Posted 08 August 2006 - 11:42 PM
Page file usage goes up if you do not have sufficient memory for what's running. It has little to do with processor usage, since you could have fifteen programs open and not currently doing anything. For instance, if you open up a Word file, the processor is used for a short time while it opens, but then has little to do. Then you open a browser - again, once it's open, the processor isn't doing much. But open too many things, which are actually being stored in memory while in use, and you run out of space in your RAM, and Windows starts passing more off to the hard drive, which is far slower than system memory. Yes, this will slow your computer down considerably. As Eyesee says, activity by unwanted programs may be running stealthily and accounting for some of the problem.
Since you've upgraded to XP Home, you no longer have Windows 98, unless you're running a dual boot system. Windows 98 required far less system memory (RAM) than does XP. It's recommended that you have a minimum of 512 MB by most people - and I've seen file corruption in the operating system far more often when running 256 MB than in systems with sufficient memory. Checking the amount of page file usage, I find that systems with 512 MB of RAM are actually using more than 256 MB with no programs open - just Windows XP and background tasks. This means that systems with only 256 MB are topped out before any programs are even opened.