Virtual memory is a common part of most operating systems on desktop computers. It has become so common because it provides a big benefit for users at a very low cost. Most computers today have something like 32 or 64 megabytes of RAM available for the CPU to use (see How RAM Works for details on RAM). Unfortunately, that amount of RAM is not enough to run all of the programs that most users expect to run at once. For example, if you load the operating system, an e-mail program, a Web browser and word processor into RAM simultaneously, 32 megabytes is not enough to hold it all. If there were no such thing as virtual memory, then once you filled up the available RAM your computer would have to say, "Sorry, you cannot load any more applications. Please close another application to load a new one." With virtual memory, what the computer can do is look at RAM for areas that have not been used recently and copy them onto the hard disk. This frees up space in RAM to load the new application.
- Fall '19
- Virtual memory, Personal computer, Paging