enter image description hereenter image description here

Task Manager: XP on the left, Vista on the right.

On XP, I would check to see if Peak Commit Charge was approaching Total Physical Memory. When Peak exceeded Total during normal usage, the page file gets hit harder and performance degrades. I would know to recommend a RAM upgrade.

As Jeff explains, Vista uses RAM differently.

How do I read Task Manager in Vista to objectively determine if it's time to upgrade (i.e., the page file is getting taxed)?

  • Upgrade to Windows 7. ;) Jul 30, 2009 at 23:04
  • I know my answer was tongue-in-cheek, but I'm looking forward to someone's real answer, +1 for the question. Jul 30, 2009 at 23:15

5 Answers 5


I recommend using the Reliability and Performance Monitoring Tool to see if your system is memory starved, specifically the memory section. Look for hard faults/sec:

A hard fault (also known as a page fault) occurs when the page of the referenced address is no longer in physical memory and has been swapped out or is available from a backing file on disk. It is not an error. However, a high number of hard faults may explain the slow response time of an application if it must continually read data back from disk rather than from physical memory.

  • The problem is, this won't catch the case where system performance is heavily impacted by a lack of memory for use as a disk cache. So long as the working set of all programs fits in memory, you may not see any hard faults. Meanwhile, data pages can be thrashing badly. Aug 30, 2011 at 18:14

When you can afford it, buy it. You always need more memory, especially in Vista.

  • 4 Gb RAM = what? 50$ I'd always max it out
    – Ivo Flipse
    Jul 31, 2009 at 6:27
  • yeah, it's almost cheaper to just buy the max memory your system supports than spend any time at all thinking about this. Aug 2, 2009 at 4:12
  • 2
    Have to agree with Jeff, memory is dirt cheap, and you'll never regret having loads of RAM. Aug 2, 2009 at 4:28
  • I disagree, it's not cheap for everyone. I've done a lot of troubleshooting for college students and some really have to pinch pennies to afford $20 for RAM, so I have to justify it by pointing to real numbers that show it will fix their problem. "50$ max it out" would definitely not fly. Plus, many of them are non-technology majors and are ok w/ circumventing the issue if needs be (close 1 app to open another, reboot often, etc.).
    – hyperslug
    Aug 2, 2009 at 22:33

Try using resource monitor and looking at the percentage of physical memory used.


FYI You should be aware that there is a 4GB ram address space limit in 32bit versions of XP and vista. If you want more than 4GB, you need to use a 64bit version of windows.

For full details please refer to this Microsoft MSDN article

So my approach has always been to install 4GB of memory in a 32bit OS by default.


Try giving the Crucial System Scanner a go.

  • What does this application do?
    – hyperslug
    Jul 31, 2009 at 17:52
  • crucial is a memory vendor, so I expect it'd tell you what model # of memory works in your system (ddr2, ddr3, etc) Aug 2, 2009 at 4:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.