Windows memory management is rocket science. And don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise.
Since Windows 7 was released last October I’ve read lots of articles about the right and wrong way to measure and manage the physical memory on your system. Much of it is well-meaning but just wrong.
It doesn’t help that the topic is filled with jargon and technical terminology that you literally need a CS degree to understand. Even worse, web searches turn up mountains of misinformation, some of it on Microsoft’s own web sites. And then there’s the fact that Windows memory management has evolved, radically, over the past decade. Someone who became an expert on measuring memory usage using Windows 2000 might have been able to muddle through with Windows XP, but he would be completely flummoxed by the changes that began in Windows Vista (and its counterpart, Windows Server 2008) and have continued in Windows 7 (and its counterpart, Windows Server 2008 R2).
To help cut through the confusion, I’ve taken a careful look at memory usage on a handful of Windows 7 systems here, with installed RAM ranging from 1 GB to 10 GB. The behavior in all cases is strikingly similar and consistent, although you can get a misleading picture depending on which of three built-in performance monitoring tools you use. What helped me understand exactly what was going on with Windows 7 and RAM was to arrange all three of these tools side by side and then begin watching how each one responded as I increased and decreased the workload on the system.
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