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XP Home Clipboard. Where is its data stored? RAM, page file, where?? Can it be got at other than with clipbrd.exe?

A strange message has appeared twice recently in my Clipboard Viewer. I paraphrase: "Contents are stored in binary data only and cannot be viewed in Clipboard Viewer. You can try pasting contents into a document." In each case the item in question was a long Facebook comment, as it so happens. However, in this question, I will only refer to the second, most recent comment (as little follow-up was done after the loss of the first, though the circumstances were identical). I had been highlighting and copying this comment at regular intervals as I went along, typing as I was directly into the website. Then the Facebook tab I was using crashed, immediately recovering itself (I was using IE8), my text lost however. But most of the text should have been 'on the clipboard'. It was - or something was - but was, as stated, unviewable in Clipboard Viewer. And I only looked at the Viewer because I could not paste back into the FB comment box. Nor, following the suggestion on the viewer, could I paste anywhere else (stupidly, I did not try Notepad, but did try Word, Paint and Wordpad). So, I went on a hunt to find something which might display the binary data as readable text. But, I needed to find where the data was. Bringing up clipbrd.exe itself just produced the programme's script in the various formats (Hex., etc.) provided by a free gadget I downloaded, my FB comment nowhere to been seen there (though various bits of readable text were - including the message quoted above!). After a LOT of googling, I found several blogs where the same question as mine was being asked, the general conclusion being that data saved through Clipboard sits in an unidentifiable place within the RAM or the Page File. No one - including an MS staffer - could say more really than, "If clipbrd.exe knows where it is, that's good enough." I should mention that a clipboard saving gadget that I use had no record of the lost comment. My guess is that the announcement about relapse into binary data on the Viewer really just meant "Gone. Wiped." But, it would still be useful to know where clipbrd.exe stores its data. Maybe it picks and choses, depending on other variables (type of document, size, amount of free memory, etc.). However, if it knows where its saved item is, it should be possible for it to tell someone else too, logically.

The moment has passed (and in future my longer FB comments will be written into a document first!). But any firm knowledge on this topic would be read with great interest.
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williamlambton
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williamlambton
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LMiller7Commented:
Clipboard data is stored in memory. However, this memory is pageable so the system can copy or move this data to the pagefile at it's discretion. There is no way an application can control this or know when or if this has happened. There is no documented method of accessing this data other than the provided functions.
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dbruntonCommented:
There are a number of utils out there that supplement Clipboard.

For example, I use ClipCache Plus http://www.xrayz.co.uk/ which makes a copy of anything that is copied and saves it to file.  I can thus access anything that has been copied.

ClipCache Plus costs money but there are free alternatives out there that do much the same thing.
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williamlambtonAuthor Commented:
LMiller7! Most useful. Ditto, dbrunton. Thanks both. Anyone else seeing this may have some clue about the error message I received i.e. what would cause Clipboard erroneously to lose its data?
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dbruntonCommented:
Suggestions only.

Clipboard has not identified the contents of the clip correctly and believes it to be non text.

Or possibly the Facebook page contained binary (non text) data that was not visible to the viewer.  This seems unlikely though.

You selected a graphic as well as text in Facebook.  This could explain the binary data.
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williamlambtonAuthor Commented:
Thanks! It's usually reliable copying just about anything off a FB page, including mugshots. I think the IE8 mini-crash, which may have occured as I pressed Copy, did it, and the text was being backed up frankly overfrequently. Moral possibly, if not not to waste time Facebooking(!), then just compose long answers elsewhere.
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BillDLCommented:
Hi William

I think your moral suggestion is the way to go.  I have lost countless comments here that have taken quite some time to type into the comments field.  In a flash the typed text is gone with no chance of recovering it from anywhere, so I usually type up any lengthy comments, or ones that require cross-referencing as I type, into Windows Notepad and then paste the contents into the comments field in one go.  Windows Notepad can be funny though, and double-space lines when pasted into other text fields, so I usually remove word-wrapping before copying from there.

The Windows XP Clipboard Viewer is really just a slightly updated throwback to a couple of the old Windows optional extras:

Windows 3.1 "clipbrd.exe" - see equivalents below.  I can't recall how it compared with the later versions, but I do recall being able to use the PrintScreen or Alt + PrtScr keys while the utility window was off-focus, and it would reappear in focus with the screenshot contents that could be re-used elsewhere, deleted from memory, or saved out as a *.clp file for re-use.

Win95 optional utility program on CD: "clipbook.exe" - see Windows 98 equivalent below.
Win95 optional utility program on CD: "clipbrd.exe" - see Windows 98 equivalent below.

Windows 98 Resource Kit System Tray "cliptray.exe" utility.  I believe this just allowed for a System Tray quick access icon that either ran as a self-contained program with merged functionality of the programs below, or called one of them into use.

Windows 98 Optional utility program: "clipbook.exe" - allowed you to paste into its interface and create separate pages, and optionally save out as a file of the *.clp extension for re-use.  Required that a primitive "Service" (clipsrv.exe) be running or ready to run.

Windows 98 Optional utility program: "clipbrd.exe" - provided similar functionality as "clipbook", but was intended to work more as the "viewer" than the "book" to hold all the clips.  It had the additional menu options of being able to view the clipboard contents in multiple formats so that you could transfer information between programs that use different formats, save out data to *.clp files and re-use or share them over a network.

Windows 2000 installed utility program (probably as an optionally uninstallable accessory): "clipbrd.exe".  Extended version of earlier equivalents that added security options for ownership, permissions, auditing, plus direct transfer to named computers on network and Unicode support. Requires the clipsrv.exe Service to be running.

Windows XP "C:\WINDOWS\system32\clipbrd.exe".  Sparsely updated from the Windows 2000 version.  Requires that the ClpSrv Service be running (C:\WINDOWS\system32\clipsrv.exe)

I'm not sure if you are aware, but Windows has for a long time supported the insertion of "Objects" into applications that support this, such as WordPad, Microsoft Office Applications, etc.  It uses a function referred to as "Object Linking and Embedding".  You can scroll over text or an image in an editing window and drag it out to create a "scrap" with the *.scp extension, and then drag it back into another window.  You can do the same with a saved *.clp file or other type of file into say WordPad to create an Object that will run when double-clicked.  Using the anciend old "Object Packager" that is still present in Windows XP (C:\WINDOWS\system32\packager.exe) you can modify the Object.  Of course, all these functions have risks, so some may be crippled by security patches.

The Windows XP Clipboard Viewer just provides the means to access and SUPPOSEDLY view whatever has been saved in the various formats copied to memory.  I don't think there is any reserved block of memory used exclusively for storing copied data, because as we all know it is possible to copy a LOT of data in one go for pasting elsewhere.

I can replicate WHAT you witnessed when trying to view and recover your lost text with the Clipboard Viewer, but cannot explain WHY you were not able to paste the last data copied into a supported application window.  Take for example the Google UK homepage, which has mixed content (http://www.google.co.uk).  If I scroll over everything that I see on that page, including the image, and do a Ctrl + C to copy it, I can then open the Windows XP Clipboard Viewer and see some content that is immediately recogniseable.

The pre-selected option under the "View" menu is "Default Format", and this shows the text-based content.  Under the View menu I can choose any of the "text" type options and still see the same content as text of varying appearances, but if I choose "Locale", I am immediately shown the message you were shown:

"The information is in binary format.  ClipBook Viewer cannot display this format.  To view the information, try pasting into a document"

When I revert back to "Default Format" or any of the "text" options under the View menu, I again see the text-based contents held in memory.  All the while I am still able to paste the entire contents that I copied into Microsoft Word, WordPad, FrontPage, etc. intact.  If I do a Save As and save the contents to a *.clp file, then open it in Notepad, I am clearly able to see the various data formats such as HTML, Rich Text formatting code, the image ObjectData code, the plain and unicode textual content, etc.

I suspect that you may still have had the copied data available for pasting back to an application that supported the data format(s) contained in memory despite the error being shown to you.  Perhaps the data presented some security risk that Windows blocked.  Maybe it would have pasted back into your Facebook page again.  It looks like, for some reason, the clipboard viewer was trying to show the content in a format that it was not able to do.

The Windows ClipBoard is really pretty crap and has not evolved substantially beyond its primitive forebears.  Now, maybe I'm being too critical when it may be the case that something is restricting the functionality of the Cipboard Viewer on my system, but if you look at the screenshot image attached you will see that there are an awful lot of greyed-out options on that View menu.  That was a *.JPG image I copied, and it just represents it in the clipboard viewer as the path to the file.  The "Drag-Drop Data" option doesn't do anything different.  According to the help file I should be able to view the data in different formats.  The image data is still there in memory to paste into an image editor or other supported application window though.

I suggest just sticking with Notepad to type up your stuff then copy and paste when done.

JPG-Image-Copied.jpg
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williamlambtonAuthor Commented:
@BillDL! Most informative, though I shall have to read your extensive answer in the daytime (it is 'night' here, but in fact early morning, if you get me). I am rather enjoying this forum. At least people address the actual issues. Most useful! If you will bear with me, I will study your analysis probably tomorrow (actually today, Sunday) and respond. William.
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BillDLCommented:
Hi William
>>> "it is 'night' here, but in fact early morning..." <<<
It was the same here also at the time.  I'm on GMT (well actually now British Summer Time) also.  I'm a night owl ;-)
It wasn't so much an "analysis", but really just a background about the ClipBoard and a narrative of its apparent deficiencies on my XP system which has SP3 and IE7 not 8.

I would be curious to know if yours behaves differently, or if you can replicate the situation (without crashing IE) and see if you get the same situation.  I don't use FaceBook, so I couldn't begin to guess what formats may have been copied.
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BillDLCommented:
For an actual "analysis" of ClipBoard functionality it gets very deep, and I wouldn't profess to understand all of it.  However, in the following page:
http://www.codeproject.com/KB/clipboard/archerclipboard1.aspx
the author describes something very well in saying:
"The verbiage 'placing data on the Clipboard' is really a misnomer as the Clipboard is not some sort of global data buffer. Actually, the Clipboard is little more than a handle to a data buffer that is created and maintained by the application that is making this data available for other applications."

In other words, no specific area of system memory (and that extends to Virtual Memory) is set aside exclusively for storage of copied data.  It's just another operation amongst the millions of instructions firing away behind the scenes where data is pumped in and out of memory.

To keep track of where everything is, what each item comprises, what its intended use is, how long it should be stored for, where it is destined, who it belongs to, who else can have access to it, etc, etc, a computer's operating system maintains a continuous tracking system in the form of a kind of inventory using Handles and Pointers.  About the closest analogy I can think up is a very large auction house.

Instead of having to refer to one or more items being auctioned at the same time by a description, they use a Lot Number which will be unique for the duration of that auction.  An index card exists that fully describes the items, gives a storage location (ie. rack, shelf, and position on that shelf), gives details of the seller and any reserve price, is updated with the buyer's details and price paid, etc, etc.  It would be unmanageable to send the auction porter through the back to fetch the next stuff up for sale armed with information like:  "three 18ct gold Edwardian brooches in red velvet-lined box being sold by Mrs. Donkin, 75 Victoria Street, Morpeth with reserve of $1,750".  Instead they just use a Lot Number and the porter and auctioneer gets the required information from the index card when required, and it is updated to reflect the progress and final results of that auction.  When the auction session finishes, the Lot numbers are re-used and the shelves are refilled with new items.

A similar thing happens when a process is launched and requires that some data be temporarily placed in memory.  A "handle" is assigned to it, and thereafter all the fetching and reusing of whatever the data is references the handle.  Because processes are being tracked, the operating system knows what handles originated from what process, and where all the fragments of data are to be found in memory.

Another analogy demonstrating how Windows DOES NOT work is the picking process in a large storage warehouse, where an operative assembles goods to make up a customer order.  That order number, committed to the database, forms what would be the "Lot Number" in an auction.  The picker doesn't generally go around looking for 3x 750g McSaturated Oven Fries, 2x 350g bags of Healthy Choice steaming vegetables, etc.  No, he/she is directed by the picking note to a specific location by bay, rack, shelf, and position, there verifies the product code and item description, and picks the given quantity.  The difference here is that the order tracking number remains unique and is sequentially allocated, and the locations of specific items is constant and unique to comply with the database's requirements.  Windows couldn't possibly work that way, because data must be written to whatever memory area is available at the time.

Memory usage in a computer isn't sequential.  It's like customers using a supermarket car park.  They don't all drive in an line themselves up in one row, then fill up the car park in zig-zag lines filling all the spaces sequentially.  No, people park or sit wherever they want to, and generally leaving as big a space either side of their car to try and avoid some idiot smacking their car with a trolley or car door.  It's a bit more like buying your cinema ticket and then having to go and sit in the specified seat, even if it's next to some slob who keeps bashing your elbow, slurping his drink, farting and belching, and dropping popcorn all over the place.

Just like files are written to just about any free space on the hard drive, and often get dumped in separate areas, often a piece of data in memory is not in a continuous block but scattered about a bit, as would be the case if you arrived at the cinema just before the movie started and couldn't all get seats right next to each other.  In that example, had you paid for your tickets with a bank card, your name would be the "handle" by which cinema staff could locate all the members of your party if that need ever arose.

Of course, sometimes things are less than perfect, and a process can ask for data in memory to be fetched and it isn't where it should be, leading to an error.

I hope this gives you some food for imagination, even though it isn't really intended as an explanation why you lost what you were typing up in FaceBook ;-)
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williamlambtonAuthor Commented:
Back soon on all this. As regards the Facebook comment (which had something to do with the new American health bill vis à vis the Britsh 1940s model, for the interest of a lady in Alaska - so, not a critical loss), all that was shoved into random memory areas, or wherever, was plain text, as I would if highlighting this note and clicking 'copy' - no more. As it so happens, I have been thinking about the handles and what not the programme Clipboard would use to remember where the saved data was; even pea-brain here can see it must know, have a firm link, even if strictly temporary, or else the stuff could not be told to go somewhere else. I think the villain was simply the extent to which I was highlighting and copying: far more than the routine. I only have a little computer and other appications were running (a Word doc, possibly Outlook also). These quick-fire commands to clipbrd.exe may have been too much on top. So, it simply forgot where my text had been put and used the message in its fairly limited list of messages which closest fitted the bill. Back again to read all your stuff a second time. Like you, I tend (too much, in my case) towards night-time computering and intend to call it off here shortly! (... says he). I am in Ireland and altogether a GMT freak. It irritates me that, for example, Facebook uses Pacific Time as its base-time. Global applicatyions should only use GMT/UTC. m'thinks.
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williamlambtonAuthor Commented:
Hold your fire! Will the entire thread be wiped once closed? Please advise. I have yet to respond properly to some of the longer suggestions. Time and movements are constraints! This is sent after dark from a bridge in the middle of an Irish bog.
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BillDLCommented:
So you're doing a "Father Ted" exchange assignment then?  :-)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebVWM5ZKTEg
Still, it could be worse.  You could be grounded at the airport due to volcanic ash!
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williamlambtonAuthor Commented:
Most interesting! I have now managed carefully to read each of BillDL's quite long pieces, having been brought up sharp for neglecting a thread I started. In fact, in the log I keep, the requirement upon me to return here has been writ large for some time. However, novices spend a great deal of time re-booting, or being drawn away by some disaster or another, the luxury of settling into an Experts-Exchange armchair not an available option, sometimes for long periods.

Thanks for the links to XRayz and CodeProject, the latter entirely out of my scope, if a glance at it was good enough - however, the link is saved.

I understand clearly the concept of an index, or more precisely subdivisions. Much sense in the world is lost through excessive compartmentalisation, labelling, indexing and the neutering consequent upon these. The stuff Clipboard grabs, when so instructed, in the RAM or back-up Page File must in a manner be 'snapshotted' or a link made by something to it so that a copy of all of it can be pasted elsewhere - in the case of my Facebook comment, presumably it, Clipboard/Book, just grabbed a pre-existing handle and 'gathered it unto itself', Facebook itself having already used something in the OS similarly to grab and hold the the same data, a conjuction thus existing between FB and Clipbook. IE8, and thus FB, crashed. If that corrupted the handle held by FB, then Clipbook, if holding the same thing, may have shaken itself free. Programmes often produce meaningless, 'catch-all' error messages.

View options in Clipbook never noticed before - thanks for drawing attention to them. Yes, I knocked up the same error message too, under Locale. With that set, a piece of ordinary text still pastes. I think if the text has been 'treated' by special formatting, eg is bold, Notepad gives you the commands to create a bold type not the bold type itself - I think. Anyhow, the one medium I did not try to paste my FB comment into was Notepad (as already noted).

I can conclude that Clipboard is fragile. It is saving nothing, just grabbing something another unit has place in memory, rather like a second porter noting the whereabouts of a lot already put on a shelf - or scattered over several shelves - by another porter, both knowing the lot by a number more than the items which make it up, the inventory of the lot having been made up elsewhere. I still think that that thing which knows where the bundles of data are, and provides the handle enabling them to be grabbed, could share the information - doesn't it with the apps which save Clipbook data?

Father Ted is an English production - thus, as an Englishman, I am conscious that the Irish may be being mocked by it; it is as well to keep an eye glanced over the shoulder. However, it is so deeply rooted in aspects of Irishness that the Irish themselves find extremely funny it is, whilst produced by - I think - Granada, Hibernian in its imaginitive scope (with apologies to historian JJ Lee, whose expression that is).

I have copied the whole thread to the Clipboard.  
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williamlambtonAuthor Commented:
Good forum.
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BillDLCommented:
Thank you William :-)
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