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 What is Virtual Memory?

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PostSubject: What is Virtual Memory?   Mon Jun 01, 2009 6:03 pm

Computer users place great demands on their computers and computing devices today more than ever before. The size and complexity of modern sophisticated computer applications the vast amounts of information that is being stored, shared, and utilized daily requires that large amounts of computer memory remain available so the computer can access and present data in an effective manner.

Virtual memory is a rather ingenious method of harnessing the computer's actual memory capacity and manipulating it using a combination of the operating system and memory hardware capabilities. Data can be temporarily stored and filed for quick access with the operating system acting as the determinant, allowing for smoother operating capacity.

Virtual memory is typically accomplished by using a method called paging. Paging is a simplified term that applies to the way in which a computer chooses to store information according to differing criteria.

Virtual memory is crucial to modern computers because it allows for a large expansion of a computer's otherwise limiting features. Multi-tasking, which is the process of running multiple applications and programs simultaneously on a single computer, relies heavily on virtual memory for smooth and error-free operation.

Virtual memory serves as a supplement to a computer's RAM (Random Access Memory) in that it stores and serves data quickly to meet the immediate needs of a program or application. Disk memory, such as a computer's hard drive, is capable of being much larger but also much slower at being called to action.

The average computer user needs to worry very little about the detailed specifications or mechanisms of their computer's virtual memory. However, over time a computer's hard drive will become cluttered and disorganized due to the computer repeatedly having to find "pockets" of space to use as virtual memory. The disk defragmenter utility is an important maintenance tool that enables the computer to organize stored data in a manner in which it doesn't have to skip around so much to look for it - drastically increasing computer speed and functionality. The recommended schedule for the need of defragmenting a computer's hard drive depends heavily on the amount that it is used. A good rule of thumb for daily users is to run the disk defragmenter about once a month. More frequent computer users may need to perform this maintenance as frequently as once a week.
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