View Full Version : FAQ #37 - What is win386.swp? Can I delete it?

24-08-2004, 06:04 PM
FAQ #37 - What is win386.swp? Can I delete it?

Originally written by Chilling Silence with contributions by Graham Petrie, Graham L, tweak'e, Kiwiguy and robsonde

What is win386.swp?

Win386.swp is like having extra RAM for your PC for when you don't have enough for all your running programs. It basically emulates RAM using your HDD if you have a lot of programs running and very little RAM.

RAM requirements vary between versions of Windows so for running 2-3 different programs at once, for example Word, Excel and Outlook, on certain versions of Windows the requirements will vary:

Windows 95 = 16MB RAM as a base and then 8MB for each extra program
Windows 98 = 32MB RAM as a base and then 8MB for each extra program
Windows 2000/ME = 32MB RAM as a base and then 16MB for each extra program
Windows XP = 128MB RAM as a base and then 32MB for each extra program

minimum ram for win98/me is 32MB. at 32MB windows must use the swap file to load windows. if you disable the swap file on a 32MB win98/me system you will not be able to boot into windows (safe mode still works ok tho) win98/me will run ok with 128 but 196 is better. after that the performance per price diminishes.

Lets start with this:

You have several programs running:- MS Word, MSN, Yahoo, IE 6 and WinAmp.
If you have a computer with only a small amount of RAM, ie less than or equal to 128MB, that won't be enough to hold onto all the programs, so, while a program is running in the background, it uses the file win386.swp to imitate RAM, only it would be much slower.

Win386.swp is known as Virtual RAM or Virtual Memory or pagefile.sys in Windows 2000/XP/.NET.

Windows uses the file to hold information that cannot fit into RAM and then to re-call it into RAM when there is enough room - or it is about to be used by the PC user.

If you have WinAmp playing but the other items mentioned above in the background, the likes of MS Word, IE and anything else that will not fit in RAM will be loaded out of RAM and into Win386.swp until it is needed. So WinAmp and Word are still in RAM, but because the others are in the background at the time they obviously do not need to be used at the higher speed of RAM because they are likely to be sitting idle.

Win386.swp basically is an extension to RAM if you have a lot open at the one time. Win386.swp will be much slower than RAM because most HDD's get transfer speeds of between 5-20MBPS whereas RAM can transfer data at up to 333MBPS, depending on the type.

Can I delete it?

DO NOT try and delete win386.swp. The worst case is that your system will crash. The best case is that the system will recreate it when you re-boot so you won't be saving any disk space.

You could try setting it to a very small size if you're keen to play with fire.

Depending on your version of Windows, you could get away with shrinking it down to 50 odd megs depending on how much RAM you've got.

BE CAREFUL, You could permanently damage your PC!

The only time you may wish to delete win386.swp is when one is going to backup the whole harddrive (i.e. by Ghost software) and you want to save on backup space. It is safe to delete win386.swp first as it will be recreated when the next time you re-image the harddrive again.

Original FAQ available here (http://pressf1.pcworld.co.nz/thread.jsp?forum=1&thread=21513).

26-10-2004, 01:41 PM
More information:

Virtual Memory in Windows XP (http://aumha.org/win5/a/xpvm.php)
-- submitted by Terry Porritt

Understand Virtual Memory (http://www.osnn.net/articles.php?action=show&showarticle=99)
-- submitted by tweak'e