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Does No Swap File Equal Better Performance?

Vista Workshop: More RAM, More Speed

Since swapping files to virtual memory on the hard drive has the single largest impact on system performance, we asked ourselves what would happen if we deactivated Windows' paging file completely. Note that Microsoft does not recommend this course of action, as demonstrated in the following popup message.

Warning message when deactivating the paging file.

We were not deterred by this warning, though. Interestingly, we were unable to delete the pagefile.sys file, even when Windows was no longer using it. Since it retains its last allocated size, you should set it to the smallest possible value (16 MB) before deactivating it.

These are the settings....

...for deactivating the paging file.

Again, we conducted this test with RAM sizes ranging from 8 GB to 512 MB. While working without a paging file was possible without any problems with 8 GB, the situation quickly became critical with less memory installed.

With 8 GB and no swap file, the system was fine. Even in some memory intensive scenarios such as opening files in Photoshop CS3 with a total file size of 3 GB, the system remained very responsive and even snappy, never writing to disk once.

When the memory size is reduced to 2 GB , applications immediately crash as soon as the system runs out of RAM and Windows is unable to write the files to virtual memory on the hard drive. This situation is especially critical if the memory shortage hits one of the Windows system components - that may quickly result in the Windows Aero turning itself off as a result of the graphics driver crashing. The only remedy in such a situation is rebooting the system.

A crash with the swapping file off.

With only 512 MB of RAM installed, it is no longer possible to open even small Windows applications such as Notepad. After a short while, the system will crash all by itself, even when sitting idle.

Obviously, we would recommend never deactivating the swapping file with small memory sizes installed.

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