Storage or Memory? Is it Virtual?

a PC without virtual memory

Do you ever get a message about virtual memory being low. When people approach me about this warning many say they have moved their pictures off the computer and have removed programs and they still get this error. Some say they have checked their computer and it says they have hundreds of gigabytes available. Why is it saying it doesn’t have enough?

If the message is not caused by a virus then doing the repairs and checks the people have done usually wont help the situation. They are freeing up storage not memory. In our lives they seem to mean the same thing but in the computer they are names for devices that have different purposes. In my last blog I talked about YOUR DATA. Data is what is stored on your hard disk, hard drive or storage. Along with your data are the programs that have been loaded on your computer. The amount of information stored on the hard disk is amazing so there is a lot of it. Modern computers have over 1,000 gigabytes to store all that info. Gigabyte is just a measure of how much can be saved. Most people use less that 10 gigabytes and windows and programs use perhaps 50.

In contrast memory is much smaller. It usually is less than 8 gigabytes. It is smaller because memory only has to retain what the computer is working with right now. It is also faster than storage. It is used so that the computer can quickly do what you want. The rest is still in storage.

Now back to our original message. The virtual memory is low. This appears when you have so many programs running that your memory becomes full. In the old days the computer would freeze or crash. Now the computer carves out some space on the hard disk and pretends that is memory. However, this slows down the computer tremendously. And you can hear the hard disk buzzing or rattling when this happens.

Virtual memory will be created up to a point. You also get that message if your hard disk is so full that almost nothing more can be put on it or pass a limit set in the computer. The former scenario is when removing pictures etc. will help. They fix the symptom only. It does not free memory but by freeing up disk space so virtual memory can be created. What is also needed is to add memory.

Finally, adding memory and clearing storage can help when virtual memory is low. But because memory is faster than storage it will also help many slow computers are that way because they are having to use the virtual memory rather than the memory that can be put in your system.

Questions? Ask at or IM me at kurtrr on skype. Your question may be in an upcoming blog/column.

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