What's going on with my Pagefile?

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This is a follow-up to our Processes consuming high amounts of virtual memory post from January.

Pagefile issues are something we deal with frequently on the Performance Team.  We have had several cases in the past few months of customers reporting pagefile.sys files exceeding their custom size Maximum Size value.  The most likely cause of the Pagefile growing beyond the configured setting is if the system's paging file requirements exceed the current setting and the virtual memory of the system is depleted.  In that case an application pop-up will occur (Event ID 26) and you will be notified that the virtual memory is depleted and Windows is increasing the size of the Paging file:

“Windows - Virtual Memory Minimum Too Low : Your system is low on virtual memory.  Windows is increasing the size of your virtual memory paging file.  During this process, memory requests for some applications may be denied.  For more information, see Help.”

Reasons for the depletion may vary,  but can usually be attributed to a process or group of processes that are allocating large amounts of virtual memory.  If you recall from our previous post on the /3GB switch each process gets up to 2gb of user-mode virtual memory by default (unless you’re using the /3GB switch).  So, if each process is consuming all of its virtual memory and the combination of physical and Pagefile size is insufficient to handle both virtual memory and kernel memory allocations, the system will need to increase the size of the Pagefile to compensate.

Ironically, the reports of pagefile growth reported recently are not caused by a process or processes consuming virtual memory.  The symptoms we have seen come from servers that have large amounts of physical memory (more than 4GB, typically 16GB or more). Immediately following a reboot the paging file grows beyond the Maximum Size value specified in the Custom Size option for Virtual memory paging file settings. In some cases the pagefile.sys would grow to 10-15GB and consume all of the remaining free space of the system drive.  In one case, the server had 20GB of RAM installed, and despite the Pagefile size being statically set to 4,096MB the file grew to over 13GB.  I suspect it might have kept growing - except that it ran out of free space on the drive! 

When this occurs there are no event IDs written nor errors displayed complaining about Virtual Memory depletion. When looking at Task Manager – Virtual Memory for processes or the Virtual Memory values in Perfmon we would not see any processes consuming virtual memory or any other indications as to what would cause the pagefile growth.

So how do you resolve this issue?  In the majority of cases we have seen lately, the culprit is actually outdated anti-virus software.  Updating the anti-virus software including its associated filter drivers resolved the issue.  To verify that anti-virus software is causing the problem you would need to disable the services and drivers associated with the anti-virus.  If the problem no longer occurred following a reboot, then you would need to contact your anti-virus manufacturer to get the latest supported updates.

We will be posting in the future regarding more general concepts surrounding pagefile sizing and tuning ...

- Aurthur Anderson

What's going on with my Pagefile?

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  • When you put together the post on sizing and tuning can you go over the impact of no page file?

    Thanks for the knowledge :)


  • Do we have any specific recommendations on what the size of the page file be on large memory systems? For eg. server with 64GB of RAM. Or is our standard recommendation of 1.5XRAM holds good in this case also?

  • Sakthi / Justin -

    Thanks for the suggestions.  I've passed on your feedback to Aurthur to incorporate that info in upcoming posts on this topic.

    Thanks for reading our blog!

    - CC Hameed

  • Sakthi, you'll find the recommendations in 889654. It also touches on no page file, Justin.

    Judy Lavik

  • Hey Guys

    This site really an eye opener.

    Would love to see futher posting :)


    Raul Thomas

  • for a game i want to play everything meets requirements except page file 1247mb please tell me how i can make my page file bigger

  • My understanding about page file is when you system run out of memory then it start writing to page file. Now I am wondering why the system utilizes less memory and more of the page file. I have seen this in our environment where SQL server utilizes less amount of physical memory and more of page file. When I have 6 GB system and then as per MS I can have only 4 GB of page file, but when you ask the system what is your recommendation it will show you go ahead with 1.5X times the physical memory.

    Very very confusing but yes this article is really good

  • I am facing the problem in my exchange that "page file size is more then the physical memory".

    Please help,Thanks in advance

  • I am not literate in the hardware portion of my Windows 2000 program.

    All I need is help to figure out why my computer gives me an error message the my Virtual Memory is too low when I am playing a game called Ancient Tripeaks 2 and the game runs really slow and then I get that message above.  

    Please help resolve this issue if I just have to defrag or clean up some of my old used programs.  I realize this game (tripeaks 2) has graphics that may slow my computer performance down, but there must be an easy way, I can fix this.  Please help!  I do not use my computer for anything technical, except pictures, playing games and wordprocessing. I also email people but that is basically it.  

    Thank you in advance for your help if you can tell me what to do in laymans terms so that I can give my computer my virtual memory or delete some programs I don't use that is taking up some of my virtual memory.


  • I am not sure you received my request to help me resolve my low virtual memory problem.  Please let me know if you received my question.


  • I could not launch any application including Taskmanager after I started my computer running on Windows XP Pro.  An error message complaining too low virual memory appeared later.  How can I solve this problem.  I am afraid it could be caused by virus!  Thanks in advance.  

  • I am having the exact problem described in this article but AV does not seem to be the problem.  Any other ideas on tracking down the cause of this issue would be appreciated!

  • My problem is that with only Internet Explorer running, my page file grows each time I do anything.  I tried switching between Hotmail Inbox and my first Hotmail message several times, and the pagefile grew by 20-30K with each transaction.  The system is VERY sluggish, and the disk light is on much more than is reasonable.  iexplore.exe is using more than 255 MB, but the page file right now is 679 MB, according to Windows Task Manager.  No other applications are running.

  • No one gives an answer to the question on page file either XP or 2003 - You have an option to change the page file in Control Panel --> system --> Advanced --> Performance --> Advanced --> Virtual Memory

    Dont forget to hit "set" when you adjust the page file. Also, check the MS specifications for this option - everyone is different accroding to what they are using.