When your computer is running low on Random Access Memory (RAM) and more is needed than that installed, Windows uses hard disk space to simulate this memory which is known as "Virtual Memory" and also known as the "Paging" file that is stored on the boot partition (the partition that contains the operating system and its support files but can be changed by the user to anywhere wanted with a few caveats). By default, the hidden virtual memory paging file (named pagefile.sys) is created during the installation of Windows and configured to 1.5 times the RAM currently installed in the computer.
1. The article [Q314482] states the paging file (Pagefile.sys) is a hidden file on your computer's hard disk that Windows uses as if it were random access memory (RAM) -- the paging file and physical memory comprise virtual memory. By default, Windows stores the paging file on the boot partition (the partition that contains the operating system and its support files). The default and/or recommended paging file size is equal to 1.5 times the total amount of RAM (way short in my opinion). The Microsoft development team recommended that the paging file be moved to a different partition to enhance performance since Windows must perform disk reading and writing requests on both the system folder and the paging file and when the paging file is moved there is less competition between the reading and writing requests at generally the same time. The team however warns that should the paging file be completely removed (void), Windows cannot create a dump file (Memory.dmp) in which to write debugging information in the event that a kernel mode STOP error occurs, which can lead to extended downtime if a debug procedure is necessary to troubleshoot the error (See the, Configuring Recovery Techniques link in that reference, to include it's hyperlinked references).
2. The article [Q317277] describes the situation where the Windows Error Reporting tool prompts you to report a problem to Microsoft for troubleshooting purposes every time you restart the computer even if no error occurred during the previous session and continues even if you choose not to send the information. This problem occurs because after a Minidump (or memory dump) file is written, the paging file continues to have a flag set that indicates that a memory dump file needs to be written. This article discusses two possibilities you can use to solve this paging file problem.
3. The article [Q811153] warns that every time the computer is shutdown, you may receive the following error message at the "Windows is shutting down..." screen and that this behavior may occur if you have Symantec Norton Personal Firewall program installed which is included with Norton Internet Security, or if the Norton Personal Firewall file "Iamapp.exe" loads from the Startup group in the Windows registry:
Your system is low on virtual memory. Windows is increasing the size of your virtual memory paging file. During this process memory requested for some applications may be denied
Note: Or on booting the computer, an error similar to "<application> failed to initialize properly" may be rendered.
4. The article [Q314834] documents the method for clearing the Windows paging file (Pagefile.sys) during the shutdown process so that no unsecured data such as a password is contained in the paging file when the shutdown process is complete. Although clearing the paging file is not a suitable substitute for physical security of a computer, you might want to do this to increase the security of data on a computer while Windows is not running. In addition, enabling this feature may increase shutdown time.
5. Please note that when the "by design" Security Policy Setting "Clear virtual memory pagefile" (click to see an example screenshot) is enabled, the computer may take longer to shut down than normal (ensure that memory data fragments will not be paged to disk in clear text form at shutdown). This behavior occurs because the computer must physically write to each page in the pagefile to clear each page and the period of time it will take varies according to the pagefile size and the disk hardware involved.
Note: Enabling this security option also causes the hibernation file (hiberfil.sys) to be zeroed out when hibernation is disabled on a laptop system.
6. Windows XP Minimum RAM Requirement, "TechNet Windows XP Performance":
a. 64 MB:
? A computer with 64 MB of RAM will have sufficient resources to run Windows