Changing Windows XP Virtual Memory Settings

Everyone wants to get the best performance out of their system, so the Performance section of the Advanced tab is a must-visit. Clicking the Settings button in this section and then clicking the Advanced tab displays the window. From here, you can configure processor scheduling and memory usage settings, as well as access the configuration of virtual memory. XP’s default settings are generally fine for a system being used primarily as a desktop, but you will want to make changes if your system is primarily being used as a server.

If your PC is primarily been used for server-based functions, select the Background services option in the Processor scheduling section, and System cache in the Memory usage section – both will optimize your system to better respond to network requests. However, this is at the cost of desktop responsiveness, so be sure to think carefully before making any changes. The good news is that switching back is as simple as returning this values to their original settings.

Along with the ability to optimize processor and memory usage on your XP system, this tab also provides access to virtual memory settings when you press the Change button. Virtual memory on an XP system is an area of disk space dedicated to acting as an extension to RAM, effectively allowing your system to use more RAM than you have installed. By default, XP will allocate 1.5 times the amount of RAM you have installed for this purpose, but you can tweak and tune these settings according to your preferences. For example, XP will place the file (known as a paging file – pagefile.sys) used to act as virtual memory in the root of drive C by default. While this is fine, drive C is generally the busiest drive on your system, so moving virtual memory to a different partition is a good idea. Better still, move the paging file to a second disk if you have one installed; you’ll notice an improvement in performance almost immediately.

To moving your paging file, simply click on the disk where it currently exists, and then select the No paging file option. Then, click on the disk that you want the paging file moved to, and select System managed size (or define the minimum and maximum file sizes manually). After a reboot, the paging file will have been removed from drive C, with a new version located on the drive you specified – simple stuff.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.