Well, you might be thinking that most of the PCs of the modern time have more than enough memory. Even the budgeted PCs, which are mostly used for the personal purposes are normally come up with at least 2GB of memory. Moreover, you can also add 2GB more to this. Now you may be thinking that if there is 4GB of RAM, it is more than enough. But it is not correct.

If we take Windows Vista, for example, for proper running of the Vista, it requires at least 2GB of memory space. Vista’s large applications swallow up huge amount of gigabytes very easily. And very soon you will able to find out that your 2GB system will abrasively comes to a halt. So we see that adding another 2GB does not make much difference. As a matter fact, there are very rare 32-bit systems that can able to access the complete 4GB memory. There are some that can use even lesser than a 3GB memory. While if you try for upgrading it to 64-bit Windows, it will not always help you.

Now, we will discuss few ways that will give us the desired results. First of all we need to learn about the memory usage of the Windows and various applications that you may have installed in your PC. Also we need to know the tricks to reduce the RAM wastage. This will make the use of the system resources in the most efficient manner and thereby delivering fantastic improvement to the performance of your system.

Basics of Memory

Most of the 32-bit Windows systems able to address up to 4GB RAM. Well, this is not the fault of a CPU, but the modern day processors which have a 36-bit address mode allows it to access up to 64GB of RAM.

In this case, software must have the knowledge of these 36-bit addresses; otherwise they will shorten them to 32-bit. Also, they will not read and write data in the correct place. This is one of the main reasons that Microsoft has also restricted all their 32-bit client versions of Windows in to a maximum of 4GB RAM.

What happens is that, the 4GB address space splits into two. Then the Windows and drivers get 2GB for themselves, and Windows basically make each application to think that it has the complete access to another 2GB. Therefore, you may have five of your programs running at the same time and each of them using 1 and 2GB of memory, hence the 4GB of memory space will not be the limit.

Memory allocations are done in the units called pages, that is generally consists of a size of 4KB. It can be tracked in the PFN (Page Frame Number) database. Just in case, you have a 2GB of RAM but the programs that you are using requires 3GB space, then Windows will start finding pages in the physical memory that have not been accessed  very recently. It then writes them in a paging file on to your hard drive.  After that, the physical RAM freed up and use by the recent program that you are running. The whole mechanism will let you bypass your 4GB of the address space limit and you may able to run few more applications too.

Working Sets

Task Manager is a helpful tool to know how the PC is using the RAM. For quick access of task manager press on [CTRL]+[Shift]+[ESC], then click on the Processes tab to find out what programs are running. Click on ‘View | Select Columns’, and check ‘Memory – Working Set’ and ‘Memory – Private Working Set’, and then click on ‘OK’.

Well, you will not find these options in Windows XP. You have to download the Process Explorer here. Then, click on ‘View | Select Columns | Process Memory’. After that, check the ‘Working Set Size’ and ‘WS Private Bytes’ to see the information.

Now you will able to see the data on the working set. This is the actual amount of the physical memory held by each program which is running.

We also have to refer the Task Manager for the display of the private working set. Entire processes will use the physical memory and which can not be shared with any other processes. Hence measuring it often will provide you with a good idea of their impact on the PC.

Now click on the Private Working Set column header 2 times. This will figured out the processes by the amount of the physical RAM they may have been using. After that, check the list to make sure that there are only those processes running, which are only needed. However, if you find any unwanted programs that are unnecessarily loaded at the startup, you must watch their preferences in a way to stop it. You may use the msconfig.exe as your last option.

Memory management

The processes’ working set is having a dynamic figure. Try to run more numbers of programs than your memory could hold. The Windows working set manager will then start to cut back the working sets of the processes which are least active. Few memory pages might not be in use; hence in that case it can be discarded. And rest would be written in to the paging file so as to help in freeing up the RAM you require.

There are many online memory managers for freeing up the RAM, however beware to use those. The reason is that these programs itself allocates huge block of memories and thus forcing the Windows to send more memory pages to paging file. After that it frees up the block instantly. Windows also cuts the working sets of the applications automatically. So you will gain only a little by doing this in advance.

You have to flush out the Windows file caches, and the applications that have the memory paged out would be slower when you try to switch back. And in case your memory manager is running in the background then it must be consuming RAM itself. Hence it is not always recommended to use these RAM optimizers.

  • Windows optimization

There are various other helpful methods by which you can cut the amount of memory usage of your PC. You can also try disabling any unimportant Windows features. For example, you do not require the Aero interface at this moment? Turn it off, and you will be saving at least 40MB space or more.

It is very simple to do, just right-click on the desktop, and select ‘Personalise | Theme’ and then choose ‘Windows Classic’. In case, you already have installed any antivirus tool, turn off the Windows Defender. It will save you another 20MB. You can do this by navigating to the ‘Tools | Options’, and clearing the ‘Use Windows Defender’ and clicking on ‘Save’.

Some also believe that running the Explorer windows in separate processes will also contribute in the improvement of the stability. You can also try it yourself, to do this, launch the Explorer, then click on ‘Tools | Folder Options | View’ and check the ‘Launch folder windows in a separate process’. Well, this will also consume near about 10MB extra for each Explorer window that you may have to open. So it is advisable to troubleshoot the stability issues like reinstalling the Windows, and then disabling the separate process selection.

Various add-ons that may be running on the system are hungrier for the resource and disabling it, will provide huge memory savings. For gaining the system resources, you have to watch out the extensions that may have been installed in the Firefox, IE, Office and various other apps, and try to get rid, if any of them are no longer in use.

For getting information on what basically using your RAM, you can launch the Process Explorer, and click on ‘View | Lower Pane View | Show DLLs’, and then find and click on ‘Explorer.exe’ which is there in the main window. You will see that it has been loaded by many kinds of DLLs for various applications. This means that they are consuming more RAM even if those apps are not running.

  • Windows services

It is always being said that we will get more RAM if we turn off those Windows services which are not necessary. But what does this actually mean? We will see it in this simple example. Let suppose any Portable Device Enumerator service have been enabled on Windows Vista. But we don’t need this, and therefore we will turn it off and this will make a saving of 200KB.

Now we take the Distributed Link Tracking Client which gives the way to track NTFS files in a network. This is a good application, only if you use, since most people don’t use it, we can turn it off, now what, we saved 8 KB. Yes, only 8KB.

Like wise we turn off the offline services and gained 68KB and also the Wireless LAN configuration service, added the memory savings of 208KB. At last, if we kill the Tablet PC Input Service, it will return 32KB space only.

Hence, we see here, even if we disable 6 services, it guarantees an extra saving of only 516KB RAM.

Therefore, it has been concluded that tinkering the services will not offer enough RAM benefits so as to counter any possible dangers. So it is not a wise idea to pursue on this way.

  • Memory mapping

The video memory of 512 video card must have to map with a 4GB address space, so that the software would able to access it. However, it will make this 512MB memory of the system unavailable automatically. RAM will be reserved by the BIOS for another memory mapped devices. In case you have lot of it, you may find that having a less than 3 of 4GB is actually available.

You may also recover some of the memory space if you remove devices which are not in use. You can use the BIOS set-up program; this will help you to disable the integrated devices that are not in use anymore.

  • Paging performance

To make more RAM available for your applications is good, even though the Windows will still be sending data occasionally to your paging file.

It is always recommended that you place your paging file on the fastest hard drive, for speeding up the processes.

You can change the location of the paging file by a very simple method. For doing this, go to the Start button, then right-click on ‘Computer’ and navigate to the ‘Properties | Advanced System Settings | Advanced | Performance Settings | Advanced | Change’ in Windows Vista. Otherwise, you can also go by right-clicking on ‘My Computer’ and select ‘Properties | Advanced | Performance Settings | Advanced | Change’ in Windows XP.

Once you reach there, choose the current drive, and select ‘No Paging File’ and then click on ‘Set’. After that click on the specific drive you would prefer to use. After choosing the drive, choose ‘System Managed Size’ and then click on ‘Set’ again. Reboot the system to complete the job.

  • 64-bit Windows

Well, after trying all those tweaks, you must be thinking to upgrade your 32-bit 4 GB windows to 64-bit 8 GB Windows Vista. But do not think that it will deliver all the benefits that you may be expecting from it.

After upgrading it to 64-bits, 8GB, the Windows kernel no longer restricted to 2GB, which means that they are able to use as much memory as it requires. However, the individual applications may not able to access more than 2GB of RAM if not specifically mentioned or written.

You may not get access to entire memory even if you get 4GB installed in your 64-bit Windows Vista. For this to happen, the motherboard chipset should support at least 8GB of address space and the BIOS also should support memory remapping. This is because the video and other memory allocated by the hardware should also be moved above 4GB of address point. Also make sure that the memory remapping features are enabled in the BIOS set-up program.

Do remember, even the 64-bit Windows Vista still have the hardware allocated RAM issues accompanied by many software and driver problems caused by the compatibility because of this upgrading process from 32-bit to 64 bit.

Comment (1)

  1. Thanks for the comprehensive tutorial. Although I’m still a Windows XP user, this article helps to develop a better understanding on how to optimize the pc memory. I always thought that RAM optimizers were the best solution. But as I see, optimizing RAM isn’t just a matter of using a simple software, or buying some extra memory. It has more aspects and details to consider.

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