Windows 7 desktop gizmo reveals annoying escalating RAM demands.
March 30, 2010 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Windows 7 paranoia: the desktop CPU/RAM clock doohickey is now the central preoccupation of my life. But I'd like to know why does my RAM usage continually creep upwards?

I stumbled my way through building my own decent-spec PC recently, installing Windows 7 and my regular host of programs and games without very much bother. It all works splendidly, and thanks to the Microsoft desktop CPU & RAM clock gizmo, I'm aware of the toll each program takes to run, and haven't even halfway taxed my system's capabilities yet - my usual activities are browsing with Opera, dl'ing to an external HD with uTorrent, some iTunes (background processes of which are turned off), video playback in WMPClassic and some relatively low-spec gameplay (my heaviest game being Mount&Blade).

But despite my low-stress demands, I notice my RAM usage always creeps upwards from 25-28% for the hour or so after startup to a constant 45-50% several hours later. RAM usage hovers at 50%... with me staring at it... and closing every open program... and still staring at it... and then checking task manager... and still staring... and then running C-Cleaner... all to no avail until I restart, after which RAM is back running in the 20's for a few hours.

Task manager reveals no extraneous processes from any user.

CPU and graphics temperature readouts are in the green.

No overclocking.

I want to know is there any way I can restore my RAM usage to startup levels without actually restarting? What is commandeering more and more RAM over the course of the day and does that translate to poorer performance if I haven't rebooted in the past ~24 hours? Is it possible for a program to continue making demands on the system even after all instances of it have long been closed?

My basic specs: Windows 7 64bit Home Premium, 4gigs RAM, Intel i5 2.67ghz core, GTS250 graphics card, 4 fans, fluffy dice.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Try "Show Processes from All Users" in Task manager, it'll show you some stuff that may be hidden from you (stuff Windows is doing in the background).

Also check out some of the tools from SysInternals that should get you under the hood of what's going on in your computer.
posted by MesoFilter at 8:43 AM on March 30, 2010

posted by T.D. Strange at 8:44 AM on March 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

Memory Leak
posted by jckll at 8:45 AM on March 30, 2010

If the gauge is measuring physical memory usage, then this is probably just an indication of caching, which is completely normal. Since reading data from disk is much slower than getting it from RAM, the operating system will try to cache frequently-used disk blocks in memory to avoid having to retrieve them over and over again. This doesn't mean the memory is unavailable for programs; if necessary, the OS can just throw away the oldest cached data and reload it as necessary. You can check this by opening Task Manager and looking at "Physical Memory" under the Performance tab.

In fact, ideally all of your system's memory would be used either for applications or cache. RAM with no useful data is basically going to waste.
posted by teraflop at 8:52 AM on March 30, 2010

Since one of your questions is, "does that translate to poorer performance", I assume you haven't actually noticed any effect on performance. Trust me on this: shut down that gizmo, and just use the computer. Why worry about RAM if 50% of it is free?
posted by The Mouthchew at 8:56 AM on March 30, 2010

I want to know is there any way I can restore my RAM usage to startup levels without actually restarting?

There is no reason for you to want to do this. What your post actually says is that you really have twice as much RAM as you normally need for day-to-day usage.

What is commandeering more and more RAM over the course of the day and does that translate to poorer performance if I haven't rebooted in the past ~24 hours?

Like other people have said, it's probably caching pages you read from disk even after you are done with them, with the expectation that you might need them again in the future.

Unused RAM isn't useful for anything, you wouldn't see much difference between 25% used and 95% used. What you need to worry about is hitting 100%, at which point your OS must swap out data to disk, and will start thrashing about. If you still have a 100% safety margin, you are OK.
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:04 AM on March 30, 2010

You can check how much memory is being used by each application by going to the "Process" tab. (If you do options|select columns you can change the memory measurement. I like "Working Set", which I think is all the memory being used, paged or not)

Right now I have 5gb used, but most of the 'large' applications are just using 200-300 mb (explorer, Firefox, dwm and java, running eclipse) Weirdly, google talk always wants a shitload of ram for god knows what. Right now it's using 200mb. Some services are using a lot too, like the free MS antivirus thing is using 100mb, MySQL is using 130, etc.

My theory is that a lot of these apps are keeping a lot of things cached that they'd otherwise drop if memory was tight. Instead they're luxuriating in my PC's massive amount of ram (12gb).
posted by delmoi at 10:20 AM on March 30, 2010

Yeah, it's Superfetch/caching. It's supposed to do that. It's a good thing. Don't worry about it. Worry about interactive performance which you inheritly monitor by using the computer. If it starts to feel slow, then you should start digging in.
posted by chairface at 10:22 AM on March 30, 2010

To amplify the superfetch link: this has been behaviour in Linux for over a decade, with aggressive caching of the filesystem into whatever isn't in memory, but people who come over from (e.g.) Solaris often panic about "the server is running out of memory" when it actually has hundreds of megs free.
posted by rodgerd at 1:27 AM on March 31, 2010

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