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Swap file: what is it for?


Computer RAM is known to be limited. Often, however, the operating system is forced to work with very large amounts of data, and in order to cope with such a load, it “merges" some of the information into the paging file located on the hard drive. Thus, it serves, first of all, to optimize the operation of the computer, to increase its performance.

Specific example. Suppose two “heavyweight” applications (say, Photoshop or Illustrator) were running at the same time. The computer may not have enough RAM to run two programs at once. Therefore, he has one of them in the memory of the computer itself, and the second in the swap file. Subsequently, when the RAM becomes a little freer, information from the paging file will be extracted. Together, RAM and the swap file form virtual memory.

If the amount of virtual memory is not enough for comfortable work, it can be increased. As a rule, by increasing the amount of either RAM or the swap file.

In general, initially the swap file is a dynamic system: its size depends on the needs of the operating system. The current operation of the computer determines exactly how this file will change. However, according to experienced users, the static file size is much better than the dynamic one, since the immutability of the file size saves performance resources and eliminates file fragmentation.

The paging file and the Windows operating system itself are best stored on different disks. If the computer has only one hard drive, then you need to create a separate partition on it, the volume of which should be at least 1-2 GB. After creating this partition, you need to convert it to FAT32 and defragment it. You shouldn’t occupy this partition with anything other than the swap file: let the entire volume be at its disposal.

It should be noted that accessing the swap file is, in a sense, a necessary measure. That is why it is necessary first of all to increase the amount of RAM, and not the swap file. Because it takes less time for a computer to process information from RAM than it takes to process the same information from a hard disk.

The default minimum paging file size in Windows is 300 MB. The maximum file size can be up to three times the amount of RAM.

The paging file can be disabled or completely deleted. However, this is not recommended. In general, with 1 GB of RAM, the file can be turned off. If necessary, it can be turned on again. Still, it’s best to leave it as it is. Especially if Vista is installed on the computer, which constantly "complains" about the lack of virtual memory.

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