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My system is dragging; do I have a memory leak?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / January 14, 2011 3:57 AM PST

My system is dragging; do I have a memory leak?

I am looking for some good and relatively simple software I can use to detect a memory leak. I'm running Windows 7 and I have to reboot every other day or my physical memory gets too high and significantly slows down the PC. I have used Process Explorer but can't find programs with exceptionally high usage. Everything looks normal.

In fact, it almost seems like Windows is using up memory somehow, but doesn't know it, because it doesn't seem like all the running processes add up to the total amount of physical memory in use. Do I have a memory leak somewhere? How can I tell? Any advice or tips to help me solve this mystery would be appreciated.

--Submitted by Trey A.

Here are some member answers to get you started, but
please read all the advice and suggestions that our
members have contributed to this question.

What is a memory Leak?--Submitted MarkFlax

Memory leak & amount of RAM --Submitted john.ford1

Memory leak --Submitted SeaDog416

Windows 7 memory management --Submitted mkisaacs

Thank you to all who contributed!

If you have any additional advice or recommendations for Trey, please click the reply link below and submit it. Please be as detailed as possible when providing your advice and if you are recommending a product, please provide a link. Thanks!
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memory leak Win7
by KLMCats / January 14, 2011 9:14 AM PST

Wondering if problem thar I am having might be related. Win7 will no longer "hibernate", only "sleep", trying to find a good time to reload my system.

What I suspect... per system event logs I have about a zillion errors from Bonjour (iTunes) each day - like every few seconds. Not sure when it started, reason why I plan a complete reload.

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memory leak Win7 by KLMCats - January 14, 2011 5:14 PM PST
by yadurpravin / January 21, 2011 6:12 PM PST
In reply to: memory leak Win7

by KLMCats - January 14, 2011 5:14 PM PST
In Reply to: My system is dragging; do I have a memory leak? by Lee Koo (ADMIN)
Wondering if problem thar I am having might be related. Win7 will no longer "hibernate", only "sleep", trying to find a good time to reload my system.

I have used windows 7 ultimate 32 bit in the past. Once while I was doing disk clean up I accidently deleted the hibernation file. And so could not any longer do hibernation.
This is what I think has happened in your case also. Best way while performing disk cleanup just leave the hibernation file (unchecked)undisturbed.

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accidently deleted the hibernation file ... always !!
by gregzeng01 / January 22, 2011 1:07 PM PST

All my PCs (netbooks, notebooks, smartphones) have M$ Windows, which is so bad (unreliable, spyware, malware, etc) that I have Linux derivatives (SuperOS or Android) on all of them.

I always delete the hibernation file. Nothing goes wrong at all.

BTW: M$-NTFS-compressed files/ drives are not compatible with M$ Windows nor other operating systems. If you dare M$-NTFS-compressed drive C:, you will destroy it completely ... the "bootmg" file should NEVER be M$-NTFS-compressed.

Only use NTFS-Linux drive format.

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(NT) hay there..
by syib4u / January 24, 2011 11:08 AM PST
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sorry the window closed 'hay there' continued
by syib4u / January 24, 2011 11:19 AM PST
In reply to: hay there..

I have an old XP Compaq 512 RAM that doesn't go into standby or hibernate.
It had been unable to start at all (no nothing) for months and the day I was going to dump it I pushed the power button and it went on.
I had to factory restore it twice.
I use it sparingly but after finding a place in another room for it suddenly the standby problem started.
The point is, is there a way of restoring the power control functions after they have stopped working.
I figure you worked on that problem already that is why I ask. I tried once or twice to find an answer but I didn't find one.

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Hardware and driver problems...
by JCitizen / January 25, 2011 6:09 AM PST

You might try opening the system unit case and see if all the motherboard plugs are truly seated onto the motherboard. Otherwise, you probably have a defective PSU. I assume you went to the Compaq site and downloaded the latest drivers for your unit?

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Slow windows 7
by colo39 / January 14, 2011 9:14 AM PST

Windows 7 is memory hungry, and you are probably short of ram. I would suggest at least 4 gig of ram. I personally have 8 Gig. DDR3 Ram is cheap now, and if your Motherboard supports more than 4 GIG add more. 8 Gig of DDR3 1600 ram cost AU$158 in Australia.

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Windows RAM (Memory)
by consultapro / January 14, 2011 9:44 PM PST
In reply to: Slow windows 7

Keep in mind that a 32bit based system really only can see about 4GB of memory. Putting more memory in a 32bit system can actually have reverese effect. If you have 64bit ... go to town .. but 32 stay with no more than 4GB

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FALSE: "32bit based system ... 4GB of memory"
by gregzeng01 / January 22, 2011 1:28 PM PST
In reply to: Windows RAM (Memory)
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Win7 is NOT memory hungry !!
by gregzeng01 / January 22, 2011 1:22 PM PST
In reply to: Slow windows 7

Every operating system ever becomes memory hungry if you run commplex, multitasking, high-i-o, high-cpu, high GPU programs. To read/ write these forums can be done with very little memory.

Check today's BIG-W (chain store) publicity pamphlet. Wn7-64, Atom-Duo, 320GB HDD, DVD burner, webcam, st gb DDR2 ram, 18.5 inch LCD display, stereo speakers, mouse/ keyboard, WLAN-bgn, USBx4ports, 12 mmths pickup-return warranty, desktop unit: $548 AUD.

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mem prob
by bardmann / January 22, 2011 4:14 PM PST
In reply to: Slow windows 7

the guy who posted add more mem if you have win 7 32 bit the max is like 3.5 geg.
in early versions of xp they did have a memory leak and it would fill up all the time till
microsoft got a patch out to fix it.
I think it is fixed but who knows ,did you check if maybe you are being used as malware or virus problem or botnet.

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Windows 7 dragging
by peacerocker / January 14, 2011 9:15 AM PST

Found this for you, hope it's helpful.

Microsoft has been tracking some odd issues that occur on Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. These bugs are not typically fixed via Windows Update, because these hotfixes should only be applied to systems that are experiencing specific problems. So if you are not severely affected by either of them, wait for the relevant service packs. Here are the four most prominent issues, listed in order of decreasing severity.

The first manifests itself when the computer crashes after it runs for some time, with the user seeing the following BSOD (the four parameters vary depending on the computer):

STOP: 0x0000000A (parameter1, parameter2, parameter3, parameter4)

Microsoft explains that the issue occurs because Power Manager opens an Advanced Local Procedure Call (ALPC) port and closes another port instead of closing the ALPC one, resulting in a successive memory leak, leading to an eventual crash. If you're affected, this is for you: Hotfix Request.

Few users realize the second issue is a bug. As described in KB958685, it affects all versions of Vista, Windows Server 2008, and Windows 7. If the user puts the notebook to sleep while its lid is still open and then afterwards closes the lid while the computer is still asleep, Windows will only display a blank screen and a mouse pointer upon wake. This continues until a key is pressed or the mouse is clicked. You can wait for the next software update that contains this hotfix (SP1 on Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, SP2 on Vista) or you can click this: Hotfix Request.

The third issue is described in KB978789 and specifically applies to computers with chipsets from the Intel 5 Series or the Intel 3400 Series families coupled with Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate. Using a USB bulk storage device that has pending control and bulk traffic with such a Windows-based computer will result in the device becoming unresponsive, with the iPhone mentioned as a culprit.

Microsoft doesn't have a hotfix for this problem, suggesting that the user contact the computer/motherboard manufacturer for a BIOS update.

The last problem is explained in KB975360 and affects all editions of Windows 7. It is only evident with computers that have a quad-core processor and support multitouch, and involves the Microsoft Rebound game from the Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows 7 not responding if you try to launch it. Since this is entirely a Microsoft problem, here's the solution: Hotfix Request.

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I want to express my gratitude . . .
by WintermuteX / January 21, 2011 9:42 AM PST
In reply to: Windows 7 dragging

. . . to your post - I believe there is an inherent arrogance on many forums for individuals to simply post links or offer sophmoric one sentence responses that are really a disservice to those seeking information. I myself was guilty of such arrogance at one point in time. This post answered my issues - to the point - now things are rockin' and a rollin'.

Peace out

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Windows 7 memory management
by mkisaacs / January 14, 2011 9:39 AM PST
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May be Rootkit or Hidden Driver Malware
by consultapro / January 14, 2011 9:43 AM PST

Hello, my name is Jeff and I own a small computer repair business -Consult A Pro, Inc. What I have found is that systems that run slow with no apparent reason usally have hidden drivers and/or rootkits. I suggest scanning your system with root revealer or another root scanner. Also in certain cases I have seen corrupt AntiVirus programs do this as well. In this case just uninstall the AV program, see if the symptoms go away, and then reload the software from the original source.

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Firefox, RAM Recovery
by MrFurry / January 14, 2011 11:51 AM PST

Firefox also has a known issue where it just starts sucking up RAM and processor cycles for no apparent reason, that has not been addressed yet.

Also, I would suggest installing a RAM Recovery/Defrag Utility. I have used Rambooster for years, and still do, though I had to go with RAMRush on my 64-bit OS.

Though it is not about memory leaks, I just read an article that suggested even if your OS can't address more than 3.5GB (32-bit Windows), you can install more RAM, use the excess for a RamDrive, and move your Page/Swap file there, to speed up your access time as well.

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Memory Leak
by SeaDog416 / January 14, 2011 1:15 PM PST

Actually, even today, the same holds true.....reboot at least once a day. It clears out the memory buffers(cache). Certain applications (Microsoft Office, et al, among others), require the exclusive use of specific memory address'. When you "exit" the app, it's supposed to release the lock on those memory address', but reality says otherwise. After I reboot my pc (AMD PhenomII @ 3.2ghz X 4, 4gigs G.skill, Vista...blah, blah), physical memory shows 38-40% in use, 48-72 hours later 65-70%....time to reboot

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Memory Leak & Amount of RAM
by john.ford1 / January 14, 2011 2:41 PM PST

Many times when a computer essentially runs out of memory it is due to Windows itself not releasing the memory allocations after they have been used and are no longer required. A good example of this is when you have your computer up and running and it has been off the night before and your Anti-Virus program starts to run a complete scan to catch up due to not running the night before. When the scan has completed at times this memory allocation is still in "use" even though it is no longer needed by the program. The same for Microsoft Office as this program needs to run using certain memory addresses and ties those addresses up even though you have shut down Office. Be careful that you do not see the blue screen of death as it were due to memory allocations being overrun and causing your computer to crash once and for all. Memory has to be carefully monitored and taken care of.

Most would say the best solution is to add more RAM. In most cases you will not be able to add more as most computers created today are shipped with all the memory slots used and with the maximum amount of memory already installed. Should you have a computer that will allow you to increase to more RAM make sure all the RAM you use is of the same type and speed do not mix and match this will cause even more problems. To use 8 GB of RAM you must be running the 64 bit version of Windows and the 64 bit versions either have already been installed when you purchased your computer; or have been installed by you using a clean new install of everything to setup and use 8GB of RAM. I wish you the best and I hope between every one you will find the answer you are looking for and things work out for you.

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Antivirus is a memory hog.
by jamepie / January 21, 2011 1:15 PM PST

A very true statement. The antivirus program can eat up memory. Also check if your system has a video card on the MOBO. That uses some of your memory. I bought a 512 MB card for $59.99, on sale, That helped so I did not have to share any system memory. That is not that way on a laptop or netbook. They are on board and it is too costly to replace it as far as I know, now.

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Memory leak / Ram
by jrobinson.106 / January 21, 2011 7:25 PM PST

People have a tendancy to defrag their hard drive and forget about their memory chips, Ram has to be defraged also so as to keep your PC up to speed, there is a program called "MemTurbo" which I use and find very affective and usefull, i don't seem to have any problems, I run a 250gb HDD and 2gb RAM and have no problems at all.
James H.

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Memory Leak & Amount of RAM
by elmarioc / January 22, 2011 2:48 AM PST

You did not address the problem. Adding more RAM (if possible)is NOT a solution... it only alleviates the existing problem, which eventually will use the additional RAM and... you are back to square one.

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Check Your Virus-Ware
by 2dogday / January 14, 2011 4:33 PM PST

Some of the new virus protection programs use an enormous amount of memory while in use, generally running continously in the background. Buying the most expensive protection is not always wise if you are not running a business or own a bank. Happy I made that mistake and had nothing but trouble until I deleted my Virus protection. However, it must be done when you are completely off-line; that is, you have unhooked your router from the wall, but your computer is still on. Go to Start; Control Panel; Add/Remove list. Search for your virus protection software; check out how many Megs it uses (If more than 300 MB, you probably don't need it all), then highlight it and click on Remove. Turn off the computer completely, and back on again, but still disconnected from the router, and see how it works. If the problem is solved, plug your computer back in and go to C-net and download the free trial of Avast! If your computer still runs okay, keep Avast on and buy it. For only 35 bucks, it works great.

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What is a Memory Leak?
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / January 14, 2011 8:38 PM PST

I'm not entirely sure. Definitions suggests it is where an Operating System, (in your case Windows 7), is unable to release RAM when some application or other is closed. There is more information on memory leaks here;

It is not entirely the fault of the OS. Software writers should arrange their applications to free up memory when the application are closed, but often they don't bother, and so the application's data remains in memory until a reboot. A reboot clears all RAM.

But is this a problem? We can't say on your system because we don't know how much RAM your computer has.

There is a general misunderstanding about memory usage. People often think that high RAM usage is bad, but that is not necessarily the case. If RAM is not utilised then it just sits there, unused. For example if your system has 8 GB of RAM and memory usage is at 50%, then 50% of the RAM is not being used; that's 4 GB of RAM not being used. Surely that is not good?

Many retail computers nowadays have between 2 GB and 4 GB of RAM. For normal usage, eg internet use, watching videos, managing emails, documents, photos, listening to music, and so on, even 2 GB of RAM is plenty and will rarely be fully utilised. Windows 7 is a more RAM hungry OS than other any other Windows OS; It has more Processes and more Services running in the background, but even so, it's own memory usage is nowhere near the amount of RAM supplied in today's systems. However, if this is an older system with limited RAM, that has been upgraded to Win 7, then the new OS may indeed use a lot of the available RAM. But generally it is only when RAM extensive applications are used, for example, video editing, graphic design, and so on, that RAM usage can soar.

You say that 'performance is dragging', and although you don't go into detail, the causes for that can be many. For example;

1] Malware infection. The biggest culprit in slow performance systems is viruses and other malware.You should always use a firewall and an anti-virus scanner of course, and the anti-virus should always be kept up to date, should always be running in the background, and should be scheduled to run regular, (daily if possible), full scans. But anti-virus is not enough nowadays and we also need anti-malware scanners. Some combinations are toxic. For example the old favorites like an AV, (anti-virus), with Spybot Search & Destroy or with Lavasoft's AdAware, no longer work well because they often conflict with the AV. So we need stand-alone manual scanners like Malwarebytes' Anti-malware and/or SUPERAntiSpyware to run regular manual scans, but not in the background, and not daily.

2] Start-up programs. Having too many applications load on boot-up, (start-up), will slow boot-up and will unnecessarily use RAM. Reducing the number of applications that load at Start-up can greatly speed up the start-up process, and will keep RAM free for other uses. Windows has it's own utility for controlling start-up programs, called the System Configuration Editor. To use it, goto the search option in the Start bubble and use the search option to search for Run.The results will list in the start menu. Click on the Run it finds and in the new box type in MSCONFIG and click OK. In the "System Configuration Editor" window that appears goto the Startup tab and investigate the entries there. Remove any ticks for applications that you don't need to load at start-up, eg any media players, any instant messengers, any browsers, etc; anything that you can just as easily open when you actually require it.

3] Perhaps the easiest way to release memory is to shut down when you are not using the system.

4] If you mean that browser use is slow, then review the Add-ons your browser is using. Too many, or add-ons that are suspect, can affect browser use.

5] Disable any unwanted or un-needed Services. There's no easy way to do that except to work down the Services list in the Services Console, (do not use the MSCONFIG Services tab for this), and check what each service is and whether it can safely be disabled or set to manual. However, Black Viper has his own list of Windows 7 Services which will help the decision process.

6] Ensure that the system is set to manage the Page File, (Virtual Memory), itself, and don't input your own limits.

That is just some of the steps that can be taken to improve performance. I hope it helps.


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Would this also apply to Windows XP Pro?
by lsjparalegal / January 21, 2011 10:05 AM PST
In reply to: What is a Memory Leak?

I sometimes experience something similar. I don't need to re-boot every day (thank goodness). I don't game, download music or videos. My needs/uses are pretty simple. I use the internet for research (for work - I'm a contract litigation) paralegal); email (for work and personal); word processing programs, and that's about it. Nothing too esoteric; pretty much the basics. I have a good anti-virus program (Webroot; programmed to scan every day); up on MS patches, etc.). But my system can be terribly sluggish at times.
Technical stuff: OS - XP Pro SP3; 2.30 GHz; 768 MB RAM.
Would suggestions for 7 apply to me?
Thank you.

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In my experience...
by JCitizen / January 21, 2011 12:27 PM PST

Webroot products are a disaster waiting to happen if not already. I run AdAware, Avast, SuperAnti-Spyware, and MalwareBytes Anti-malware with all the real time protection running at once, and have none of the issues reported in the previous post.

I now feel that SAS is better used as a scanner only, but their protection scheme is in constant flux and improvement, which may make it difficult in deciding which is best in the future. I have very many security programs on my PC, which is a Vista x64 unit with 6Gbs of RAM and I use about half of it at any given time. I need the extra RAM for HD video authoring.

The only program I notice leaving memory behind in RAM, is FireFox. I use a few plug-ins on it, and they may be the cause. But I get only half a tick on my meter in extra usage on that one, so I don't know how it really is relevant to the subject here.

My biggest slowdowns are from cookies and all the attending traffic caused by servers consulting them, and also advertisements and the attendant traffic tracking those too. You do need to get malware off the PC, but AdAware keeps most of it off before it gets a chance to get on your PC in the first place. AdAware also has the amazing ability to clip all wasted communications by servers looking for cookies and tracking and service to advertisements that may come into your temporary files. CCleaner can lower this problem, by frequent cleaning, but I can't even get some pages to load at all without AdAware Free with AdWatch turned on.

I recommend Avast as the AV to use with all these anti-malware utilities, because they work together, and are free for my indigent clients. Only Avast, AdAware, and Spy-bot Search and Destroy are free for real time protection. I've had some problems with sluggish performance in the past with Spybot and no longer recommend it, as I found more malware upon scanning with Adaware and noticed it kept more of the crap off the PC than the old venerable SS&D.

AdAware is a memory hog, but like many of the advisers say here, using memory isn't a bad thing, if it boosts performance. My web-page downloads are faster than I've ever had them, in my life! If things start getting a little slow, I update AdAware, and do a quik clean with CCleaner, and PHOOFF! No problems! You don't even have to scan with Lavasoft's AdAware to notice a marked difference in download performance. Sometimes just updating and doing that alone is enough to solve the problem.

P.S. - Host files go a long way in blocking unnecessary advertisements. Most like AdBlock Plus in Mozilla - some like MVPS for Internet Explorer; but really SpywareBlaster does a good enough job of blocking on both of them, and protects against Active X malware; all without using a smidgen of RAM! I've noticed a performance gain with all of these, but even after blocking almost all the ads, I've still noticed performance gains by using AdWatch real time protection on AdAware.

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Suggestion for XP-Pro users
by Zivtu / January 21, 2011 6:21 PM PST

Try upgrading your memory to 2 Gig. In most cases it's like turbo charging your computer. Good luck.

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Very true...
by JCitizen / January 22, 2011 5:33 AM PST

I no longer have any clients with less than 1Gb of RAM for XP.

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Mostly, yes.
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / January 21, 2011 7:20 PM PST

The suggestions I made also apply to Windows XP, and BlackViper XP SP3 also has a list of Services for XP.

If you are happy with Webroot then that's fine. although I would consider the additional anti-malware scanners I gave, eg MBAM or SAS, just to check that nothing gets past your main anti-virus scanner. No anti-virus scanners pick up all threats, not even the best ones.

In your case, (and it has already been suggested), the biggest gain you could get would be to increase your RAM. 768MB is fine and works with XP, but more is better and you will see a definite performance boost. If you are in the US you could visit and take their scanner test to see whether your system RAM could be updated, and if so, to what.

Hope that helps.


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UPHClean for Memory Release
by not dead yet / January 22, 2011 4:00 AM PST

I had the same problem with XP: excruciatingly slow logging on and off, and memory freezeups. I went to Microsoft and downloaded and installed UPHClean (user Profile Hive Cleaner) which has an excellent READ ME included. UPHClean opens itself on startup and when your PC shuts down it forces release of all the (memory) handles that accumulated since last shutdown, releasing memory back for use. Better than adding new memory, simple and automatic.
Good luck.

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thanks Mark for the advice
by longplainfirstnation / January 21, 2011 7:07 PM PST
In reply to: What is a Memory Leak?

I limited my virtual memory and it effected my entire system. Looks like Mark beat me to the punch.

great post

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