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While looking at my Task Manager on Windows, I noticed a little thing marked "Kernel Memory." What exactly is this? And what function does it serve compared to the Physical Memory?

Task Manager

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

The 'kernel' is the core bit of the operating system - the part that lets you talk to the hardware, the part that actually does the 'operating' as it were.

Kernel memory, accordingly, is reserved for the parts of the operating system that have to stay in memory (which as you can see is comparatively not all that much) and is off-limits to any other software to prevent any accidents from, say, a badly-written app trying to access memory that's in use elsewhere. (Some bits of the OS can be paged, and you see that reflected there, but that's a bit misleading terminology.)

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Strictly speaking, only memory actively used to talk to hardware, accessed from an elevated context, needed to manage memory, or needed for the process of paging itself cannot possibly be paged. In practice, lots of small memory uses in the kernel aren't made pageable just because the effort wouldn't be justified. –  David Schwartz Apr 27 '13 at 4:29

Kernel memory is the memory used by the Windows kernel. It includes memory used by core components of Windows along with any device drivers. Typically, the number will be very small, in the hundreds of megabytes.

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Mild chuckle at small in Typically, the number will be very small, in the hundreds of megabytes. My first machine had 2 kilobytes total, my second was a C64. –  Rich Homolka Jun 8 '11 at 23:17

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