Although bare-bones memory managers are often effective and uncomplicated, many of us would gladly sacrifice ease of use for an app that lets us access the nitty-gritty details of our system's resources. WinRamTurbo Pro provides you with a wealth of knowledge of and control over how Windows programs consume your memory, including a list of individual tasks and the RAM they require. As much as we admire WinRamTurbo, however, its current version is missing a few key features, including a low-resource alert. WinRamTurbo is a good bet, but for an even more comprehensive memory manager, try the similarly priced MemoKit. Although bare-bones memory managers are often effective and uncomplicated, many of us would gladly sacrifice ease of use for an app that lets us access the nitty-gritty details of our system's resources. WinRamTurbo Pro provides you with a wealth of knowledge of and control over how Windows programs consume your memory, including a list of individual tasks and the RAM they require. As much as we admire WinRamTurbo, however, its current version is missing a few key features, including a low-resource alert. WinRamTurbo is a good bet, but for an even more comprehensive memory manager, try the similarly priced MemoKit.
Simple download and installation
Check out CNET Download.com, and you'll find two versions of WinRamTurbo--the freeware and Pro editions. Neither download is larger than 1MB. To install either edition, just deposit the ZIP file in a temporary directory, then double-click the setup executable; the program does the rest. The freeware WinRamTurbo lacks many of the key features you'll find in the shareware WinRamTurbo Pro ($20), such as a cache optimizer, which speeds program loading. But if you don't need many extras, the price is right.
A take-command interface
WinRamTurbo's interface--a small, movable window that covers about one-fifth of your screen--crams a large amount of material into a tiny space. In addition to the requisite bar graph that charts your system's free resources, the window contains a memory and swap file bar graph, a digital display of your computer's uptime (how long it has been active), and a dynamic line graph of available resources. There's also a toolbar that lets you access settings and documentation and set WinRamTurbo's window to remain on top of all others. Beneath the graph, you'll find sliders that let you set how low WinRamTurbo should allow your memory to get before it reclaims RAM and exactly how much space the program should free at that point. You can either set the RAM recovery sliders manually or use the Tune RAM Settings button and allow WinRamTurbo to examine your system and make its best guess. Whew! That's a lot of data in one window, and, frankly, we find the interface somewhat redundant and confusing. For example, why place buttons for clearing the Windows clipboard and Recent Documents folder in a bar devoted to application-specific activities?
More than standard operations
Once running, WinRamTurbo performs all the most common memory management tasks: it automatically frees up RAM, reclaims memory from apps that require more RAM to load than to run, and defragments RAM. But wait, there's more! WinRamTurbo's Task Manager window (available from a button on the far right of the toolbar) displays all the processes you're running along with their individual priorities. Anytime you launch a program, Windows assigns it a priority code (real-time, high, normal, idle) that determines how much computing power it gets. From the Task Manager, you can change priorities or terminate them altogether by right-clicking a task and choosing from a list of priority options. This is very useful when you want to focus all of your CPU's processing power on a specific memory-intensive task, such as video rendering.
But while we admire WinRamTurbo Pro's powerful Task Manager and solid basic skills, its interface isn't as easy to customize or as focused as MemoKit's. For example, the Task Manager doesn't let you sort processes alphabetically, by priority status, or by amount of memory consumed, which are useful options, especially when you want to locate the memory hogs on your system. Note, too, that WinRamTurbo Pro's generally effective help file is behind the times; it doesn't discuss the Task Manager at all. For more comprehensive help, registered users can log on to a private board for support or send e-mail to the company. We generally received responses in 24 hours or less.
Danger ahead: low resources
WinRamTurbo Pro is missing another feature we love in MemoKit: a resource alert. Resources are separate from memory (RAM), and memory managers can't reclaim them. In Windows 98 and Me, low resources can crash your PC as quickly as low memory can. (Windows NT, 2000, and XP automatically use drive space to create additional resources.) When your resources get low, MemoKit launches an automated alert so that you know that the problem exists and that you should close some programs. With WinRamTurbo, by contrast, if you want to track low resources, you have to keep the program's main screen floating on top of your work--extremely awkward.
Thanks for the memory
These drawbacks aside, we found much to admire in WinRamTurbo Pro. We appreciate its level of detail, as well as the fact that it defragments memory efficiently and lets you reprioritize processes. Make no mistake, this is one of the more effective and thorough memory managers out there. But WinRamTurbo's unfocused interface, unsortable task-management screen, and lack of a low-resources alert force us to recommend MemoKit instead.