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    Optimizing Your Swap File


    We'll start out kind of slow here. The first tip I have concerns virtual memory, also known as the swap file. This is a section of the hard drive that Windows uses regularly to supplement main system RAM. Even in machines with huge amounts of RAM, swap files will be used. Using this "virtual memory", though, is obviously much slower than using the machine's RAM.

    To use swap files, Windows writes pertinent data to the area of the hard drive reserved for virtual memory and then goes and accesses that data whenever it's needed. If swapping is happening consistently, Windows will constantly grab data from the swap file while writing some other piece of data to the swap file in the first data's place, and replace the old data in RAM with the new data just pulled from the swap file. This can be horrendously slow. Anyone who's ever run into swapping while rendering a 3D scene or animation can attest to that!

    While acquiring more RAM can be a surefire way to avoid this extensive swapping routine, some swapping is usually unavoidable. This being the first tip, I won't talk about defrag, partitioning, ConservativeSwapFileUsage, etc. Later.

    What we want to do to optimize the swap file is to take control of its size away from Windows. You see, the swap file by default doesn't have any set size. Windows resizes it as it sees fit (sidebar: Do you think there will come a day when we'll refer to our OS as "he" or "she" instead of always "it"?). This resizing wastes time and power. Let's take control...

    Right-click on "My Computer". Select "Properties". Select the "Performance" tab. Down at the bottom, on the right, hit the "Virtual Memory..." button. There are three choices here. If you've never adjusted your swap file, the first option is selected, that of letting Windows run virtual memory. The second option lets you determine settings. The third disables the use of swap files. Don't do this unless you've got 256 MB of RAM and have put ConservativeSwapFileUsage in your System.ini. Let's select the second radio button.

    The three values now shown are the available disk space on the selected hard drive (you can select a different drive or partition if you choose), the minimum swap file size, and the maximum swap file size.

    This is where it gets contentious. Different people specify different ratios between your main system RAM and your swap file size. Here is how I have my home PC set: I have 128 MB of RAM and I set my swap file to a minimum and maximum of 384 MB. That is three times my system RAM. Other people recommend everywhere from one and a half times your RAM to four times... Let me say that if I had a 32 MB machine, I'd set my swap file at 128 MB or higher. If I had a 64 MB machine, I'd use 192 or 256 MB. Don't make your swap file tiny. Don't make it 800 Megabytes if you are on a 64 MB machine. Use common sense. A 2X or 3X multiplier is sufficient in most cases. If you're running 256 MB or more, probably 384 is Plenty. 256 is probably plenty at 128 MB of RAM as well. Please not that the settings measure in MB, no need to convert to KB or anything.

    The main thing to remember is that whatever number you choose, you want BOTH the minimum and maximum values to be the same. That's the important part of this tweak.

    When you make your choice and click OK, Windows will give you this scare tactic, telling you your system may not start. Disregard (click "Yes" to continue). Click OK again. No restart is called for, but I'd do one anyway. Then go back and make sure your settings are there.

    There! All done. You've optimized your virtual memory. We'll revisit this when we edit the system.ini and discuss partitioning and defragging.

    Written by kevynwight from Maxcommport.


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