Windows Frequently Asked Questions

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“What’s the best version of Windows?” The latest one. Running outdated software is for scrubs. Windows 10 is what Windows 8 should have been but wasn’t, and Windows 7 is a bloated, outdated hog. It was nice for its time (and Win8’s time), but it needs to die. So don’t be a scrub, use Windows 10.

“Why does Windows use so much RAM?” The truth is, it doesn’t. It’s actually using about as much as Linux would, with the same applications open. What makes up the rest is the application working sets, and modified buffer. You can use a tool like RAMMap and see for yourself, and even empty them if you want. Fair warning, emptying the working sets will have a similar effect to a reboot. Everything will lag for a bit, but sometimes this is useful if you want to do a bit of manual garbage collection instead of rebooting.

“What’s the paging file?” Microsoft’s definition is too shitty. The paging file (pagefile.sys) is a file that is used by Windows as swap space. Every OS has swap space, or can use it. Swap space can save your ass from a crash in a low-memory situation. If applications are demanding more memory than you actually have, Windows will swap memory pages to disk. This, however, creates a lot of lag. Hard disks are a lot slower than RAM. SSDs are not as slow but still much slower than RAM. Not all swapping is bad though. Windows will often swap out unused pages to free up memory for other applications.

“What’s the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit?” You probably already know this part already, but a bit is a 1 (on) or 0 (off). A byte is 8 bits. The term “bits” refers to the amount of memory a CPU can access at once. An 8-bit processor (like the one in the original Nintendo) can access one byte of memory per cycle. A 16-bit processor (very old PCs) can access a word (two bytes) of memory per cycle. A 32-bit processor (older PCs) can access a double word (four bytes) per cycle. And a 64-bit processor (modern PCs) can access a quad word (eight bytes) of memory per cycle. What this means is that a 64-bit CPU can handle large amounts of memory far more efficiently than a 32-bit CPU. The downside is, each core has to access 8 bytes of RAM at a time, so if you have slow RAM, you'll be bottlenecked and you might not be getting the most out of your CPU.

“What happens if I install a 32-bit OS on a 64-bit CPU?” Good question. It will work. But, unless you're either running Linux or Windows Server, you won't be able to use PAE to access more than 3.5GB of RAM. And if you have more than 3.5GB of RAM, you're dumb if you use a 32-bit OS. PAE is inefficient, and a lot of device drivers on Windows have issues with it. So your best bet is to use a 64-bit OS if you can.

“What is the WInSxS folder for?” WinSxS is Microsoft’s attempt to make Windows a bit cleaner. Every file needed for Windows to run is contained in that folder. Anywhere else in C:\Windows you see a system file, it’s just a hardlink to the real file in WinSxS. Older versions of system files will be kept here as well – in case you encounter problems and need to roll back from an update. These older files are eventually deleted if not needed.
 

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