Any decent corporate training seminar will tell you that an effective manager never interrupts your daily routine but remains alert in the background, quietly clearing obstacles as his or her employees perform their jobs. FreeMem Professional applies the same principles to memory management. Unfortunately, FreeMem lacks many of its competitors' advanced features, including resource charting to monitor your PC's available system resources. We recommend MemoKit, a more system-savvy manager. Any decent corporate training seminar will tell you that an effective manager never interrupts your daily routine but remains alert in the background, quietly clearing obstacles as his or her employees perform their jobs. FreeMem Professional applies the same principles to memory management. Unfortunately, FreeMem lacks many of its competitors' advanced features, including resource charting to monitor your PC's available system resources. We recommend MemoKit, a more system-savvy manager.
FreeMem comes in two versions: Standard (a free app) and Professional ($19.95 shareware with a 30-day free trial). Each download file weighs in at around 800K and doesn't take long to download. To set up the program, simply open the download; the app installs almost instantaneously and adds an icon to your Start menu.
A simple, smooth interface
Unlike WinRamTurbo Pro's cluttered interface, FreeMem Pro's interface is Spartan. Its small, dialog-box-like interface floats over roughly one-sixth of your screen and contains seven index tabs: Free Memory, Statistics, Background, Startup, Icon, Idle, and About. The About tab links to FreeMem's help file, and five other tabs (Icon, Idle, Startup, Background, and Free Memory) let you access and adjust several settings. The Startup panel, for example, lets you opt to run the program at start-up, and the Idle tab lets you determine how long your PC's CPU should idle before RAM defragmentation kicks in (and thereby saves you the trouble of monitoring your RAM yourself). Finally, the Statistics tab simply displays a dynamic graph of the RAM currently available for your applications. If you don't have the FreeMem window open, you can still find out how much free RAM you have by checking the FreeMem icon in your system tray. But, unlike MemWatcher or MemoKit, FreeMem Pro doesn't show free RAM as a percentage of total memory, which would give you a better sense of how much memory you have available.
Defrags your memory, nothing more
Make no mistake: FreeMem Pro does manage your memory behind the scenes. It constantly defragments and frees up RAM as you work, which is good because it's as important to defrag RAM as it is to defrag your hard drive. As programs and data load and unload over time, RAM becomes fragmented, leading to sluggish system response and a higher chance of crashes. Also, some Windows applications require a lot of memory to initialize but less to run, and they forget to unload it afterward. FreeMem automatically searches out and reclaims that memory. To free your RAM manually, simply right-click the FreeMem system tray icon and select the amount of RAM you want to liberate from a short group of options.
But unfortunately, that's all, folks! FreeMem Pro cannot optimize your disk cache (as MemoKit and WinRamTurbo Pro do) nor will it test programs for their capacity to run under very low memory conditions (as MemWatcher does). It doesn't let you change the CPU priority of individual programs, so there's no way for you to allot extra processing power to memory-intensive programs (MemoKit and WinRamTurbo Pro both let you do this). Additionally, FreeMem doesn't report low resources and resource leaks (programs that don't relinquish system resources when you quit), a hidden terror on Windows 98 and Me that leaves you open to sudden crashes. (Windows NT, 2000, and XP treat low resources like low memory, using your hard drive as a swap file to make up for losses.)
You can get good help these days
We did find one feature that sets FreeMem Pro apart from the competition. Many memory managers, including WinRamTurbo Pro, contain boring, lengthy, text-only help files. FreeMem Pro's help files, on the other hand, offer context-sensitive topics with hotlinks, making it easier to get information quickly.
Fair to middling
Although FreeMem Pro makes it easy to free your PC's memory, it can't compare with apps such as MemoKit, which, among other things, alerts you when your resources are running low. For anything but basic memory reporting, go with MemoKit.