Whenever your Windows system encounters a major system crash, it throws a BSOD, the famous Blue Screen of Death, and collects data from memory into a memory dump file saved on the local hard drive in case a further investigation of why the crash occurs is needed. The memory dump file contains some valuable information that is helpful to those advanced debuggers and system administrators who want to know more about the crash in order to develop a cure for the cause.
But the problem is that the size of these memory dump files is often quite big, several hundreds of MBs, and most of the time they are useless to the end users who don’t care about or don’t know how to use them. If you don’t set them right, it could eat up your space quite a bit for nothing. In some worst cases where a crash keeps happening, it could fill up all your hard drive space fairly quickly.
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Where to check the memory dump settings?
The memory dump settings are located in Startup and Recovery window. Here is the path how you can locate it.
Control Panel → System and Security → System → Advanced System Settings (on the left panel) → Settings in Startup and Recovery section.
Types of memory dump
In Windows 7, it’s by default set to Kernel memory dump that saves an image of the core memory at the point the major malfunction occurred. You can change to Small memory dump that records the smallest set of useful information that may help identify why your computer has stopped unexpectedly. You can change them by selecting it from the drop-down menu under Write debugging information. You can also choose Complete memory dump that saves all the contents of system memory. For some reason, the Complete memory dump option doesn’t show up on my Windows 7 machine but do list on both my Windows 8 and Windows XP computers.
Windows 8 added a new default option, Automatic memory dump, introduced to support the new “System Managed” page file configuration.
3 options to save your hard drive spaces
Firstly, if you absolutely don’t care, you can set to None from the same drop-down menu to tell the system not to save any memory dump file. Even though it’s not highly recommended, it’s up to you if hard drive space has more value.
Secondly, use Small memory dump. Because it only saves a subset of the full information, it’s helpful if you have the limited space in boot drive. By default, Windows preserves the previous small dump files up to 50 files before overwriting them. And you can’t change the setting to automatically overwrite.
Lastly, if you prefer having a full image of memory dump file, you can choose Kernel memory dump or Complete memory dump but unless it’s absolutely necessary, you should uncheck the option “overwrite any existing file” so only one full image of the dump file is generated every time when a crash happens.
Even if you don’t want to overwrite any previously saved memory dump files, you can reduce the number of files preserved to save you some space. By default, it’s set up to 50 files Windows will preserve for you. And you can change it from the following registry key.
Go to HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\CrashControl, and change the value to the key MinidumpsCount to a smaller number.
Move dump file location
If none of the above options helped you, the last place you can change is to move the location of the memory dump file to another drive that has more space to handle these dump files, assuming you have a second drive in your system.
Simply type in the folder path where you want to use into the Dump File box in the Startup and Recovery window.
Final a few words
It’s absolutely fine if you leave everything as it is. It’s not going to come hurt you if you don’t make any change. These are just a few tips that might be useful if space is a constant issue in your day-to-day computing. You have nothing to worry if your computer runs so smoothly that it rarely crashes.