Windows 10 tip: Fine-tune memory usage to make the most of a virtual machine

By default, Hyper-V assigns a measly amount of RAM to virtual machines you create. For best performance in the virtual PC, adjust these numbers, and use dynamic memory for maximum flexibility.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

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Use dynamic memory settings to keep your virtual machine from using too much of the host PC's RAM.

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As I've noted in the two previous installments in this series, Windows 10's Hyper-V platform is the ideal way to test-drive a new feature update before trusting it to production hardware.

If you've been following along, you've enabled the Hyper-V features and created your first virtual machine. Now it's time to fine-tune that virtual machine for proper performance.

The most important virtual machine setting is the one that assigns physical memory to your virtual machine. The more memory that VM has, the more you can do with it. And by taking advantage of a feature called virtual memory you can avoid starving the host PC of the memory it needs to do its own work.

Open the Settings dialog box for your virtual machine and click the Memory tab to see and adjust this allocation.

I recommend you pay close attention to two settings in particular.

First, decide much memory to assign to the VM. Using the Quick Create wizard automatically assigns a default value of 2048 MB (2 GB) of RAM, which is not enough for acceptable performance.

On a system with at least 8 GB of physical RAM, I recommend setting a minimum of 4096 MB (4 GB) here. If you have 16 GB (or more) of physical RAM and you plan to use the VM to simulate real working conditions, consider assigning it 8192 MB (8 GB).

Next, decide whether you want to use dynamic memory. When you select the Enable Dynamic Memory check box is selected, your VM starts with the amount of memory you specified above but then adjusts the actual memory allocation to what it needs.

(If you choose not to enable dynamic memory, Hyper-V assigns exactly as much physical RAM as you specified above. That option might be acceptable if your host PC has a ton of RAM (32 GB) and your virtual machine only needs a fraction of it.)

Set the Minimum RAM and Maximum RAM values accordingly. On a system with 16 GB of physical RAM, you might set these values to 4096 MB and 8192 MB, respectively. That prevents the system from lagging when it's under memory pressure.


Windows 10 tip: How to enable Hyper-V and create virtual machines

Every business edition of Windows 10 includes a full-strength virtualization platform, Hyper-V. If your PC meets the requirements, you can begin creating virtual machines for testing software and services without risking your daily productivity.

Windows 10 tip: Quickly create a virtual machine to test new features

In recent feature updates to Windows 10, the Hyper-V Manager includes an option to create a new virtual machine from a single dialog box. Be sure to check these four settings before you use this one-click option.

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