Dspenc40229’s PC occasionally complains that it’s running low on virtual memory. “How do I get more?”

Virtual memory, also known as the swap file, uses part of your hard drive to effectively expand your RAM, allowing you to run more programs than it could otherwise handle. But a hard drive is much slower than RAM, so it can really hurt performance. (I discuss SSDs below.)

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

Some basics: Your PC has storage—a hard drive or SSD—and memory in the form of RAM chips. RAM is faster than storage, and you have much less of it. It’s also more volatile: Shut off the power, and everything in RAM disappears. You can think of RAM as the immediate workspace, and storage as the file cabinet. When you save a file, you’re copying it from RAM to storage.

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