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How to get my laptop's memory usage to normal?

I own a Toshiba Sattelite-M70......1.86GHz-Centrino, 512 DDR2 RAM, 60GB HardDisk, OS--WinXP Home SP2. Its 2yrs old, worked fine till last month, ZoneAlarm crashed itself thrice, I tried uninstalling--reinstalling (cleanly) but it didn't solve any problem. Now its using up 98% of my memory, system processes are running very slowly. I suspect it may be a memory leak.

I keep watching the windows task manager to see whats going on my system, I found 2 Scanning Processes together using around 50,000K, vsmon.exe using around 10,000K, svchost.exe has 6 proceeses running but none exceed more than 4,000K.

I tried closing some programs to free up memory...Sysmetrix, Windows Live messenger and few startup prgrams to see if it made a difference. To my horror I found the memory I had freed had been taken up by the 2 Scanning processes and vsmon.exe.

If I let my laptop run without making any changes, 2 out of 10 times I found its memory sometimes gets back to normal after 10 minutes or more, and the processes also run smoothly. But it does not last too long. Rebooting does not help.

When I shutdown ZA my memory usage is about 25%--40%.

I dont know what to do about this ZA. Is there any way I can get it to work properly.

I would like to know which firewall, anti-virus and anti-sypware/adware software would you recommend me to install/buy instead of ZA.

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I have never heard of anyone that was happy with ZoneAlarm. Every client that I have ever had that used it ended up uninstaling it after a week or less.

You can use the advanced features of Spybot Search and Destroy to stop some of the resource hungry processes from loading at start up. This might help.

I personally don't use Firewall software. I just do scheduled weekly scans for malware using an array of detection software (e.g. AdAware, Spybot, ClamWin, Avast, HackThis, etc.) and keep Windows updated. I have a hardware firewall on the home network and I use common sense while on the web. I have not had any troubles in years. (Last issue was Blaster Worm)
syd2669Author Commented:
I already have WinPatrol on my laptop, I will give Spybot a try. I don't have a hardware firewall. So I needed a software one. I usually use the net for online references,  rarely for chatting or anything else. So there is less of a chance about any viruses or worms. Also my WinXP is updated regularly....on automatic updates. I run disk clean up once a week.
While it would be helpful to know what two scanning processes are using 50MB RAM, I can suggest you try the following set of freeware security applications to see how they perform on your system.

Comodo Firewall Pro (http://www.comodo.com) - is using about 8MB RAM on my system, and does a much better job of outbound protection than ZoneAlarm free does, in testing I've conducted.

Avira Antivirus (http://www.free-av.com) - uses the least RAM of the three major freeware antivirus programs (AVG and AVAST! being the other 2)

Comodo BOClean (see above) - good resident background antimalware application.  I use it in combination with Spyware Terminator, but with your RAM issues, you may want to try it standalone.
In addition to BOClean, I'd add Spybot and Ad-Aware - both have decent removal capability, and should catch anything that gets past BOclean.
syd2669Author Commented:
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