Quick Fix: Put your paging file to work

Frustrated at your computer for slowing down with no good reason? Download.com editor Seth Rosenblatt shows XP and Vista users how to take control of their paging files to get better behavior from their PCs.

The all-singing, all-dancing embodiment of frustration is when my computer acts sluggish for no good reason. I know I've got plenty of RAM and a decent processor, so why won't the blasted contraption do as it's told? RAM boosting programs just never seem to work as well as they should, and so a few weeks ago I began digging into other possible sources of those embarrassing and annoying computus interruptus moments.

One possible solution is to manually adjust your virtual memory, stored in a paging file.

Make sure that your paging file Initial Size and Maximum Size are set to the same number to avoid serious defragmentation. (Credit: CNET Networks)

Why do this? Isn't your onboard RAM enough? Well, don't take this the wrong way, but no. When your computer starts using large chunks of RAM, it looks to the paging file--also known as the swap file--for a vigorous back rub and comforting words of encouragement: in other words, the paging file offers relief. However, if the paging file isn't large enough, you'll start to see even basic processes take much longer than they should.

Getting your paging file into shape is a simple operation, if you're confident delving into submenus and manually making adjustments. In Windows XP, open your My Computer Properties, then under the Advanced tab click on Performance Settings, hit the Advanced tab in the new window, and click on Virtual Memory Change. The paging file should be set to at least 1.5 times the amount of RAM onboard. Many experts caution against any smaller than that. Set both the Initial Size and Maximum Size to the same level. By doing this, you prevent the paging file from growing incrementally and adding to disk fragmentation.

Vista users face a similar procedure. From the Start menu, hit the Computer button on the right, and then right-click on your C drive and choose System. From there, click on Advanced System Settings and under the Advanced tab, choose Performance Settings. Choose the Advanced tab in the window that opens and Change Virtual Memory. Vista users should follow the same guidelines as those with XP machines: keep the Initial Size and Maximum Size the same, but no less than one and a half times the amount of RAM you've got.

Aside from making sure that you fragment early and often, you should see a drastic reduction in your computer's sluggishness. Of course, if your computer hasn't been sluggish in the first place, you're not likely to notice much of anything.