Vista Annoyance – Close programs to prevent information loss

by Christoph Menge in Software

During the last days, I stumbled across a very annoying feature of Vista very often: The resource exhaustion manager. It tells me to close Visual Studio and the Desktop Window Manager. OK, shall I close the lid of the computer and go to sleep, too?

Annoying Feature

However, the situation gets worse when I opened mspaint and took the screenshot! Now, a low memory warning popped up. The bad thing is: There are still 1777 MB which are used for caching, according to the Task Manager! On the other hand, it reports a page file usage of 2851 / 2939 MB, and shows a graph with 2.36 of 3.00 GB Physical RAM usage – rather strange?!

Update: This post is now almost two years old, but it’s ranked pretty high in the search engines so I felt it was worth an update. Bottom line: don’t disable virtual memory. If you didn’t do so, it might have been disabled by a third party software or by accident. To re-enable, go to Control Panel -> System -> Advanced System Settings -> Advanced -> Virtual Memory. You might have to delete the existing file, pagefile.sys.

Windows is pretty smart when it comes to using resources effectively, but there is quite a bit of dark magic involved. The swap file plays an important role. If you really know what you’re doing, however, you can disable the warning.

In another thread (thanks Arthur), users report issues when using TrueCrypt, so TrueCrypt users might want to head over to Arthur’s. I haven’t checked out Microsoft Dynamic Cache Service, but I haven’t really felt the need. End Update ;-)

I see the point in caching frequently used files in the RAM, but an easy way to control this caching behavior would be nice. Due to the fact that I have installed 1GB of Intel Turbo Memory anyways, caching should have a very low priority in my case, I think.

Worst of all, I kinda saw it coming: I acquired a habit of ultra-multi-tasking when using an XP machine with 3GB of RAM … that was almost three years ago, and now that programs have a considerably larger memory consumption, I need more RAM – which is not possible unless you switch to 64 bit, which is fraught with its own perils, especially when it comes to laptops.

NOTE: I have virtual memory disabled completely.

Memory Consumption

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3 Comments

  1. Scott Bussinger says:

    Like you, I have a 4 GB Vista machine with virtual memory disabled. I do all my development in virtual machines which use lots of memory and use IE7 and Outlook. I’m seeing this warning message a lot.

    Like you, it seems like there’s still a fair bit of memory available at the time in the system. I thought perhaps it was just my machine, but it’s got to be something about running Vista with virtual memory disabled.

  2. Arthur Penn says:

    I had this problem too, but the resolution turned out to be interesting: http://devarthur.blogspot.com/2008/07/vista-page-file-in-netherworld.html

  3. itsme says:

    I’m sure that you must have figured this out a long time ago, but you need a page file of some sort. Many people mistakenly think they can improve performance by eliminating the paging file. You can keep it small, but you need to have one.

    WHY? Because the page file is used for more than paging. It’s also used as a backing file for modified memory. In a nutshell (and I’m simplifying here), windows must be able to write any piece of memory to a file, and YOU CANT STOP IT. If you have a page of memory that was read in from an executable program and one of those pages has changed, Windows must have some place to write the changed copy of the file. If the page hasn’t changed, it can just read it from the disk again. If it has changed, Windows will at some point write that page to a disk file. Windows can do this at any time up until that program terminates.

    When it writes any changed pages to a disk file, where does it write them? The page file. It’s not intuitive, but it’s what happens. It’s a little bit different than the way you normally think of memory being paged.

    Even when you turn the page file off, this is still happening behing the scenes.

    To accomplish what you are looking to do, look for the Microsoft dynamic cache update. It will help clear up the dysfuncitonal caching algorithms in 20003/vista/2008. Read the directions 10 times. There are some subtle things in there that if you don’t follow them exactly, the update does nothing for you. Best to just allocate the cache once across the board instead of on a per application basis.

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