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Loosing Available Memory for Unknown Reasons

Hi Everyone:

        Yesterday, my friend brought to my attention that he is loosing memory even when not doing anything.  For example, when we loaded Tweak XP and opened up a menu window which displayed how much physical memory is on the system and how much is being used at that time, a surprising thing happened.  Little by little, we both saw declines in the system RAM even without opening up additional programs.  Of course when Optimize is selected, the available RAM went back to about 230MB.

         With these points in mind, we are wondering what might can be done to prevent the system RAM from being drained like that.  Should we review and disable a few things within Startup and Services of msconfig?  Or, is this a situation in which adding more physical RAM will be the only fix?  He has noticed that the HDD grinds a lot when loading pages within his Yahoo games.  

          The OS is Windows XP Professional and the amount of RAM is 256MB.  The processor is a Celeron 400MHz.

          Any thoughts or suggestions for correcting this mysterious problem will be appreciated.  I must confess it is a bit strange for the amount of available system RAM to decline even during the absence of performing task.

          I look forward to reviewing everyone's ideas regarding this matter.

         Thank you


4 Solutions
Most likely a virus.  Get McAfee antivirus, or you can get others, online.
e.g. http://housecall.trendmicro.com/

Try those, and eliminate the viruses first.  Next turn to SPYware -- can do much the same.
There are also start menu tasks that will do this, by constantly accessing the internet, or running in the background .  Basically, any icon at the bottom RIGHT of the task bar is fair game to ELIMINATE completely, unless it is crucial for system functioning.  Also check in Startup -- Start - programs - startup folder --  that should be blank on a clean system.  Any tasks there or on the bottom right of the task bar -- stop them ALL to see if it stops.
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"He has noticed that the HDD grinds a lot when loading pages within his Yahoo games." - Seeing as his system is running 256 Meg, I don't doubt that the hard drive is grinding away.  My personal recommendation with XP is a minimum of 512 meg unless your on a really tight budget.  With small amounts of memory, XP is forced to put files temporarily on the hard drive and thus the continuous grinding of the hard drive.
yes, but with doing nothing, memory bleed should stop, under normal conditions....
Any background program could be causing that, including Windows XP services -- directory indexing, virus checkers, icon updates, folder updates, whatever.  In general, it should stabilize at SOME point, but if you have a badly-behaved program, it can slowly eat away.

Sciwriter is correct that in some cases, it could be an app running on the taskbar.  Note that it could also be TweakXP is leaking.  It could also be another service or background app that isn't represented on the taskbar.

You can open the Task Manager, and just let it sit with the list of processes, and see if you can see one whose memory usage just keeps ticking upward.

Reid PalmeiraTelecom EngineerCommented:
there are often a lot of background tasks in WinXP. Things like shadow volume copy, System Restore, network services all can have varying level of memory usage.  You can also have progrms running at startup that have memory leaks. You can check this by looking in the startup folder from start-> all programs->startup and by going to start->run->msconfig->startup tab and unchecking services you know are unnecessary (just make sure you don't uncheck necessary programs). You might also have pieces of malware (spyware, etc.) running on your machine. You should try MS Antispyware http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx or spybot http://security.kolla.de/ or adaware http://www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware/ and see what non-virus, but still malicious software is running.
CHeck here and apply the tweaks given there : http://www.blackviper.com/WinXP/supertweaks.htm

Most of the times extra services running will led to a memory overuse or memory leak. Switching them OFF cud help out.

Also hit CTRL-ALT-DEL and go to the TASK MANAGER > PROCESSES tab and see which particular program is increasing in using its memory. That is the culprit and if its a service program and you can disable it depending on if its critical to the system or not.

Installed programs like Antivirus etc can also keep hogging RAM and see if uninstalling them and reinstalling them again rectifies it. Any program which is closely linked to the system or OS can be a cause of your problem so we need to identify it one by one and eliminate it. Also get HijackThis from http://www.spywareinfo.com/~merijn/ and then post the Log file here (Copy & Paste) it and maybe we can tell you whats wrong.

GMartinAuthor Commented:
Hi Everyone:

        First, we checked the system for possible malicious code.  Luckily, there was not any present.  Secondly, we checked the Startup tab and unchecked everything we felt was unnecessary.  To our surprise, that did not fix it either.  However, when we unchecked several items within the services tab, the problem went away.  Apparently, there was a service or services running in the background which was draining the system RAM.  Since several things were unchecked within the services tab, it is hard at this point to determine the exact culprit for this problem.

       In any case, the situation is resolved.  Thanks again for the tip on modifying the configuration of the Services Tab.



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