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Windows XP, Virtual Memory Too Low


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#1
wagjag

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Hello. New to the site. Just cleaned and vastly increased the speed and functioning of an old hand me down system with some help from the Malware Removal Forum. Now another issue, and I hope this is the correct forum for this question. I've had this pc for nearly 6 years, I think it's maybe 9 or 10 years old. Windows XP sp2, 256 MB RAM, 2.0 GHz processor-intel pentium....I believe the capacity ( hard drive??) is 74.5 GB ( I get this by right clicking on Local Disk C, properties, disk clean up ), and it has 78% free space. I really only surf/research, email, store photos, and play a few low resource intensive games..backgammon, poker, scrabble..etc. Really not a very sophisticated/multi media, file sharing/swapping, movie watching...etc type user...bear bones user really. Hope you actually needed that info..lol

Anyhow, my question is regarding virtual memory. For as long as I"ve had this system I have been getting the "windows low on virtual memory" and " minimum virtual memory is too low" pop ups. I did a bit of research a few years ago and manually increased the limits/size?? of the virtual memory page.....at least I think that's what I did..lol. I def. haven't gotten the message as often after that...but still occasionally. I would understand if I got this message while running several programs or having many tabs/pages open. However, just today, I get on, the pc had been left on overnight. My account had zero programs running...wasn't online overnight, had nothing open on my desktop...I have only 3 programs (AV, Firewall, and wireless mouse/keyboard) running at startup, and yet there was the virtual memory warning waiting for me...lol. There was another account opened, with IE open and nothing else...not sure if that matters....so, what exactly is happening? Should I be getting this warning even when, presumably, I'm not running a lot of programs or web pages open or whatever it is that requires so much memory? Sorry if you didn't need all of the info, trying to paint the clearest picture possible. Thanks in advance for your kind assistance.

Edited by wagjag, 27 November 2008 - 06:42 AM.

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#2
Neil Jones

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Virtual Memory is hard drive space.
This message tends to occur because when Windows is set up, it creates a virtual memory file on the hard drive. When the computer runs out of physical memory it uses the hard drive as extra memory, with the appropriate slow-down in performance.
Messages about low Virtual Memory are misleading because the wider symptom is the computer doesn't have enough physical memory in the first place. If the system was to have enough there would be less need on the virtual memory and therefore the system would be a lot faster.

Anti-virus programs take up lots of memory on their own as would your firewall so your best bet realistically would be to put more memory in it. It'll make it faster if nothing else.
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#3
wagjag

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Thanks for replying Neil. Please bear with me as I'm not very technically savvy and only recently have I become interested in learning about these things.

So, when you say that the primary problem is "physical memory", does this mean RAM? You mentioned that virtual memory is hard drive space, yet my hard drive is something like 77% free. Is this what you meant by the virual memory message being misleading...because I have lots of free disk space so that isn't the issue, that the virtual memory being low really suggests that I simply need more RAM? I know I can research it but probably not get the same understanding as asking a knowledgeable person specific questions, so, on this old system, with only 256 MB of RAM, what would you suggest? I understand that RAM can be purchased cheaply now...what is the process? Is this a download or would one have to actually, physically install something into the computer? Would today's options be compatible with a 9-11 year old computer? Is this something that someone with nearly zero computer skills do?

Is RAM what's being sold in all of the computer/electronics store ads that show, for example...in today's Best Buy I see 2GB USB Flash Drive, 2GB SD memory card, and 2GB PC5300 DDR2 Notebook/Desktop Memory Kit....I'm assuming the last option is what I would need? Are all of these basically the same thing? Again, could I install these things? Hope these questions aren't too annoying. Thanks so much for your time.
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#4
Facedown98

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Hi wagjag and welcome to Geeks to Go!

First let me start by clarifying a few things for you.

Physical Memory is RAM in this case. What Neil is saying is that when your RAM can't handle any more information (because it has reached it's maximum capacity), information will start being stored on the hard drive instead. So when all of your RAM is in use, Windows will create Virtual Memory by taking a portion of the hard drive, and treating it as if it was RAM. Note that wile your programs can't tell the difference between the two, it's usually pretty obvious because the access time on Virtual Memory compared to RAM is much slower.

Having said that, there are limits as to how much Virtual Memory your system is going to use. For example, your system might set the minimum amount of Virtual Memory to 256 MB and the maximum to 384 MB. Usually the maximum amount of Virtual Memory is the amount of RAM installed, multiplied by 1.5 --- which is why I came up with 384 MB.

There are a few options we can explore before sending you off to the electronics store.

I'm going to start by mentioning a few ways to help, but I'm going to go into more detail once I get some more information from you. Here are some things we can try: (1) Check if Windows is managing your pagefile (Virtual Memory) with a set number (min and max) or if it is expanding it as necessary. (2) We can disable the startup of unnecessary programs (3) We can ensure that there is no Malware installed on the PC which is eating up your RAM (not literally :) ) (4) We can recommend that you install additional RAM.

I think most people are going to be in favor of having you install additional RAM, simply because the amount you have is rather low. You need no less than 128 MB of RAM to install and run Windows XP. While the box says that 256 MB is recommended, it is still "dog butt slow." I'm going to be honest - I think you could stand an upgrade, but that's not why I'm here. We are here to help you fix these things without spending anything unnecessarily.

As far as installing RAM, it is a very easy and straightforward process. If we decide to take that route, I will be more than happy to provide you with a document showing you step by step with images how to properly install your RAM. You can do it; I have faith :wave:

Here is what we need to do...

First I would like the name of the manufacturer and the model for this PC. This will help me to research how much RAM your PC can handle, as well as what type of RAM you will need. I would also like to know when these issues started. Is this something that just "appeared out of the blue" or has this been happening for some time now? Have you made any changes to the system recently?

I apologize for the long post, but I'm very thorough. Feel free to reply with any questions you have.

Good luck! :)
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#5
123Runner

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You can go to 4All Memory or Crucial to check what your computer has/ and will take.
You do not need to buy from them. There are locations that are less expensive.

Also, please follow the recommendations in the previous post.
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#6
wagjag

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Thanks so much for the input Runner and Face. Sorry for the delay, I should be able to respond much faster now that I'm back home. Face, your explanation of the virtual memory is kind of what I had gathered from half heartedly researching this issue several years ago ( didn't come across this site or any nearly as helpful ), although I guess I thought that since I had so much free space on the hard drive, that there should be lots of "space" available for virtual memory/"extra RAM". Thanks for clarifying that it is normal for this process to cause such a slow down.

As for the points/steps you suggested, and your questions:

1. I manually changed the virtual memory/page file settings a few years ago. I have it set to custom...the size is 384-2048...this is the min-max. Currently allocated is 384 and recommended is 379. It says also that the total paging file size for all drives is 384 MB.

2. and 3. I was recently helped, like a few days ago, by Essexboy in the Malware Removal forum with several issues I was having. I was given the okay and the computer was cleaned. It has been scanned, yesterday, with MBAM, SAS, Avast home (free) AV, and I have Spywareblaster running. All of these scans were clean. Two days ago Avast picked up two infections which I have in the chest...but the computer has been running much faster since Essex's help and this virtual memory issue has been going on since I"ve had the pc. Oh, I also went to MSConfig and disabled all but the AV, Firewall ( Zonealarm Free), and I think the wireless mouse application/software/whatever it is...lol. I researched each item in startup before disabling them via one of the startup database type sites I got a link from here on geekstogo....so, dont' think I've disabled anything vital, have had no problems surfing since, and as I said, the pc is much faster now than it was, although still getting the virtual memory warning once in a while and just today dealing with slow down/hesitation while running only two applications together.

I'm going to sound like a real dope here, but as for the manufacturer and model of the pc, all I have is V Premier, which is painted on the bottom of the cpu. I can't find a model number. When I go to "system" in the control panel, there are two spaces, as though the information is missing, under "computer"...but it does have this there: Intel, pentium 4 cpu, 2.0 GHz, 2.0 GHz, 256MB RAM. So, I guess I don't know what kind of computer I have....lol. I"ve never heard of Vpremier personally. This system was given to me, maybe 5 years ago, I think it's maybe 8-10 years old or so, not sure. It was my parent's and ran really slow for them too. So, this didn't appear out of the blue, have been getting this message and deal with sluggishness since I've had it...only, recently, I'm using the pc/internet much more and becoming more interested in these things. I'm finally joining the information age I guess... :)

So, beyond those changes, the system also had a new hard drive installed by a techy friend of a friend about 3 or 4 years ago as it froze/crashed/wouldn't work anymore. The virtual memory issues occurred before then, and have continued after.

No need to apologize Face, as you can see, I'm very thorough myself. I appreciate this detail as I'm the type who will follow instructions step by step and always try to provide all the information I have about the topic. Besides, my first post was practically a book. Thanks so much for your time and help guys. I await instructions.
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#7
123Runner

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Glad that you have made some progress/
For more info on your computer you can use Belarc advisor and Everest (in my signature).

I would probably see what you can do about increasing ram.
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#8
Facedown98

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Go ahead and try Everest. It's just an application used to audit your computer. It may be more specific with that make and model you have, but that's no guarantee.

I'm more inclined to have you purchase more RAM. It would be the most cost effective solution. I would only purchase a new PC if I knew that the current computer was failing. I think you could get away with a RAM upgrade.

Let us know what Everest says, and we'll go from there. If we can't get the information we need from that, we'll run an online test which will tell us what type of RAM you need - that way you could easily purchase it and know that the type you have is compatible.
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#9
wagjag

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Hi guys. So I downloaded the Everest Free Home 2.20...it looks like that's what you were referring to. Um, not exactly sure what you wanted me to get from it to report...I'm assuming that I should see a manufacturer name, perhaps with a model number or something but I'm guessing that, as you suggested it might not Face, it didn't provide this. I did the Report Wizard, and under the COMPUTER section, it just provides the Windows XP professional, Service Pack 2, then there is a Direct X number, for "computer name", it just has my name (WILL) with an alphanumeric code of some sort next to it (10 digits/letters), then it has my username....Will.

I'll await instructions. Thanks guys.
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#10
Facedown98

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Everest shows my computer make and model as the "Motherboard Name" although it may be different with some systems.

If you don't see it within Everest, don't worry about it.

I'm going to ask you to go to this address: http://crucial.com/s...nner/index.aspx

(1) Check the box accepting the license agreement and click on Download the Scanner
(2) Click on Run when prompted, and the analysis tool will install.
(3) A new tab or Internet window will appear, and Crucial will start scanning your system
(4) When complete, you will see your current configuration. Scroll down for me and provide me with the "Maximum memory capacity" as well as the models supported. The models supported are just above the maximum capacity, where it says "Each memory slot can hold..." Please copy and paste those models into your reply.

Now we're figuring out how much RAM you can handle and what type you need to order. You do not need to order from Crucial --- they are only here to tell us what you need for right now.
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#11
123Runner

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He already has the links I gave him to the online scanners in post 5.

If you expand the columns and look under motherboard, we can find the board model.
look under ram and you will get the amount of memory and also how the virtual memory is.
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#12
wagjag

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Responding to Runner first because I think your reply was referring to the Everest, which I still have up and haven't closed yet...


In the Everest Report:

under "Memory"..."Physical Memory"..."Total": 253MB
"Used": 178MB
"Free": 75MB
"Utilization": 70%

under "Memory"..."Virtual Memory"... "Total": 878 MB
"Used": 524 MB
"Free" : 353 MB
"utilization" : 60%

Under "Summary"..."Motherboard"..."Motherboard Name": Intel Sea Breeze D845GVSR (3PCI, 2 DIMM, Audio, Video)

ALSO,

Under "DMI"..."[Motherboard]..."Motherboard Properties"..."Manufacturer": Intel Corporation
"Product" : D845GVSR
"Version" : AAC45439-302

Under CPU...CPU Properties...CPU Alias : Northwood, A80532

under CPU... CPU Manufacturer...Company Name: Intel Corp

I'll post this and then do the Crucial Scanner suggestion from your post Face
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#13
wagjag

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And now for the Crucial Scanner info:

Currently installed memory:



256MBDDR PC2700 EMPTY (Here it looks as though I have one Memory Slot that is Empty)

Each memory slot can hold DDR PC2700,DDR PC3200 with a maximum of 1GB per slot.*



*Not to exceed manufacturer supported memory.
Maximum Memory Capacity: 2048MB
Currently Installed Memory: 256MB
Available Memory Slots: 1
Number of Banks: 2
Dual Channel Support: No
CPU Manufacturer: GenuineIntel
CPU Family: Intel® Pentium® 4 CPU 2.00GHz Model 2, Stepping 4
CPU Speed: 1999 MHz


Q: Will my system recognize the maximum upgrade?

A: Possibly

How much memory your Windows OS will recognize depends on which version of Windows you are running. 32-bit versions of Windows will see (and utilize) only 3GB or 3.5GB. To utilize more memory, install a 64-bit version of your OS. More information about OS memory maximums can be found at http://www.crucial.c...r.aspx?qid=4251.


I think this is what you wanted Face...let me know if you need something else...pretty cool site/scan by the way....Oh, can I delete the Everest now or no? I try to keep things as sparse as possible on this system so always delete/uninstall anything I don't need. Thanks for your time today guys.

Edited by wagjag, 30 November 2008 - 04:11 PM.

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#14
123Runner

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under "Memory"..."Physical Memory"..."Total": 253MB
"Used": 178MB
"Free": 75MB
"Utilization": 70%


With only 30% unused, the system is trying to use "virtual memory".

under "Memory"..."Virtual Memory"... "Total": 878 MB
"Used": 524 MB
"Free" : 353 MB
"utilization" : 60%


So now it is using what it can of virtual memory (60%) and running out.

You can do this a couple of ways.
1. Install a 1gb of DDR pc2700 in the open slot, and see how it performs. That will give you 1.28gb of ram.
2. remove the 256 and install a 1gb in both slots.
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#15
Facedown98

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He already has the links I gave him to the online scanners in post 5.


Check your work. Our links are different, which is why I issued a new link.

wagjag, the results you gave us were perfect --- exactly what we needed to know.

123Runner is correct. With the usage level being what it is on your machine, the message you're being prompted with looks reasonable. Adding RAM should fix this issue. The link to Crucial I have you told us what types of RAM your PC will support. I would purchase a 1 GB stick of RAM for your machine. Just make sure the RAM model is DDR PC2700 or DDR PC3200. I think 123Runner's first RAM upgrade suggestion is sufficient. With just over 1 GB of RAM, you'll notice a dramatic difference.

If you want, you can buy two sticks of RAM (1 GB each) and take out that 256 MB, but unless you'll be running intensive programs on the computer, it's unlikely that your PC will ever tap that extra RAM.

I think you'll be pleased when you notice the difference between what you have now and what you're about to install.

Once your order the correct RAM, you'll need to install the sticks when you receive them. While Google will turn up thousands of results (or more) about how to install RAM, I have picked an article out for you. If you have any questions, feel free to let us know. I think you'll be amazed at how easy installing RAM is. Opening the case is the worst part --- especially if you've never had to before. Please click here to view the article chosen. Again, a Google search will turn up plenty of results, most of which are nearly identical to this one.

Oh, and if the PC is as old as we think, then don't be surprised if you discover a family of dust bunnies taking residence inside. That's a different issue (on a much smaller scale) and we'll save that for another time :)

Keep up updated, and good luck! :)

Edited by Facedown98, 30 November 2008 - 07:07 PM.

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