Software Tip 2a

About RAM and swap file

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  • In Windows 95 and 98 it is important to understand the of the relationship between:

  • Amount of RAM in the PC
  • Size of and control of Disk cache
  • Free memory
  • Size of the swap file

    Windows are in all versions (as all Microsoft software) a very resource demanding operating system. Then you might ask, why bother to use Windows? We all know the answer: The Microsoft Office packages are undoubtedly the finest, most user friendly and most thoroughly planned office programs on the market - no question about that. They can work satisfactorily on your PC, but it requires some hardware. A lot of hardware indeed.

    The processor should be fast, as all modern processors are. Plenty of RAM and a roomy and fast hard drive is also very desirable for running Windows.

    The need for RAM

    Windows gobbles up memory. Therefore, sufficient memory is essential for its satisfactory performance. Try to check how much you really need - you will be surprised. The memory comes from two locations:

  • The installed RAM
  • The swap file, which is created automatically, when you run out of RAM.

    Windows is clever using the swap file . It "extends" its RAM to the hard disk. If you only have 64 MB RAM in your PC, you can be assured that you have a sizable swap file on your disk.

    Controlling the swap file

    You may choose which drive, you place the swap file. Some experts prefer to place the swapfile on a separate partition, which only is used for the swap file. That way, the swapfile does not interfere with the other disk data, which become more easy to defragment.

    You deside the placement and size of the swapfile using the System Properties dialogue box. Here you see it from Windows 2000:

    We recommend that you limit the swapfile to a size of 512 MB using Windows 98/Me. If you use Windows 2000 (which is working a lot better than 98/Me) you should leave Windows to deside the size of the swap file.

    Anyway, you need to keep an eye on the swap file. In Windows 95 many breakdowns originated in swap file use. But luckily Windows have improved a lot; Windows 98 is is better at controlling RAM and swap file than Windows 95 is.

    Windows 98 has a better algorithm to control RAM etc. The swap file is still there, and it is big - but that does not have to be a problem. Windows only reads to and from the swap file, while no work is done on the PC. In that way we do not even notice that there is a swap file.

    In the Windows versions 2000 and XP there is no need to worry about memory management, it works fine (but please use 512 MB RAM).

    No swap file?

    Some experts recommend if possible to eliminate the swap file in Windows 98. It sounds great but is not not very smart in practice. The problem arises from the extremely lousy memory management you find in Windows 98. Any onboard RAM above 256 MB find no use! Even upgrading from 128 to 256 MB gives almost no benefit; Windows still runs out of memory all the time.


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    Copyright (c) 1996-2001 by Michael B. Karbo.