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How to manage virtual memory on windows 11

Windows 11 change virtual memory
Windows 11 change virtual memory (Image credit: Future)

On Windows 11 (opens in new tab), virtual memory (also referred to as "paging file") is a feature that temporarily stores less frequent page files loaded into system memory (RAM or Random Access Memory) onto the hard drive. The feature permits Windows to use faster physical memory for running apps and processes. The result is better performance (opens in new tab) while preventing the system from freezing up if memory runs out.

The system can manage the paging file size automatically. However, it may be required to change the default virtual memory settings manually in some situations. For instance, when the computer is exhibiting performance issues, an application requires specific memory settings to work correctly, or you stumble upon the "Your system is low on virtual memory" message.

Whatever the case might be, Windows 11 includes at least two different ways to increase the virtual memory capacity to overcome limitations with the system memory using the Settings app and Command Prompt.

In this Windows 11 guide, we'll walk you through the steps to increase the virtual memory size to make your device a little faster.

Warning: Although nothing stops you from changing the paging file size, you should only use these instructions if you have a good reason and know what you're doing.

How to increase virtual memory through Settings

To modify the virtual memory settings on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the About page on the right side.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. In the "Related links" section, click the Advanced system settings option.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Click the Advanced tab.
  2. Under the "Performance" section, click the Settings button.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Click the Advanced tab again.
  2. Under the "Virtual memory" section, click the Change button.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Clear the "Automatically manage paging files size for all drives" option.
  2. Select the Custom size option.
  3. Specify the initial and maximum size for the paging file in megabytes. Quick tip: The virtual memory size will differ for everyone. However, usually, you should use a number that's one and a half times the total available memory for the "Initial size" and three times of available memory for the "Maximum size."
  4. Click the Set button.

Change virtual memory settings

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Click the OK button.
  2. Click the OK button again.
  3. Restart your device.

Once you complete the steps, the overall system performance should increase while navigating the desktop and running applications.

If you change your mind, you can undo the changes with the same instructions, but on step 9, check the "Automatically manage paging size for all drives" option and restart the computer.

How to increase virtual memory through Command Prompt

To change the paging file size with commands on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Command Prompt, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.
  3. Type the following command to understand the current paging file and press Enterwmic pagefile list /format:list 

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Type the following command to switch from system managed to custom virtual memory on Windows 11 and press Enterwmic computersystem where name="%computername%" set AutomaticManagedPagefile=false

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Type the following command to configure the initial and maximum virtual memory size and press Enterwmic pagefileset where name="C:\\pagefile.sys" set InitialSize=YOUR-INIT-SIZE,MaximumSize=YOUR-MAX-SIZE 

    This example sets the paging file to "9216" and "12288" megabytes for the initial and maxium size: wmic pagefileset where name="C:\\pagefile.sys" set InitialSize=9216,MaximumSize=12288

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Type the following command to restart the device and press Entershutdown -r -t 00

After you complete the steps, the computer should start showing a boost in performance.

When you no longer need this configuration, you can run the wmic computersystem where name="%computername%" set AutomaticManagedPagefile=true command to revert the changes and restart the computer.

Although there are some recommendations to configure the virtual manually, you should always take the time to test the configurations and modify the values if the system starts having stability problems.

If you think that the device doesn't need virtual memory only because you have a large amount of physical memory, you shouldn't disable the feature. The reason is that the system needs the paging file. Otherwise, you may experience problems running applications and using many Windows 11 features.

More Windows resources

For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10 and Windows 11, visit the following resources:

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.