November 2000

Insufficient Memory

Do you sometimes see an error message from Windows saying "Insufficient memory to run this application"? You were probably surprised by the message, especially if you have 64 or 128 megabytes of RAM.

The first thing to note is that the program you tried to run is not, itself, the cause of the problem. Windows is telling you that other programs have used up too much memory. Those other programs may be running now, or they may have exited without freeing up all the memory they used.

Should you buy more RAM? That probably won't make any difference. Windows uses a virtual memory system, which means that the hard disk is used as an extension of your computer's internal memory (RAM). If you have 32 megabytes of RAM or more and a few hundred megabytes of hard disk space free, buying more RAM isn't going to help. Your system will run faster, perhaps, but it won't fix the insufficient memory problem.

System Resources

The real problem is that Windows (95, 98, or Me) is running out of space needed by two parts of the Windows operating system, User.exe and GDI.exe. They each have a fixed-size memory area to store information about running programs. As you run more programs, more of this space gets used. Eventually it fills up, and you get error messages, strange behavior, or a system crash.

Windows refers to these two storage areas as user resources and GDI resources. Together they are referred to as system resources. Right-click My Computer, choose Properties, and click the Performance tab. You'll see something like System Resources: 40% free.

Double-click My Computer. Choose Help, About Windows from the menu. Here again you'll see the same number, the system resources as a percentage.

As you open more windows, or run more programs, this percentage will decrease. Microsoft says that a number below 15% is a problem.

Perhaps you don't think you have a lot of programs running. Click Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Information. On the left side of the window, click Software Environment to expand it. Click Running Tasks and wait for the list to appear on the right. This is a complete list of the programs that are running. There's a lot more going on than most people realize.

User Resources and GDI Resources

As noted earlier, the user resources and GDI resources are two separate storage areas. You have a problem if you run out of room in either storage area. For simplicity, instead of reporting two separate numbers, Windows normally reports the lower number as the system resources.

You can see the two numbers separately if you wish. Click Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Resource Meter.

If you don't see the Resource Meter, you have to install it. Go to Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel and click the Windows Setup tab. Select System Tools and then click Details. You should see the Resource Meter in the list of tools. Click to put a check mark next to it, then click OK twice.

When you run the Resource Meter, Windows warns you that the Resource Meter itself will use some resources. Click OK. You'll see a new icon in the System Tray, near the time. It looks a bit like a ladder with colored bars between the lower rungs. The higher the bars, the better. Green is good, yellow is bad, and red is very bad.

Put your mouse pointer on the Resource Meter icon. After a moment, you'll see three numbers, like this: System: 48% User: 48% GDI: 56%. The system number is always the lower of the other two.

Here's a small experiment you can do. First, save any work you are doing. Then run Internet Explorer. When the Internet Explorer window opens, open another one. Keep opening new Internet Explorer windows as you look at the Resource Meter. You'll see the green bars go down the ladder, eventually to be replaced by a yellow bar, then a red bar. At some point you should get an error message saying there isn't enough memory to run the program. Close all of those Internet Explorer windows to recover your system resources.

If you double-click the Resource Meter icon, or right-click and choose Details, you'll get a bar graph showing the three resource numbers. Once again you'll notice that system resources are always the same as either user or GDI resources, whichever is smaller.

Resource Leaks

You were probably able to open many Internet Explorer windows before seeing any resource warnings. This suggests that you should be able to run many Windows programs simultaneously without running out of resources.

That's true if all the programs are well-behaved. Sometimes, however, programs use resources but fail to release them when they exit. This is known as a resource leak, a type of programming bug. Perhaps certain features in your word processing software use resources and don't release them. Over time, the Windows resources will decrease steadily. If you don't restart your computer, eventually you'll run out of resources and get warning messages or a crash.

A different problem occurs if a program crashes. It probably won't release its resources properly, and the operating system may not be able to recover them. So if you use programs that crash a lot, you may see resource problems.

There are programs that claim to optimize resources and prevent crashes. In our opinion, they are not worthwhile. They are likely to make your computer less stable. Of course, it would be helpful to eliminate, or upgrade, any programs that cause resource leaks or that crash frequently.

Aside from eliminating faulty programs, the only way to handle steadily decreasing resources is to restart Windows from time to time. If you keep your computer running all the time, check the resources periodically to see if they are decreasing.

International PayPal Accounts

We have mentioned previously that PayPal ( makes it easy to send payments using e-mail. It doesn't cost you anything to send money with PayPal. Now you can open a PayPal account if you live outside the United States.

RTG accepts PayPal payments for all purchases. Just send your payment to this e-mail address:

Our online order forms now include PayPal as a payment option. This will make it easier for our international customers to purchase RTG products.

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