrade in performance, so the read/write limit becomes a more meaningful (and possibly more predictable) measure of lifespan. Given that, I guess it makes sense to extend the life of an SSD by limiting write activity where possible.

  20. Guest

    Article is misleading as author does say there is a benefit…

    /snip
    Seriously though, paging and the page file do 3 things.
    1 – Use disk space.
    2 – Cause disk activity (reading/writing, but mostly reading).
    3 – Use CPU cycles.
    Optimizing and/or eliminating the page file can reduce these.
    /end snip

  21. Ryan

    Pagefile system serves a purpose. You have more Ram, cool, but it still serves a purpose. Better to think in ways that maintain your computers speed at it’s best, Especially if you run 32 bit and 3.5 gigs (or less) of useable Ram.
    Set Page file to none on occasion, reboot then defrag and reset your pagefile to the recommended size(You can play with the size, to see if it makes a difference).
    Drives are too cheap not to install a second drive, then you can move your Documents to d:(or whatever) and start installing new programs and/or moving your old programs to the new drive.
    Also, if speed and space are a concern, get rid of old uninstallers and resize your windows recovery down to a smaller percentage of the drive.
    Clean Temp folders often.
    Use your msconfig to keep your computer running lean.

    Just installed my first digital drive . . . I’m sure I’ll have an opinion soon . . . Can wait to see how fast I can break it.

  22. Meena Bassem

    well, so simply.from what you’ve just said. it’s almost a waste of time to think of whether you should keep it or not

  23. Eric (a.k.a. TweakHound)

    First off a big Thank You to How-To Geek for posting a link to my article.
    I wanted to clear a few things up for the posters here (it’s obvious some folks didn’t read the whole article):
    1 – I think my conclusion was rather plain. There is no performance benefit to removing the pagefile. I believe the results of the benchmarks also showed there is nothing to be gained by having one IF YOU HAVE ENOUGH RAM to cover any situation you may encounter. That is what all the “test it yourself” was about.
    2 – To “Guest on October 11, 2011 2:34 pm”. Really, that is as far as you got? :rolleyes:
    3 – I addressed this in my comments section.
    “Although I understand the concern over writes to an SSD it is my personal belief that this is no longer a concern with modern SSD’s.
    See The SSD Relapse: Understanding and Choosing the Best SSD from AnandTech for why.
    But if this is your reason for disabling the pagefile and you have enough RAM I wouldn’t argue with you about it. It’s your rig after all.”
    4 – PLEASE read the Important Links and the Slides from Mark Russinovich at PDC 2010 sections!
    Thanks, Eric.

  24. keltari

    why do people still think that writing a page file to a SSD is so bad? SSD provide the best performance for a page file and MS even recommends putting it there. The point of a drive is to be written to.

  25. RobR

    I usually disable the page file system, then defrag the hard drive then I reinable the page sys file. When you defrag the hdd using the windows defrag tool, it will not defrag the swap file. Often the swap file can be severely fragmented and will slow down your system as the system checks the page sys file for items it stored there and want to retrive. It will take longer to retreive data from a fragmented swap file. I only use a swapfile on a system that does not have enough ram to run all the applications that are normally run.

  26. jimmy

    16Gig ram
    Pagefile was 25gig big on my SSD (ssd is 120gig)
    /thats/ why I disable my pagefile.
    So please dont convince me to put it back on.

  27. dlgn

    You probably don’t need a pagefile with that much RAM :) but you could shrink the file and still use it.

  28. Bob Nunn

    I found a program to keep the pagefile down to
    half the normal size.
    I found another free program by sysinternals that
    defrags pagefile on startup.
    Works good and Im happy with the results.
    Bob

  29. Bone Tap

    Actually, everything I’ve read seems to indicate that SSD last LONGER than a conventional hard drive, because there are no moving parts! Maybe I am only reading the SSD vendor’s glossy propaganda, but it does make sense.

  30. Bone Tap

    Sorry, I need to post a quick follow-up: There are two types of SSD’s, MLC and SLC. The MLC’s are cheaper and do seem to present a lot of reliablity problems. The SLC’s are pretty expensive, but if you have one of those, then you shouldn’t worry too much about wear.

  31. Paul

    My opinion is that the purpose of a ssd is to speed up all disk operations, including a pagefile. A SSD is meant to be used. They are many times faster than a conventional drive, so the real question is why wouldn’t you use it? There are really only a few negatives that I can think of… 1) The drive wears out. This is complete bunk. A typical SSD has plenty of write cycles on it and is overprovisioned with extra memory for bad cells. When you combine that with algorithms that do wear leveling, I seriously doubt it’s an issue. 2) The other reason is that SSD’s tend to slow down over time from constant read/write cycles. This one is actually true. A secret in the SSD world is that all SSD’s slow down over time. Especially write performance. So, this is a semi-legitimate reason to not have a page file on a SSD.

    So, after a lot more research than most people put into this question, my final conclusion is this… It depends on two factors….
    1) Your actual memory relative to how much memory you use
    2) How big your SSD is.

    A) If you have more than enough memory for you usage, then the typical pagefile usage is much more writes than reads. That’s bad for SSD’s.
    B) If you have a decent amount of memory, but your peak loads sometimes are more than your actual memory. In this case, the OS will actually eject memory pages and use the disk to read when it needs the memory again. In this case, there will be mostly writes, but some reads as well. If you have plenty of space on the SSD, I recommend using the SSD for the page file. If you don’t have enough space on your SSD, and you have access to a second drive for a paging file, use a conventional hard drive for the pagefile. If you are on a laptop with no room for an additional hard drive, then, I would put a paging file on the SSD unless the SSD is too small. In that case, I would use a smaller pagefile. Having a pagefile is better than an OS crash because it ran out of memory.
    3) You have less memory than your typical application needs. In this case, SSD on the paging file is a good idea, but honestly, get more ram. Ram is much cheaper and cost-effective way to get system performance than a SSD. Max out your ram before even considering a SSD. After all, even with a SSD, it’s not anywhere near the same speed as ram and the best way to get the fastest pagefile performance is to not use it.

    Finally, with regards to pagefile size, the OS uses a ridiculous multiple for sizing when there is a lot of ram. I recommend a pagefile that is the same size as your ram set if you have more ram than your typical application needs. That way it is easy for your OS to map pages out to disk. I only recommend using more than 1x your ram if you have a severe shortage of physical ram. Honestly, if you are using that much swap, then you need to upgrade the ram.

    I hope this debunks some of the myths regards to paging files. I am an admin, system developer, and application coder, so I have studied this issue probably more than most. I hope it helps.

  32. Paul

    Oh, and I forgot to add in my A point, that even though it is bad for the write performance, I still use a pagefile on my SSD. If the pagefile doesn’t kill the write performance, something else would. I’m not going to not use my SSD because it slows down over time. Every couple of 5-6 months after I do my image backups, I do a secure erase and reimage my drive back to the SSD. It verifies my backup is good and it “refreshes” the write performance.

  33. Paul

    Finally, with regards to Bonetaps points, I don’t know if I agree.

    Hard drives tend to work very reliably after the first few months if they are kept under two conditions.
    1) Vibration free
    2) Cool

    Many conventional drives get damaged during shipping and can cause failures from that which usually show up in the first few months of drive usage. But the main factor which enables me to trust hard drives over ssd is that conventional Hard drives are recoverable, SSD’s are NOT. When an SSD goes, it is gone. This is a serious issue that cannot be overstated. I tend to put my data on conventional drives and my applications/os on my SSD. I trust my hard drive over my SSD in terms of reliability.

    Also, SSD’s are not mature yet. There are a lot of reasons that SSD’s fail and in my experience in the field, they fail much more than standard drives.

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