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Low Memory Error

Vivien from Port Charlotte, FL asks:

Every time I receive an attachment in e-mail that requires Windows Media Player, I get a message that my computer is low on memory. I know for a fact that I have lots of memory! What could be wrong?

If I may, Vivien, I would like to start by clarifying two terms that sometimes confuse computer users.  The terms are “memory” and “storage”.  Memory is your RAM, or your system memory.  Storage is the amount of space that you have on your computer’s hard drive, although many computer users think of this as “memory”.

When you get an error message like this, it refers to your available RAM and not to your storage.  Is it possible that you have lots of storage, not RAM?

What your system’s RAM (or memory) determines is the amount of information that you can have open on your desktop at a time.  Every program that you have open at a time occupies a part of that RAM and what the computer is telling you is that you are at or near maxing out your RAM capabilities.

The way to check your RAM in Vista is to click on start>control panel>system.  That will open a window that looks like this.  Your total RAM is highlighted in red in this example.


What this WON’T tell you is how much of your memory is being used at a time.  For that, you can either use your Task Manager or a system monitor similar to the one pictured here.


You can download one for your Windows sidebar here, or you can access your Task Manager by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Alt+Delete. From the list that appears, choose Start Task Manager. Once there, click the Performance tab at the top. This will provide a look at how much memory is in use.


In a graph like either of these, if your RAM bar is at or near the top, that means that, between Windows and your other open programs, your system is using most or all of its available RAM.  This can usually be remedied by simply closing one or more of your open programs.

I hope that this helps.

~Randal Schaffer