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     06/28/2009


When you SHOULD move the Windows Pagefile
(and when you should not)
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When you SHOULD move the Windows Pagefile
(and when you should not)

If you have only ONE PHYSICAL DISK DRIVE, do NOT move it. Leave it where the default build put it, in the root of the c: drive (you won’t see it there, unless you can view system and hidden files)

If you have MORE THAN 1 PHYSICAL disk drives, NOT just “drive letters,” (partitions) on one disk drive, you should move it.

The reason for moving it is very simple – the reason for NOT moving it is not obvious, but it makes sense, when you understand it.

  • The rule is simple, but a little hard to say, if you try to say it fast. You SHOULD move the swap file to the MOST BUSY PARTITION on the LEAST BUSY disk drive.

If you have only one disk drive, then the rule means that you should LEAVE IT on the windows “Boot” drive (which will, almost always be the MOST BUSY PARTITION on the disk drive. Unfortunately, we have, by common usage, come to equate a “partition” to a “drive letter” to a “drive!” NO! A partition or drive letter is NOT a disk drive. If you don’t know the difference, the best decision is to leave it on the C: drive where the install program put it.

If you have more than one PHYSICAL disk drive, and you intend to use it for your pagefile, you will need to know which “drive letter” represents the root of each additional drive. (It is not always D:). If that additional drive is “partitioned” then you will have to decide which is the “MOST BUSY PARTITION,” then set the swap file to that drive letter. Windows Disk Manager can be used to see the mapping between physical drives and drive letters.

Unfortunately, Windows maps the pagefile to a "drive letter,"  with no clue as to which physical disk that drive letter exists on .  In fact, as you add disk drives and/or partitions, Windows actually changes the drive letter that could map to the same physical sector.

If you have a second (or third) PHYSICAL disk drive, you can unload the disk accesses for swap file, and keep all disk accesses on the Windows Boot partition to run the Windows system, by moving the pagefile to another physical spindle.  be careful to follow the rule - don't just put the pagefile on the first drive letter on that physical disk.  Be sure the swap file is on THE MOST BUSY PARTITION (or drive letter).  For instance, if you have a 2nd physical disk, with two partitions - one has a very busy database file on it - the other is only used to store system state backups.  The obvious location for the very busy pagefile is NOT OBVIOUS - you should put it on the same partition that the database file is on.

Too often, the certification tests (written by “experts” who do not understand hard disk dynamics) will state, unequivocally, that you should move the swap file to the D: drive, to improve performance. Nope!

If you have only ONE PHYSICAL DRIVE, that is partitioned into C: and D:, they are both on the same physical drive. You have not put the swap files on different drives just different drive letters (PARTITIONS). You may think there are two drives but the platters and heads do the reading and writing on the SAME DRIVE.

For a disk drive head to access a FILE (swapfile) on the current partition, it's simply a matter of moving the head to the appropriate track and waiting for the file's sector to rotate under the head.  Total time is one seek and one rotational latency.

IF the disk drive head has to access the page file on another PARTITION OF THE SAME DISK, the disk must move the head to the synchronization track, read the disk architecture, move the head to to track that contains the directory for that new partition, wait for rotational latency, THEN read the location of the root files for that partition (where the swapfile will be located).

THEN the head has to do the same thing as it would have, to access the pagefile on the SAME PARTITION.

This total process of changing PARTITIONS on the same physical disk drive takes EONS more time and disk cycling than simply moving to the swap file on the (most busy) BOOT PARTITION (where the head is most likely to be at any given instant of time).

By choosing the MOST BUSY PARTITION on the LEAST BUSY DISK DRIVE, you gain the benefit of NOT having to locate, seek, and MOVE TO ANOTHER PARTITION on the swap drive.

If you put the swap files on different PHYSICAL DISK DRIVES so that the applications do not try to access their data at the same time and therefore have to wait on each other, they are not fighting for access to the heads/platter position.  Both the system accesses and the swap file accesses can be accomplished in ONE SEEK and ONE ROTATIONAL LATENCY, virtually simultaneously.

One thing you need to keep in mind is that the drives need to be on separate controllers as well, if you really want to really optimize swapfile access. If not then they are going to be sharing the same controller and end up with a bottleneck there, but this is not a serious bottleneck.

Webmaster Will Harper, MCSE, MCT, CCNA 06/28/2009 10:26

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