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I have reinstalled winXP a few months ago on my 6 year old laptop with 512 mb of ram and 1.6 ghz celeron M processor.

Everything seems to run fine, I've fixed the overheating problem about a year back. Only one thing is not working properly, which is the page file. It becomes enormously huge, sometimes even near 1GB in size. My disk drive has one main partition (C:). I tried setting the pagefile size, but it still exceeds the limit. It gets huge very often - the internet browser becomes non-responsive almost all the time, especially after opening a few tabs. Sometimes opening a folder takes about 20 seconds and not to mention the lag that happens when you try navigating it. Performing any regular tasks with the computer becomes almost impossible and I must wait until the pagefile returns to it's normal size. It's terrible - I can't even browse the internet sometimes!

The disk is defragmented, I tried cleaning the registry, temp files and many other PC tweaks to improve performance. The drivers are all updated. I clean all browser data after each session.

What should I do?

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

6 years ago, 512 MB of RAM was more than enough for Windows XP. I wouldn't use an XP machine these days with less than 1 GB of RAM. Since you've handled most of software causes, the first hardware step to take would be to add (or replace) a stick of RAM.

If that doesn't work, another possibility is that your hard drive is too slow or going kaput. I've seen this happen in other laptops where nothing points to the hard drive, but reads and writes just take so long that swapping out memory pages kills the performance of the computer. Obviously, replacing a laptop drive is not something to be taken lightly, and having the replacement not fix your problem can be expensive. See if a locally owned computer shop will be kind enough to let you test a new drive before buying it.

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Thanks, I've been wondering for some time whether this is a hard drive issue. I can always hear the noise whenever the computer is accessing the HDD. It's annoying :| – Mantas Dec 3 '11 at 20:49

Start Task Manager, and have a look at the Processes tab: sort it by the memory column to find out what is eating your RAM. If the task manager does not show a "clear leader in memory hogging" - check your tray; if it has too many icons - consider removing some of them from auto-start. That may save between 1 and 30 MB per icon removed (depends on applications).

There is also a non-zero chance that you have an active virus, unless you do have real-time antiviral protection and recent full-disk scans haven't revealed anything (provided that your antivirus is up to date).

If the behaviour you describe only happens when you actually start some applications - try using lighter alternatives to those apps, or configuring your software for smaller memory footprint. For example, FireFox now has an option to delay loading tabs from the previous session until you click them, and Opera has a configurable "in-memory" page cache, which you could decrease.

Another thing you could probably do is increasing the fixed pagefile size to 1.5GB, and defragmenting the PF (the "contig" boot-time utility is probably one of the best to do this single task and nothing else). This will not cure - only soften the symptoms.

Finally, getting an extra RAM stick - if possible - might be the best solution.

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My antivirus is up-to-date, there is nothing taking up much RAM memory. This is a regular procedure that I do almost everyday - checking for RAM-eating processes and ending them. Nothing helps. – Mantas Dec 3 '11 at 20:05
On the 1st boot, how much memory is reported as used by task manager? An extreme minimum for XP is somewhere between 75..90MB, while "clean" XP (with no software installed) should use <120 MB after logging in. I would find values above 200MB abnormal - unless, of course, you have many startup applications. – chronos Dec 3 '11 at 20:11
I've also checked the startup list and there is nothing that should cause problems. It is not related to processes at all. It wasn't like this a few years back. Although it's naive to think that a 6 year old laptop would run the same way it did the day we bought it, I still believe there should be a way to fix this since it lags under certain circumstances - browsing the internet or after shutting down a video game. Any serious tasks cause the PC to perform if it didn't have any video drivers installed. – Mantas Dec 3 '11 at 20:12
It lags so much that it sometimes takes over 10 seconds when I right click on the desktop for the menu to appear (sometimes it doesn't appear at all because of the lag). – Mantas Dec 3 '11 at 20:16
"Stuttering" after quitting a video game should be expected with 0.5GB RAM - for a limited time after quitting, that is (Windows is reading back to RAM data it put into the swapfile to run your game from RAM). How much does your browser consume when this happens? Right now my uses 0.6GB RES (1.6GB VIRT), with way too many tabs open. – chronos Dec 3 '11 at 20:20

Pretty sure it's Google Chrome. Apparently some versions suffer from a serious memory leak issue. I'm having the same issue in XP and it's Chrome that's creating the massive page file. The page file is real by the way (and not simply a mis-reported memory allocation).

Does anyone know a good solution to this?

There's no reason for modern browsers to require so much memory.

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