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MemWatcher 4.1 review:

MemWatcher 4.1

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The Good Quick installation; customizable, well-designed, and informative interface; visually alerts you when your memory runs low; automatically analyzes memory and recommends settings for freeing RAM.

The Bad Doesn't let you view or change CPU priority of current programs; doesn't give you access to Windows tools such as ScanDisk or the System Configuration Utility.

The Bottom Line If you're looking for an effective, well-organized, unobtrusive memory manager, MemWatcher won't disappoint. Still, we recommend MemoKit or WinRamTurbo Pro for those who want a more interactive memory manager.

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CNET Editors' Rating

7.0 Overall

Review Sections

MemWatcher is one of the more thorough memory managers we've seen. Not only does it reclaim memory without interrupting your daily routine, it also keeps track of system resources in Windows 98 and Me, records activity logs, and automatically frees memory when your free RAM falls below a certain point. It's missing some of the higher-end features our favorite program MemoKit provides, such as the ability to create a report that identifies which programs consume the most RAM or resources. But, assuming that simple memory management is all you need, MemWatcher has you covered. MemWatcher is one of the more thorough memory managers we've seen. Not only does it reclaim memory without interrupting your daily routine, it also keeps track of system resources in Windows 98 and Me, records activity logs, and automatically frees memory when your free RAM falls below a certain point. It's missing some of the higher-end features our favorite program MemoKit provides, such as the ability to create a report that identifies which programs consume the most RAM or resources. But, assuming that simple memory management is all you need, MemWatcher has you covered.

Easy installation
MemWatcher's roughly 1.6MB installation executable downloads quickly. The shareware program automatically places a menu option in Start Menu > Programs and lets you opt either to load it at start-up or manually. And MemWatcher consumes no more than 1MB of disk space, making it ideal for a tight squeeze on a crowded hard drive.

Effective interface
MemWatcher's small, easy-to-understand main window resembles a typical Windows configuration box, complete with six tabs labeled MemWatcher, AutoFree, Alerts, Stress, Options, and About. The two dynamic line graphs on the MemWatcher panel tell you how much free RAM you have and what percentage of your CPU is in use. It's extremely handy to know these statistics, since, in Windows 98 and Me, low resources can trigger a system crash. (This isn't a problem in Windows NT, 2000, and XP, where Windows co-opts drive space--in a swap file, for example--to make up for resource loss.) If your RAM gets too low for comfort, head on over to the AutoFree panel and set a low memory limit. Once your system hits that number, MemWatcher will liberate the required amount of RAM, primarily from running apps that used more memory to load than they really needed to run. But MemWatcher doesn't actually defragment your memory, which puts it at a disadvantage against the competition.

The basics, plus
In addition to reclaiming memory, MemWatcher can analyze your system and recommend how much RAM you need to liberate. Via the Alerts tab, you can instruct MemWatcher to flash an alert icon in your system tray if free RAM falls below a number you set. As it works, MemWatcher logs all of its activities to a file on your hard drive so that you can see how the memory manager reacts when, say, you load a new program.

Stressing your programs
MemWatcher's coolest feature, however, is the Stress tab, which simulates low-memory conditions so that you can find out how they affect your system. Next to "Reduce available RAM by," just enter the amount of memory you want temporarily removed, then enter a check mark in its box. Once that memory is unavailable, each program in memory will react to the low-memory conditions by slowing down, acting erratically, or refusing to run altogether. (Unchecking the box returns the RAM to general availability.) This way, you can determine in advance which programs to avoid running when RAM is low.

What's missing?
Sadly, MemWatcher doesn't offer some of the more advanced tools that MemoKit and WinRamTurbo Pro do. Sometimes, it's important to give a memory-intensive program--such as a database or a video-capture app--more CPU power than other programs running simultaneously. This can help finish that database search more quickly or make that video run more smoothly. When you load a program, Windows automatically assigns a priority level to each program, which determines how much power it gets. With MemoKit and WinRamTurbo, you can view and edit these priorities but not so with MemWatcher. Similarly, MemoKit can detect a program that's supposed to be closed but still leaves its claws in your memory, and it allows you to terminate the offending app; MemWatcher does not.

MemWatcher is an effective memory manager but lacks some extremely helpful, and slightly more advanced, options such as task reprioritization. For those options, turn to MemoKit or WinRamTurbo Pro.

MemWatcher's information screen is easy on the eyes and reassuring in the knowledge that it provides about your memory and resources.

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