To Pagefile or Not to Pagefile, That Is The Question

So it’s 2013 and the question remains, do you need a pagefile if you have plenty of ram? And by plenty of ram I’m talking 32GB and above. Machines with 4, 8 or even 16GB probably still need a pagefile from time to time, especially if you do work with large graphics or video. But if you cross the 32GB threshold, do you need a pagefile and if so, where should it go?

Quite frankly, no one seems to have the answer. Everyone contradicts everyone else. Some say that running without a pagefile will give you better performance, while others say apps won’t load correctly without one. Some claim putting a pagefile on an SSD drive is asinine, while others claim it’s the perfect place and perfect use for that drive.

And then plenty of people cop out and say you have to test for yourself.

We all know the pagefile is some legacy technology, but what happens if you delete it?

So here’s my line of thinking. Even with 32GB I still Windows will eventually need a pagefile. It’s dumb, slow and bloated and doesn’t clean up after itself very well, so at some point it will go looking for one. And let’s not forget, it’s still a 32-bit world out there and those apps won’t see that vast expanse of memory you have. So basically, you still have to make one, but it probably doesn’t need to be anywhere near as big as Windows thinks it does.

On this brand new machine, Windows 7 carved out 48GB of hard drive space for a pagefile. It also carved out 8GB for a hibernate file simply because it wanted to. Well, those have to go.

The pagefile was moved to the second 3TB drive I have in this system and hibernation was turned off. I set the pagefile to a minimum of 16MB and allocated the additional 48GB if needed. If Windows flips out and needs the space it can use it. However, moving the pagefile does two things for me. One, it keeps the C:\ drive small so I can clone it and not waste the 75GB it wants because of those files. Two, the pagefile on another drive can improve performance with read/write speeds.

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Now, IF the pagefile actually starts to grow I plan to move it to the SSD I have. I was going to use that as the boot drive, but in the end I decided against it. Shaving off one or two seconds simply isn’t worth it. The drive is tiny and with all the updates and patches for Windows, I just see it filling up. I installed the OS to the 3TB drive and it’s perfectly fast for me.

Microsoft says SSD is a perfect use for pagefiles and it does make sense. The read/write performance would be better than a standard disk and there will be no lag while it spins up. Plus, there will still be space left over for a backup or perhaps the hibernate file if I ever feel I need it.

Right now, my pagefile is 16MB on the D:\ drive. I really haven’t loaded that many apps yet so let’s see if it grows with use.

Anyone with 32GB got some thoughts on the matter? With heavy usage do you still see a lot of pagefile usage? Did you put it on an SSD? What happens if you completely remove it, do the standard 32-bit apps complain it’s not there?

I’m going to run with this and see what happens. Windows 7 isn’t always the sharpest knife in the drawer so it makes me wonder…

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