infoTECH Feature

February 19, 2010

Windows 7's Memory Problem: Yes or No?

'Most Windows 7 PCs max out their memory, resulting in performance bottlenecks,' Craig Barth declared.
Computerworld's designated Mr. Everything Microsoft (News - Alert), Gregg Keizer, reported that Barth, CTO of Devil Mountain Software, uses data from his organization's community-based (XPnet) to discover 'an unsettling trend.'
On average, Barth has found, '86 percent of Windows 7 machines in the XPnet pool are regularly consuming 90 percent-95 percent of their available RAM (News - Alert), resulting in slow-downs as the systems were forced to increasingly turn to disk-based virtual memory to handle tasks,' in Keizer's words.
ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes (News - Alert) scoffs at any alarmism, noting 'Collecting and correlating data is a tricky business, and there are too many mysteries surrounding how XPnet data is collected and what data is collected for me to get a clear picture of what’s going on.' 
Industry observer John E. Dunn writes that 'Devil Mountain Inc draws its stats from its 23,000 PC (XPnet) network running XP, Vista and Windows 7, so we can take its conclusions seriously,' but still thinks the 'claim that Windows 7 gorges on memory is unusual.'
Nevertheless, 'this is alarming,' Barth said of Windows 7 machines' resource consumption. 'Windows 7 is not the lean, mean version of Vista that you may think it is.' True. As Keizer say, usually hardware's way ahead of software.
This 86 percent mark for Windows 7 is 'more than twice the average number of Windows XP machines that run at the memory saturation point, Barth said to Keizer, who added 'the most recent snapshot of XPnet's 23,000-plus PCs - taken yesterday - pegs only 40 percent of XP systems as running low on memory.'
Barth said he wasn't sure whether the memory usage 'was by the operating system itself, or an increased number of applications,' but promised Devil Mountain would find out.
'These figures seem way off to me,' Kingsley-Hughes wrote. 'A quick look at the Windows 7 systems I’ve running here (which range in RAM from 1GB to 24GB) now shows the highest consumption to be in the region of 42 percent, and that system has two browsers running, a remote desktop session active and word processor running. This system is a notebook and has 2GB of RAM.'
Kingsley-Hughes said he's 'asked around a few other folks who are running multiple Windows 7 systems' and 'no one I’ve talked to has seen this happen outside of when really pushing the system gaming or other demanding activity, such as running virtual machines or encoding multimedia.'
'The vast majority of Windows 7 machines over the last several months are very heavily-memory saturated,' Keizer quotes Barth as saying. 'From a performance standpoint, that has an immediate impact on the machine.'
According to XPnet's polling, Keizer reports, 'Windows 7 PCs sport an average of 3.3GB of memory, compared to 1.7GB in the average Windows XP computer. Machines running Windows Vista contain an average of 2.7GB.'
'My suspicion is that these figures are being cocked by something,” Dunn said. “I notice the company reports that 85 percent of Windows 7 machines were found to be running at peak I/O load, while 44 percent were overloaded processor-wise. This hints that the machines in question are probably not up to running the OS and might be older machines upgraded from XP. In that case a memory upgrade on its own might not be enough.'

David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Amy Tierney

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