If your PC is running slowly, the cause may be resource gobbling programs using too much memory. To determine if that’s the case, check the Windows Task Manager (keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+Esc), which monitors running processes. Click the Performance tab to see how much total memory the system contains (Physical Memory Total-center left), and how much is being used (Physical Memory %-bottom). While there’s little agreement about optimum memory use, somewhere between 50% and 80% seems an acceptable limit.
In the XP Task Manager, memory indicators are somewhat different. Physical Memory total is at the center right, and memory in use is indicated by Commit Charge (lower left).
Click the Task Manager Processes tab (XP, Vista, or Windows 7) to reveal how much memory each application is consuming.
While the Task Manager continually analyzes processes, it doesn’t do anything about excessive resource consumption. For that, there’s another option–the free Usage Monitor from Veign. This application won’t rein in the resource hogs either, but it warns you when they overindulge at the memory trough.
Following a straightforward installation, it should launch automatically, or it can be loaded through a desktop shortcut.
Note: My shortcut didn’t work until I rebooted the computer. I suspect this isn’t typical, but thought it should be mentioned.
One of the first things I learned is that–with the monitor running–it’s difficult to adjust settings, so it’s handy to know how to start and stop monitoring (found in the Tools menu).
The default alarm (Options menu) is Small Popup. After trying all of them, I decided that was the most effective and least annoying.
The Small Popup is displayed below (in Vista).
To set tolerances, you must first decide which programs to monitor. To help with that, you may want to first open any that consume large amounts of memory (image, audio, and video editors are good examples). Photoshop Elements and Firefox consistently hold top slots on my list (click the Memory Usage header to sort the list by size). Of course, if you’re really bored–or really energetic–you can set alarms for everything.
Note: The numbers in the Usage Monitor were significantly higher than those recorded at the same time in Windows Task Manager but, when sorted by size, the order of large consumers in each was nearly the same.
Once it was determined what gobbled up the most memory—with the large consumers running–I used their numbers for a baseline, and set tolerances from that point. For example, as displayed above, Photoshop Elements showed usage of 231,956 Kb, so I set the alarm at 250,000.
The quickest way to set–or change–levels is to right-click the process and select Set from the Memory Usage menu.
In the Memory Usage Limit dialog box, type a number, and click Ok. From the drop down menu, data quantity levels can be changed.
To learn more about computer memory, click here.
The Usage Monitor won’t speed up your computer, but it keeps you posted about what might be slowing it down. If an over-indulgent program sets off an alarm, but you want to continue using it, you might close something else to free up memory (to avoid continuous reminders, you may also want to stop the monitor). For example, Skype and Outlook are also big consumers on my computer so, if Photoshop sets off alarms, I can close one–or both–of them.