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Pagefile discussion - pitch in

post #1 of 12
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Windows Pagefile: do you want it or not? Affordable SSDs are quite small and by disabling Pagefile one frees 6-8GB for a 40-60GB total available space. This means gaining over 10% SSD capacity (or not throwing 10% away, depending on how you see it), so the purpose of this thread would be to see what would be the Pro/Counter arguments to pagefile. At the end of this (lengthy) post I suggest a bench you can run on your rigs to see if disabling pagefile brings any performance benefits.

By default it is on and Windows controlled, it's safe to say that any PC user has experience with Pagefile ON. On the web there seem to be two sides to this story:
  • those that argue to disable Pagefile: they have tried it, some for many years, some on many rigs
  • those that argue that Pagefile should stay on: most have never tried to disable it, but base their advice on many trusted articles, school classes and stability-related arguments
    • some argue to set a manual very small value
    • some argue for values in the order of 1.5x RAM Capacity
    • some say you should leave Pagefile controlled by Windows as countless man hours have been invested in optimizing this aspect of the OS and it's better like this
Caveats:
  • it's difficult to bench the added performance of disabling pagefile, snappiness is a matter of perception
  • one can't bench the added stability of leaving pagefile on, instability is noticeable while stability isn't
Searching for real information I stumbled on this thread, the most articulated arguments from the two sides of the fence are in quotes below.

Quote:
Originally Posted by danielgr View Post
First of all, I do know this discussion is very old, yet it still popped up first in google when searching for some Win7 pagefile stuff.

So after reading it all I felt like sharing my experience.
Actually, I've been running any version of Windows without pagefile for quite a while now, either with 2,4, and 8GBs of RAM.
Any configuration is possible provided you know what you are doing. You just have to keep an eye on your memory use and ensure that you never get pass your installed RAM.

Why would you do it?
- Because any version of Windows runs your system in a conservative way that prioritizes system stability.
- It actually starts flushing data to the swap way before running out of memory, effectively slowing performance while ensuring it's able to answer to any memory hike without problems.
- If you have a traditional HDD, that means your system will become slower in a very noticeable way when your pagefile requirements approach your installed RAM. Of course, if your pagefile is small, you won't notice anything because most of it will be on RAM and Windows is smart enough to flush to the swap what you need less.
- Specially since Vista Windows reserves a huge amount of RAM for the graphic interface, and it will always use more the more you have available (you can't change it). Removing the SWAP is a way of getting some RAM back to run applications, at the expense of some instabilities if you are too greedy.


What may happen if you remove the swap and Windows needs a pagefile larger than your installed RAM ? -> Unrecoverable and unexpected system crash. I say unexpected because when [having pagefile enabled and] running out of SWAP everything is already soooooo slow that you'll be kind of waiting for it. When running out of memory on a swap-less setup you'll go from "incredibly fast computing experience to death in a second".

In what scenario would you see biggest performance increase?
- When using a computer with a slow HDD and data intensive apps. with lots of multitasking.

In what scenario(s) would you see close to no perf increase?
- When using a single app (for example game) that fully loads in memory anyway.
- When using a fast SSD used for the pagefile.

In my case I do lots of multitasking with data intensive apps, and I've been running swap-less for years until I got my first SSD. Putting the SWAP in your SSD will of course wear it faster than if you simple hold your system on it, but that's why I want it for, to "use it to make my system faster". At least now I don't need to care about instabilities when reaching my 2/8GB of RAM (depending on computer) anymore.
Quote:
Originally Posted by spazbob View Post
The point is, most programs when requesting memory request much more than they will ever need (a program like WMP might request as much as 300MB for example). This requested memory often doesn't get used, and so it gets flagged as "can go in pagefile" but because you probably never use it there's no performance penalty. [my ed: if one tries to launch an app while the unused memory is copied to the pagefile there could be a performance hit]

However, if you have no pagefile, this requested memory has to be fully allocated in RAM. So WMP suddenly needs 300+MB of RAM allocated to it (and therefore not to other programs) even though it might not be being used. At this point 4GB becomes very small if you're trying to play a game and leave itunes/azureus running in the background because "I've got 4GB, I can multitask". A bigger program like Photoshop will request gigs of RAM at a time.

For this reason, a pagefile of a few hundred MB is as pointless as no pagefile at all.

Leave it set to 1.5x your RAM. If you want to play around with it, fine by me, and I'll even apologise for posting crap if you show me a single benchmark that shows any benefit whatsoever from doing so.
[...]
This thread is for sharing information, it isn't for giving advices. Do you know of any facts that can support or tear down these two ideas:
  • disabling pagefile brings instability (in some scenarios) - so sacrificing that 10-15% of your SSD is worth it
  • disabling pagefile increases performance and doesn't affect stability (in some scenarios) - so you may use the limited SSD space on useful apps

Suggested bench to see if there's any added performance after disabling pagefile:
  • time the start times from the push the power button
  • wait for the Windows desktop to became usable
  • launch Firefox and wait for the homepage to load: with and without PF.
Doing this test on an used Windows installed on a HDD a month or more after installation, or on a 5400 RPM laptop HDD would be all the more revelatory. Do the same test for resume from Sleep: power button, launch Firefox and time until it finished rendering the page.
Edited by dragosmp - 6/9/11 at 2:37am
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post #2 of 12
No pagefile no crash dumps.
Your choice
post #3 of 12
I have heard somewhere that there is a technique where you move your pagefile to a second HDD, which helps when doing Photoshop. I guess it has something to do with the huge amounts of memory you need to crunch when photo editing.
    
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post #4 of 12
I always have a page file. Overall I've found Windows performance to be the same with a page file than without. Plus I'd rather not having Windows flag up "Out of Virtual Memory" when I somehow do manage to use up all 4GB.
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post #5 of 12
As far as I know, if you haven't set a solid spot for Windows to make a pagefile, it will create one upon every boot anyway. Regardless of whether you've turned it off or not.

So your best chance is moving it to a different drive.
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post #6 of 12
Don't disable your page file, just put it on a standard HDD.

There are plenty of reason why you don't want the page file on your SSD, namely it can waste a significant portion of the drive, and the extra writes being done are actually bad for the drive.

That said, in most cases you still want a page file because there are some situations where it's expected and problems can crop up if it's not there.

Putting it on a second drive, even a vastly slower one, shouldn't reduce performance noticeably, because the pagefile is rarely used in most situations where you have plenty of RAM free. And if you don't have any memory free, a slow down is better than a crash or hard lock.
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post #7 of 12
I'll be watching this thread. I have 8GB of physical RAM, with 1024MB (minimum and maximum) as my page file, and my swap space is therefore listed as 9GB.



Virtual memory appears to be physical RAM plus swap space, and that somewhat eludes me, as swap space itself is physical RAM plus page file, right?

I've had no stability issues and speed is fine, but I didn't run it through rigorous benchmarks.

The reason I have it as such is, the reason behind the same minimum/maximum was to prevent it from growing and to keep it from being fragmented. I read somewhere that this can happen?

The reason it's 1024MB is because I didn't think I needed more. The maximum I see it use isn't often much over what the screenshot shows, so it was just a waste of GB (even though I'm not starving for any or anything).

I'll watch this thread to see what I can learn.
Quote:
Originally Posted by keesh View Post
I have heard somewhere that there is a technique where you move your pagefile to a second HDD, which helps when doing Photoshop. I guess it has something to do with the huge amounts of memory you need to crunch when photo editing.
I think you're thinking of how Photoshop recommends having it's own scratch space on a disk separate to where the Windows page file resides.

The idea of having your page file on a disk separate from where Windows is installed is a different idea, not related to Photoshop.
Edited by Princess Garnet - 6/9/11 at 3:07am
post #8 of 12
Oh right that's what it was. Oh well.
    
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post #9 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by keesh View Post
I have heard somewhere that there is a technique where you move your pagefile to a second HDD, which helps when doing Photoshop. I guess it has something to do with the huge amounts of memory you need to crunch when photo editing.
that's not the pagefile that's scratch disks in a raid config. The stuff that the cpu is done with it puts on the disks. A raid controller speeds it up as it relieves the traffick between your hdd and your ram as it can get congested with video editing

Windows, application programs and many system processes always reference memory using virtual memory addresses which are automatically translated to RAM addresses by the hardware. Only core parts of the operating system kernel bypass this address translation and use real memory addresses directly.
Virtual Memory is always in use, even when the memory required by all running processes does not exceed the amount of RAM installed on the system.
Edited by Spooony - 6/9/11 at 5:01am
post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 
@Spoony: too few people have any idea how to use crash dumps, I'm not very convinced of their usefulness on a non-workstation PC

@Blameless: putting the pagefile on a second HDD can help performance. If the CPU is fast enough it can send files from the memory to the pagefile HDD while doing something else on the OS/app HDD. This system works if:
a) The primary isn't an SSD; pagefile on an HDD in stead of the SSD will actually slow things down
b) You don't do this on a laptop, few laptops have 2 HDD bays.

@Princess Garnet: Virtual memory = RAM + Pagefile (8GB+1GB in your case). Having a small Pagefile seems to be a bad idea, worse than not having it at all or having it at 1.5xRAM for the reasons written in the first post (the two quotes). When I say bad idea, the term is relative - it's also a bad idea to have a 32nm CPU @1.5V, far worse than having a small pagefile. However the optimal (see quote 1 in the 1st post) would be either to tune the pagefile for performance (disabled) or for all-cases stability.
NB - having pagefile disabled doesn't make a system unstable, as well as having it enabled doesn't make a system slow; the devil is in the details.
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