Find a memory leak that is bloating the Windows XP pagefile

A bloated pagefile could be the cause of memory and performance problems on a Windows XP machine. See what can cause this problem and how to fix it.

Submitted by eebywater, TimTheToolMan, and TheChas


There are times when the Windows pagefile will grow out of control. While the pagefile typically grows and fluctuates as the Windows system needs to move data from RAM to virtual memory, the pagefile doesn't usually become a problem unless a program has a memory leak. Then the program in question will hog too much RAM and cause the pagefile to become bloated. This can eventually lead to a variety of system performance issues.


In order to mitigate this problem, you need to pinpoint the offending program and shut it down.

The way to see what's happening with the pagefile is to utilize the Windows Performance Monitor. In Windows XP, the easiest way to access this tool is to go to Start | Run and type perfmon and click OK. Once Performance Monitor opens, click the + button. From the Performance Object drop-down list, select Memory. Select the All Counters radio button and then click the Add button and the Close button. Monitor this for a few hours. You can tweak the counters to remove some that don’t seem necessary and you can leave it on in the background while you're looking for the program with the memory leak.

One way to find the specific offending program is to use the Task Manager. You can open the Task Manager with the keyboard combination [Ctrl][Shift][Esc]. Go to the Processes tab and look at the Mem Usage column to see if you have any memory hogs. You can also click View | Select Columns and add counters such as Page Faults, Page Faults Delta, and Virtual Memory Size to the Task Manager to help you in your search.

Another way to find programs with memory leaks is to go back into the Performance Monitor and click the + button to add counters. This time you can select Process as the Performance Object and use the options there to monitor variables for suspicious processes.

Once you think you've nailed down the program that's causing the problem, you can uninstall it, delete the executable, and/or disable it in the Windows Registry. (Perform registry edits with great caution!)

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