Using virtual memory is faster than just using RAM: is it really?

Using virtual memory is faster than just using RAM

There is a lot that goes on inside a computer case, and there are a lot of people questioning if using virtual memory is faster than just using RAM.

Many different parts work together to give you the computing experience that you need. A commonly known component inside a computer is known as RAM (Random Access Memory).

Using virtual memory is faster than just using RAM

It is a super fast and short-term type of memory that stores temporary data that the computer needs immediately and imminently. Without it, a machine would be so slow that it would almost be useless.

Virtual memory, on the other hand, is a reserved area in a computer’s storage space. It could be the hard drive or the solid-state drive.

This space can act as the RAM if and when needed by the system. This typically happens when there is not enough available space in the RAM and data has to be offloaded elsewhere (usually when many large applications are running at once).

Since there is usually ample space available in the secondary memory, it only makes sense to use a portion of it to assist RAM.

One advantage of doing so is that a computer doesn’t need to have a lot of RAM installed.

As we all know, RAM is quite expensive in comparison to storage media.

Another advantage is that thanks to virtual memory, a computer can run several larger applications at the same time.

Table of Contents

  1. Using virtual memory is faster than just using RAM, true or false?
  2. Wrap Up

Using virtual memory is faster than just using RAM, true or false?

The short answer to this question is a big no. And that is because of the way virtual memory works.

When RAM is running low, the computer has to swap some of the data to the virtual memory. This takes processing power.

Also, when that data is needed by the computer, it is swapped back to the RAM for use. This again takes processing power. As it’s obvious, this process increases the latency in the system and causes a performance hit.

In some instances, when the virtual memory is much larger than the RAM,  then the CPU can spend most of its processing power writing data back and forth from the RAM and virtual memory. That can cause the system to slow down significantly.

This phenomenon is so well known in the tech industry that it even has a technical term for it called “thrashing”.

However, regular users may not be aware of it and that’s the reason why it is a common misconception among them that using more virtual memory will speed up your computer.

In fact, most operating systems recommend that your virtual memory shouldn’t be more than 1.5 times the size of your RAM.

And more, there is a reason why RAM is considered super fast. It is much faster for the CPU to access data from it than from the hard drives or solid-state drives.

Using virtual memory is faster than just using RAM

This is why a system with 4 GB RAM is likely to have much better performance than a system with 2 GB RAM and 2 GB virtual memory. The performance hit by the swapping makes all the difference.

So, if someone needs to use large applications at once and has longer work sessions, it only makes sense to get more RAM even though it might be a little more expensive.

However, if that is not an option, then they could consider balancing the RAM and virtual memory as per their own set of requirements and needs.

The quality of the hard drive or solid-state drive will play a crucial role too. The better faster it is, the faster the virtual memory will perform.

Wrap Up

Without a doubt, RAM is the faster memory type. However, it doesn’t mean that virtual memory has no use. If good quality hard drives and solid-state drives are used, it is still a viable option when a computer is low on RAM.

Even with the performance hit, it is a good option during heavy workflows. Also, it is quite easy to set up virtual memory as most operating systems come with simple settings to allow for that.

So, even though most users are not sure at first, they can at least give it a try.

And, of course, if upgrading the RAM on your system is an option for you, that is the simplest way to supercharge your computer.

These days, RAM is not as expensive as it once used to be. So, it is definitely a more accessible way for an increasing number of people.

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