How-To Geek

Understanding Windows Vista Paging File Size

If you’ve upgraded your Windows Vista computer’s memory(RAM) after you installed the memory, you may be wondering why you suddenly lost some drive space.

In Windows XP, when you added more memory to your computer, you had to manually go and increase the size of your paging file to correctly match the amount of memory in your computer. Windows Vista does away with this by automatically setting the optimal size for the paging file, even after you add more memory to your computer.

For instance, if you had a computer with 1GB of memory, your paging file would be roughly 1300mb, but if you add another 1GB of memory to your computer to make a total of 2GB, now when you look at the paging file, it will have automatically increased:

You can turn this setting on and off by right-clicking the Computer icon, clicking the Advanced System Settings link, then clicking the Settings button under Performance:

Click the Advanced tab, and you should see the current size of the paging file as in the first screenshot. Click the Change button, and you’ll finally see the checkbox to “Automatically manage paging file size for all drives”

You can uncheck this box and set the paging file manually if you’d like. If you have a number of fast drives in your system, you could configure the system for optimal performance by using a faster drive for the paging file, but I’d recommend just leaving the default setting on in most cases. 

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 01/21/07

Comments (30)

  1. Chizz

    It’s best to Leave the Page file 500mb Above total System
    2gb of RAM, 2.5gb of Page file

  2. XFR

    can you help me ???

    i dont understand – because i had 2GB RAM and OS set automatically SWAP to 3GB swap
    now i have 4GB RAM and OS set automatically SWAP to 6GB swap… but i think its a unnecessary to have 6GB of SWAP file… can u help me ? may i set swap to lower value ?

  3. Andreaz

    1.5 times your RAM is the standard Microsoft recommended setting. So 2Gb RAM is 3Gb Swap and 4Gb RAM = 6 Gb Swap. But these are just minimum recommended settings! I definitely wouldn’t set it to a lower setting. That might seriously hamper your system!!!

    I myself prefer a fixed swap file size of double the amount of my RAM. It is best to move your swapfile to a partition on another hdd. But do not move your swapfile to another partition if you have only one HDD. In that case leave it on C.

    There’s a lot of info about pagefiles/swapfiles on the net. You can easily confirm my recommendations. There’s a lot more to know about this topic, but this should get you started.

  4. Darlove

    As far as I know it’s best to leave the swap file to be managed automatically by Windows itself. This is against what you may have heard from people and what you will probably hear in the future but if you check what Microsoft has to say about that you will realize that there is no need to manage the file other than automatically. What’s more, doing so may result in the system being slower (bear in mind that it’s a serious danger to turn the swap file completely; no matter how much RAM you have, do not turn the swap file off as Windows needs it for proper operation). What I have just typed can be checked in Microsoft technical articles.

  5. X Long

    Actually, if u have lots of RAM, e.g. 4GB, u don’t need to set so much for the page file.
    It really depends on the kind of application u use and whether it needs lots of memory.
    The OS will only use the page file if it does not have enough memory.
    For eg. if u are doing video editing, u might need more page file and its better to split the page file
    Eg. 4GB in C: and 4GB in D:.
    If u are not doing memory processing, then I recommend setting it to 2GB for your 4GB RAM.

    Read this:

  6. JustNATE

    Finally, someone who knows what they are talking about posted something smart.

    If you have 2-4GB of RAM, you don’t need a high page file. As stated by xlong, it’s only there for the OS if you run out of physical memory, it goes for virtual.

  7. Greg

    My window Vista Ultimate 64 bit with 4 gigs of RAM runs perfect without paging files. I run 3ds Max 9, and Adobe Master Collection as my primary software to perform my work. Games Microsoft Flight X, and spiderman 3. I just concluded that with 4 gig why have a need of paging files, and my programs at least seem to open faster.

  8. NGTV

    Read this for specifics:

    Important line:
    “When no page file exists, or the page file is insufficient, the system reserves some virtual memory in
    the physical memory for its paging needs.”

    In translation, if you don’t have page file paging memory will be still used in physical memory which is surely faster then on HDD. And due to fact that paging is done even if there is a LOT LOT of free memory there are some gains when working without PF.

    Which applications need PF to work I really don’t know and as a programmer I would really like to see the problem which can’t be solved without using PF.

    Anyway, I work with 4gb XPx64 and without PF. I have one Linux VM(with 1gb reserved) working almost all time except when playing games. And I tend to play high load games like Crysis or COD4 in 1680×1050 on ultra high settings…

    Disabling PF gives no visible performance increase generally, for example in some rare occasions you will spare your self waiting to copy large file when Windows suddenly decides to write large chunk of data to PF.
    Or after long inactivity without you will not need to wait for windows to restore PF data from disk as it will do instantly from memory.

    The most important reason I don’t use PF is because my HDD is a LOT LOT quieter without it.

    Anyway gains and risks for disabling PF are minor, so I recommend disabling it and if after 1month (which is generally the time to populate your system with mostly used applications) you don’t experience any problems leave it disabled. In this period save often :)


  9. Z

    Another consideration is security. With paging file, Windows can potentially save your files to disk. These files on HDD can be recoverable. Without paging files, anything in memory will basically not be “logged”. That is why for some security programs, they also recommend turning paging off to prevent having a copy of your sensitive document/data to be saved on a HDD.

  10. peter jaxon

    My understanding is that the paging file is a relic, sort of like your apendix, that was needed when RAM was small and was often too small for the data that needed to have space. Now with even 2gbs of Ram I don’t see what the advantage is of it. Seems there should even be some, if slight improvement because the HD isn’t getting jammed with read/write instructions that it can only do one of at a time. I’m an amateur and maybe I have it all wrong but isn’t the paging file an unneeded relic?

  11. Foobard

    Let’s see reasons for not having a PF:
    Security of data. While you can force your system to blank the PF when you shut down, it makes shutdowns slower. Better to just not have one, and not write that data to disk in the first place.

    Space limited SSD instead of a huge HDD. In my HP Mini, I have a 16GB SSD. Windows 7 takes up over 12GB! A PF would take up 1.5 GB of precious space. If I upgraded my RAM to 2GB, then my PF would try to be 3GB! Upgrading to a larger SSD would be way too expensive currently.

    Also, SSDs are fast at reading and slow at writing. Unecessary writes to the PF would slow the system down.

    I like the less noise argument.

    Less wear and tear on the Hard drive. Might not be a big deal for a HDD, but a SSD’s
    Another problem with PFs is that they get fragmented. (If you allow windows to manage their size, and let it grow as needed) Many people say there is no benefit to putting the PF on a different logical partition of the same physical drive as the OS. I disagree, because if you put it on a dedicated partition, you ensure it never gets fragmented. Alternatively, you can just force it to one size so it won’t grow. This assumes you have enough contiguous free space available for the PF.

  12. Nick

    Paging File Advantages:

    1. Programs have memory leaks all the time, quickly flooding your available memory. Even World of Warcraft has caused them. By having a paging file you are far more likely that Windows will catch the leak before it causes a system crash.

    2. On machines without a ton of memory (less than 4GB), it can be nice to get some idle programs off the main (faster) memory and into virtual (slower) memory, giving more main memory for your games or whatever application you are using at the time.

    Paging File Disadvantages:

    1. Virtual memory is FAR slower than physical memory. If something gets move into the virtual memory, and you have to use it, you’ll notice a delay in accessing whatever application got moved. Windows will move things to virtual memory (WHETHER OR NOT YOU HAVE PLENTY OF PHYSICAL MEMORY FREE) simply because it hasn’t been active for X amount of time.

    2. Virtual memory makes defragmenting your hard drive less effective (though not by too large of an amount), but this is remedied by having your paging file on it’s own partition. You also could temporarily disable virtual memory for the defragment process.

    3. Virtual memory causes unneeded stress on your hard drive.

    All in all, I suggest using Virtual Memory if you have less than 4GB. If you have 4GB or more, try disabling it too see if you experience any problems. If you have no crashes with the applications you use, leave it off for good.

    I think Virtual Memory is a great safe guard against memory leaks, however, Windows’ behavior on moving application to virtual memory even before the physical memory is reaching capacity is really annoying and a performance hit.

    Typical Paging File size is 1.5 times physical memory size, however, at 4GB or over this would be a bit excessive. I suggest a paging file size of 2GB – 4GB if you are at 4GB or more of physical memory.

    For those of you concerned about security risks, it’s true that the paging file will save potentially confidential data from memory to the hard disk, however, I wouldn’t worry about it unless you’re planning on having the FBI come seize your PC soon. Accessing the paging file on an updated machine is beyond the capability of most virus-type programs and would likely require actual physical access to the machine.

    If you are one of the few that have frequent FBI visits or do REALLY REALLY private stuff on your computer, you can set the paging file to empty out during shutdown, however, this significantly increases shutdown time and isn’t recommended. It’s also easily possible that the FBI would be able to access it even after it has been deleted (even after a secure “shred-style” delete), so it is likely not worth the trouble.

  13. Joe Smack

    If you have 32bit Windows Vista or XP they have a 4GB Memory addressing limitation.
    With this being so, then how is it that Windows can use any swap file at all since I would think it would be included in the memory addressing space?

  14. Michael

    I was wondering too.
    After booting up Vista x86, the memory in use makes approx 25% of my 3.25GB RAM.
    Meaning that up to 2.5 GB are unused / free.

    As you know, the 32-bit OS recognizes less than the 4 GB physical memory.
    My plan is to upgrade from 4 GB to 8 GB and from Vista x86 to Vista x64.
    This was I would have approx 6.5 GB unused / free after Vista has started.

    Then it’s time to say “Good bye Virtual Memory !” … the prehistoric feature when 512 MB RAM was the max you could afford.

  15. Brad

    >> If you have 32bit Windows Vista or XP they have a 4GB Memory addressing limitation.
    With this being so, then how is it that Windows can use any swap file at all since I would think it would be included in the memory addressing space?

  16. Tim B

    I came upon this forum via a search for ‘force vista page file’. Frankly, it is hard to believe that Windoz is still mandating a page file. I have a 32gb SSD which is reserved for Vista Home Prem 64bit, & 8gb RAM. I have tried forcing (the usual way) through msconfig/ performance / advanced / performance a zero page file on all drives. It doesn’t work. What I mean is, after selecting no paging file on all drives (and rebooting of course), task manager’s performance tab STILL shows a page file. I don’t think I’ve EVER seen task manager show my physical memory usage go above 3gb. What a waste of RAM. And yes, I have searched for the fix before and tried to force through regedit a zero page file.

    Exactly what version of Windoz will allow us to utilize our hardware and when will it be here?


  17. scott

    do you need a swap file at all if you say for example have 12gb ram?

  18. RD

    Not that I -know-, but from what I’ve read… It’s called a “paging” file, because it goes through a ‘page’ of RAM… a ‘window’, if you will, onto your hard drive/paging file. It can store multiple pages from multiple apps onto the hard drive paging file… and it pages them in/out through the RAM ‘window’ as needed. The paging file can be large, the page ‘window’ of RAM is smaller. If you multitask with several large apps, it should make a difference.

  19. Sean From Chicago

    Ok I have a system with a 64gb SSD and 10GB of RAM with Windows 7 x64

    Why oh why do I need a pagefile?

    Ok so I put a 2nd 64gig SSD in the system… can I put the pagefile over there on that drive?

    If I do SO do I need to still keep a 1gb pagefile on the C: OS drive?

    When will this madness end?

  20. SD user

    SSD drive life is measured in write cycles. Turning off the page file will extend the life of your SSD since flash has a limited number of writes. If your drive is big enough you can use the PF, and it should mask off bad blocks as they fail, but eventually the SSD will have bad blocks due to the excessive writing of the PF. Best bet, install more RAM and turn off the PF.

  21. Joey

    I have an Acer Aspire 5335. It’s a 32-bit, 2 GB ram. I recently upgraded to a 4gb ram. The systems reads it’s running on a 4gb memory, but nothing seems any better. The Sims 3 lags and Premiere Pro still does the same. What settings should I set my laptop to?

  22. Glenn

    This might be of interest to someone. I’m a NBA basketball fan and like to watch a a lot of games. So, I subscribe to NBA League Pass Broadband which allows you to watch almost any NBA game played anywhere in the US over an internet feed with Adobe Flash Player anywhere you have access to WiFi or a hardwired network. But, I was plagued with the Flash Player freezing for a few seconds before proceeding and frequent hangups that required restarting the Flash Player application. I added more memory, upgraded to internet service providing faster download speed, tweeked several things in the operating system to improve performance and nothing helped until, in my shotgun approach to solving the problem, I tried tried turning off Page Swapping completely – INSTANT FIX!! Now, when I watch a live TV feed I turn off the PF and when I get through watching I reset it to automatic and all is right with the world.

  23. James

    Could I please have some help?
    I have Vista 64 bit with only 1GB of RAM, I play FIFA 10 on PC a fair bit and it used to run perfectly with virtually no lag etc. Just recently it came up with an error message about file swap space. After a bit of research I figured out that this was the same as paging file size. Some online forums were recommending that to fix FIFA 10 I needed to change the paging file size to a higher level. I am loathe to do this however because it was set to automatically manage paging file size and I really am not sure to which minimum settings I would place it on.

    Please give me some advice =]

  24. sAnTino8bro

    I Put my Half space in this things. i put up to 60GB-70GB. but it is still slow .I don’t have virus in my computer. and i have another 70Gb total free spaces.

  25. Nataraju.s

    .How to solve that Paging file problem in my Windows

  26. Nataraju.s

    How to solve that Paging file problem in my Windows 7

  27. Brian

    well thread is old but people look this stuff on google wondering questions. I have like 24 gigs of ram on my win7 box.. I have NO paging file.. Less reliance on ticking little hard drives (not that I do as I use SSD but it does put less utilization on this as well). These days memory is cheap you can have 12+ gigs of memory in a box no problem.. pretty affordable and remove most if not all page file.

  28. ad

    my laptop has only 1 gb ram and it sucks! i have not many programs and i have anitivurs and defragging and cleaning every unnecessary stuff and using speedupmypc and registrybooster. BUT IT STILL LAGS!

  29. Charles

    you need to add a little more ram to your computer, I have e-machine i have 8GB of ram their for i do not use the paging files, and my computer runs fine, And even have a lot of drive space that way 93 to 95% witch is very good, And i found if you kid in your paging fines the computer is a lot slower and even have a lot less ram to, I tried that, Another thing i found try not to run to meany program on your computer that will slow your computer down to, Well that’s all i got to say for now Charles,

  30. Charles

    Charles another thing i found is your ISP may be slow to, I have won way sattlight and that is no to good but that is all i can get, that will slow your computer down to, well that’s it for now have a nice day Charles,

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