Turbocharge your PC's memory
- By Earl Greer
- Mar 14, 2000
If your PC's performance mysteriously starts to drop after several minutes
of work, MemTurbo probably is the solution.
Here's why: As you load and exit programs, blocks of your computer's
random access memory (RAM) tend to remain unused and isolated. New programs
that you fire up get scattered in memory rather than in contiguous blocks.
The result is dramatically slower performance and delays as the system relies
more on the hard drive-based virtual memory to run programs. You might even
experience system crashes associated with low physical memory.
MemTurbo from Silicon Prairie Software solves the problem by doing what
Microsoft Corp.'s Windows should have done in the first place. When your
physical memory, or RAM, reaches a low threshold, MemTurbo defragments it — just as a disk defragmentation program does for hard drives — and reclaims
Installing MemTurbo was easy to the point of being trivial, and the
program does not require significant resources to run. The program used
only 2K of memory on the Windows 98-based PC it was tested on. It does not
take excessive CPU cycles, and the defragmentation of memory caused the
CPU to run more efficiently because it found data in its cache more often.
MemTurbo's main window shows how much physical memory is required to
run different programs. Some programs are called "leaky" because they use
memory and don't release it when they are finished. Other programs err by
leaving unused Dynamic Link Library (DLL) files in memory when they exit.
Everyday programs are among the worst offenders. For example, launching
and then closing Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer 4.0 consistently left
the machine with 6M less physical memory. On the other hand, Internet Explorer
5.0 released practically all of its memory upon exiting.
MemTurbo enables you to set your own threshold to trigger RAM recovery
and to set the target level of memory to recover. Beware of setting the
target level of memory to recover too high. The test computer's performance
suffered as necessary DLL files were flushed out of memory. Use the default
levels until you have enough experience with your own system to adjust these
settings appropriately for your own activities.
MemTurbo also lets you trigger RAM recovery at will. When your performance
level slows, it can be gratifying to click on an icon or press a hot key
and suddenly have maximum performance restored. RAM recovery took about
two seconds on a Hewlett-Packard Co. Vectra with a 166 MHz Intel Corp. Pentium
processor and 48M of memory.
The status display provides a Memory Load Index statistic to show the
ongoing demand for RAM on your PC relative to how much is available. If
your usage is 100 percent, then you have proof that you can benefit from
purchasing additional RAM. But until your new RAM arrives, MemTurbo will
help you live with what you have.
— Greer is a senior network analyst at a large Texas state agency. He can
be reached at [email protected]