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Low Virtual Memory

This message appears when virtual memory is low and Visual Studio stops responding. However, this error doesn't occur when the virtual memory on your machine is low but rather when Visual Studio is running out of address space. Most commonly, this error occurs on machines that are running 32-bit operating systems, which limit Visual Studio to 2 GB of address space. When you work with 32-bit processes, the app can address only 4 GB of memory (2^32 bits). However, 32-bit versions of Windows reserve 2 GB of a process's virtual address space for internal purposes (for example, for working with the machine’s graphics card or other system drivers). Therefore, the 32-bit process can use only 2 GB for its internal purposes. Users can set the /3GB switch to ensure that Windows reserves only 1 GB for itself and gives 3 GB to the process. In most cases, performance doesn't decrease with a limit of only 1 GB for Windows.

On systems that run 64-bit versions of Windows, this error rarely occurs because the process can use all 4 GB of addressable space, and Windows can use 64-bit memory addresses for working with the hardware and system drivers. However, memory utilization can exceed 3 GB or even 4 GB when Visual Studio processes some data sets. For more information, see Visual Studio: Why is there no 64 bit version? (yet).

This error typically occurs when Visual Studio is caching large amounts of data or running multiple memory-intensive processes.

The following scenarios involve caching large amounts of data, and you can usually fix them by restarting Visual Studio.

  • Running Visual Studio for the first time after installation.

  • Installing or uninstalling an extension.

  • Choosing or customizing items in the Toolbox.

  • Changing your Visual Studio settings.

  • Allowing the system to go into sleep (hibernate) mode while Visual Studio is open.

The following scenarios require large amounts of active memory. In these cases, we recommend running Visual Studio with only essential components open or running additional processes in a second instance of Visual Studio.

  • Building large solutions.

  • Working with large XML documents.

  • Upgrading solutions from a previous version of Visual Studio.

  • Retargeting solutions.

  • Running Team Explorer while editing code.

  • Running IntelliTrace on multiple projects.

If these measures don't prevent the error, you can increase your available address space on a system that's running Windows 7 or if you run bcedit.exe with the following syntax:

bcdedit /set IncreaseUserVa 3072

This command increases your user-mode virtual memory allocation from 2 GB to 3 GB on an x86-based system. If you add the /3GB switch, the entire system can address more memory and give each application a greater percentage of the available memory.

NoteNote

You must run bcdedit.exe with administrative permissions. If BitLocker encryption is enabled, you must suspend it, make the change, reboot the system, and then re-enable Bitlocker.

Even after you increase your virtual memory allocation to 3 GB, this error might recur because any single application can still use only 2 GB of virtual memory. If this error continues to appear, reduce the size of your solution, and then restart Visual Studio. You can reduce your solution either by refactoring it to remove projects that are infrequently used or by unloading projects that aren’t needed. If the error occurs when you build your solution, try building it at a command prompt.

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