Specs ahead of time:

AMD Athlon XP 2400+ @ 2.00 GHz / 1 GB PC-3200 DDR RAM / 160 GB IDE HDD / 128 MB GeForce 6200 AGP / FIC AM37 / 350W PSU / Windows XP Pro SP3

So, XP has pop-ups saying that I am low on virtual memory. However, I have a program called SmartRAM (part of Advanced SystemCare by IObit) and it displays CPU & Page File Usage and Free Physical and Virtual Memory. That program shows that I have at least 2000 MB free virtual memory on my machine when the XP pop-ups say that I'm low on virtual memory.

First off, would a complete lack of virtual memory cause my computer to freeze? Secondly, how can I solve this lack of virtual memory? (A complete reformat is possible but can't be done immediately...)

Thanks in advance.

  • How much free space do you have left on your hard drive? – Troggy Jan 25 '10 at 6:10
  • Roughly 100 GB still free. – Wesley Jan 25 '10 at 6:15
  • How much of swap space do you have? – whitequark Jan 25 '10 at 6:47
  • What is swap space exactly? And how do I find it? – Wesley Jan 25 '10 at 7:19
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    You may be interested in this article by Mark Russinovich on Windows virtual memory... blogs.technet.com/markrussinovich/archive/2008/11/17/… – Joe Internet Jan 26 '10 at 3:07

There is a lot of confusion among IT professionals about what virtual memory is and is not. It is something that is covered in an undergraduate operating systems course, but sadly most people graduate without ever understanding it.

Swap space has little to do with virtual memory, and is used when the computer runs out of physical memory. This is connected to disk space.

Virtual memory on the other hand is an abstract concept that allows you computer to "address" more memory than it actually has, but not to use more. Regardless of the swap size, a 32-bit machine can address and as such has 2^32 words of 32-bits each of virtual memory. Similarly for a 64-bit machine.

I would think that your "helper" program may be the culprit. Try uninstalling it and see if you still get the same error, because 2^32 is a BIG number.

To more specifically answer your question, virtual memory can not be sufficiently low, and as a result cause a machine to crash...

  • By "helper" program, what do you mean? – Wesley Jan 25 '10 at 14:02
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    @Wesley - I think he means the one you mentioned, SmartRAM. – Gnoupi Jan 25 '10 at 14:04
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    2^32 is 4 GB of memory. Unfortunately, Windows reserves the upper half of that as kernel memory (for shared dll's, etc.), so the maximum memory any single program can use is 2GB. There is a startup flag that can increase this to 3GB - google '3gb switch' for more info. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Jan 25 '10 at 14:55
  • Also, no matter how big you have your swap-file set to, 32-bit Windows will not address more than a total of 4gb of ram. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Jan 25 '10 at 14:57
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    @Wesley: No, Windows will complain when it runs out of memory, and refuse to start any new programs (or in some cases, close out of old ones) – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Jan 26 '10 at 2:12

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