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  1. #1
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    Re: Swap file location

    My Dell Studio XPS with Win 7/64bit has performed extremely well with the page file on the system drive, set at system managed size since installed. At the time I had considered moving the page file as that was what I had done with XP following the conventional wisdom at that time. Upon researching Win 7 I found most experts, including Fred Langa felt that this was no longer necessary as the operating system was greatly improved.
    After reading the previous post on this I've decided to try it, mainly to see if there's any difference in system images and backups.
    Two questions:
    Is it still beneficial to format partition as Fat32?
    Does it matter if 2nd disk is faster than disk operating system is on?

    Thanks,
    Rich

  2. #2
    Super Moderator satrow's Avatar
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    Hi Rich,

    Where (and what (fixed) size) the swapfile is best placed really depends on your personal PC usage and preferences. If you're an average user as expected by MSFT, stay with the default, it's a lot easier.

    You are the only expert when it comes to your computer usage.

    1. FAT32 has drawbacks with the 4GB file size limit, but has fewer disk writes involved (I don't remember any recent performance test to point you to).

    2. If you have the main swapfile on a faster (2nd) disk, swapfile access will be faster when it's needed. Even if the 2nd disk is a little slower than the Windows disk, less disk background activity might mean that the swapfile access is still faster from the 2nd.

    Taskman and Perfmon are your friends here, study your normal usage patterns and see where you might improve your disk I/O throughput.

  3. #3
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    There will be absolutely no performance advantage in changing the swap file from its default unless you are short of disk space.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator bbearren's Avatar
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    I use the Forrest Gump approach to the page file; I set it up so that there is "one less thing" to be concerned about.

    If the swap file is first setup for optimum efficiency, it will not need any further attention for the life of the machine unless one gets a virtual memory error, the chances of which are on the "none" side of "somewhere between slim and none". It's a set-it-and-forget-it thing.

    "System-managed vs Fixed size" - System-managed means that the system can alter the size of the swap file based on anticipated or actual need, which means disk reads/writes for the express purpose of resizing the page file. Fixed means that the size remains constant, which means no disk reads/writes for the express purpose of resizing the page file. The difference between some and none may vary, but none is always none.

    "System partition vs dedicated partition" - Although there are varying opinions about disk fragmentation with NTFS, I feel that "less possibility of fragmentation is better" is hard to argue with. A dedicated partition for a fixed page file (meaning no user files on that partition) has two effects on fragmentation; the page file has no chance of contributing to fragmention of the system drive through system management (resizing) of the page file, and the page file has no chance of becoming fragmented itself - it's the only file on the dedicated partition, and its size is fixed. Also, the page file partition can be configured with no Recycle Bin and no monitoring for System Restore - neither is necessary. A non-fragmented page file would seem to be more efficient than a fragmented page file.

    "FAT32 vs NTFS" - FAT32 has less file system overhead than NTFS, so it's a tiny bit quicker according to everything I've read. There is the 4GB limit (in earlier versions of Windows), but then the page file doesn't need to be any larger than 4GB except in the most extreme, demanding of conditions, which the average user is highly unlikely to encounter. I set my page file FAT32 partitions at 4.5GB in size in Windows 7 and Windows XP.

    "Page file placement" - If you were to put a page file on every drive in your system, Windows will use the page file that is on the least-accessed drive. I haven't read anything to indicate that Windows factors in the speed of the drives. At or near the front of the drive is faster than at or near the end of the drive, so it is logical to place the dedicated page file partition at or near the front of the second drive.

    "Single or multiple drives" - Even a single drive computer will gain some benefit from having a fixed page file on a dedicated partition by eliminating that particular opportunity for fragmentation of the file system.

    Elimininating a little bit of fragmentation is a little bit of performance improvement.
    Last edited by bbearren; 2011-03-02 at 08:10.
    Create a fresh drive image before making system changes, in case you need to start over!

    "The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Savvy?"—Captain Jack Sparrow "When you're troubleshooting, start with the simple and proceed to the complex."—M.O. Johns "Experience is what you get when you're looking for something else."—Sir Thomas Robert Deware.
    Unleash Windows

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    Here are several articles on pagefile sizing and location.

    Pushing the Limits of Windows: Virtual Memory - Mark's Blog - Site Home - TechNet Blogs
    TweakHound - Tweaking Windows 7, Page 7
    Windows 7 / Windows Server 2008 R2: Upgrade Paths, Registry Enhancements, Crash Dumps and Page File Sizing - Ask the Performance Team - Site Home - TechNet Blogs
    Getting maximum performance from Vista
    Windows 7 virtual memory optimization

    You'll find that almost no one recommends a separate partition for the pagefile if you only have one drive. You can create a fixed size pagefile on a one drive system that will avoid fragmentation. However, on todays systems with very large HDs for the vast majority of users if you have adequate RAM for how you typically use your system then messing with the pagefile is unnecessary. You'd only be able to measure any performance difference on the rare occasions when you actually use the pagefile.

    Joe

  7. #6
    Super Moderator bbearren's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joeperez View Post
    You'll find that almost no one recommends a separate partition for the pagefile if you only have one drive. You can create a fixed size pagefile on a one drive system that will avoid fragmentation. However, on todays systems with very large HDs for the vast majority of users if you have adequate RAM for how you typically use your system then messing with the pagefile is unnecessary. You'd only be able to measure any performance difference on the rare occasions when you actually use the pagefile.

    Joe
    I didn't say anything about measuring any performance difference. I did say, "Elimininating a little bit of fragmentation is a little bit of performance improvement." And Windows always pages out some Kernel Memory during the boot process unless there is no page file anywhere on the machine, so the page file (if there is one) is actually used on every boot.

    When I first received this machine from Dell, it had a 6GB page file scattered all over the middle sectors of a 1TB drive. The first part of the page file was almost at the 500GB portion of the drive, and there were other files scattered in amongst the page file fragments. I've seen HP's and other brands in very similar condition. And the page file is unmovable for most defragmenters, so if it starts life fragmented, it will evermore be fragmented, unless it is manipulated by the user in other ways.

    (Just as a general observation, a new machine may be new, but that does not mean that it is optimized for maximum performance right out of the box.)

    My Dell now has 2 1TB drives, and a 4GB fixed pagefile in the first partition of the second drive. If I had not added the second drive, just moved the pagefile to a dedicated partition 440GB closer to the beginning of the drive, made it fixed and contiguous, I wouldn't have to measure to realize that "a little bit of performance improvement" had been achieved.

    So I use the Forrest Gump approach.

    Quote Originally Posted by bbearren View Post
    If the swap file is first setup for optimum efficiency, it will not need any further attention for the life of the machine unless one gets a virtual memory error, the chances of which are on the "none" side of "somewhere between slim and none". It's a set-it-and-forget-it thing.
    Create a fresh drive image before making system changes, in case you need to start over!

    "The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Savvy?"—Captain Jack Sparrow "When you're troubleshooting, start with the simple and proceed to the complex."—M.O. Johns "Experience is what you get when you're looking for something else."—Sir Thomas Robert Deware.
    Unleash Windows

  8. #7
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    When XP and Windows 2000 server were new, and disks were slow, there was most certainly a need to consider moving the swap file to not just another partition, but a separate drive altogether. I've routinely done that on servers for many years if for some reason the system partition was not already on RAID 5. And when it comes to SQL server and other disk intensive applications, its still a prudent move. But today? In my experience its more of an annoyance than a help. Today's disk are fast and Windows 7 is much more efficient than its predecessors. Yes, you might gain a little bit of performance, but its going to be negligible and likely not noticed in day to day activity. Unless of course your software is so memory intensive that Windows is forced to constantly swap. Then you really just need more RAM.


    Quote Originally Posted by rlfvt View Post
    Is it still beneficial to format partition as Fat32?
    As far as FAT32, personally I would never use it on a hard disk. The benefits of NTFS far outweigh the minor performance gain of FAT32, if there is one.

    Quote Originally Posted by rlfvt View Post
    Does it matter if 2nd disk is faster than disk operating system is on?
    It shouldn't. And actually you might see some performance improvement because of that alone.

    The good part of all this is that its easy enough to change. Because I'm a firm believer in the phrase "your mileage may vary", please check back and let us know your results. Just because I haven't seen much use for moving the swap file on a PC, doesn't mean that you won't.
    Last edited by Doc Brown; 2011-03-02 at 15:30.
    Chuck

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    rlfvt/Rich,

    How much RAM memory does your Win 7 x64 computer have? I didn't see that mentioned above. As was pointed out previously, Fat32 has a 4GB file size limitation. My Win 7x64 system has 8GB of RAM and a "system managed" page file. The current size is 8190 MB and a recommended size of 12285MB. Having the page file on a Fat32 partition would be impossible, no? Isn't there a partition size limitation, as well, no larger than 32GB?

    Randy

  10. #9
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    My computer has 6 gigs of ram installed and performance has never been an issue. My reason for moving the page file was due to something bbearen had posted about the wasted space incurred by having the page file included in a system image. I currently backup to a 250 gig external hd that also has a few other important files on it and it fills up too fast.
    My questions were to try and find out if fat32 was still recomended for a page file on a separate partition and because of something I read about drives being the same speed.I probably should have put a little thought into the latter. I set the page file at a fixed 6gig, same as ram. It will probably be barely accessed but I have the room and better safe than sorry.
    Thanks for all the responses.
    Rich

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    You should examine one of your backups to see if the pagefile is really backed up. Some backup software is capable of skipping the pagefile.

    Joe

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