Is a Memory Leak Causing Your PC Slow-Down? - dummies

Is a Memory Leak Causing Your PC Slow-Down?

By Dan Gookin

Software can dramatically slow down your computer when that software leaks memory. Memory leaks happen when a program you run fails to release memory it has used.

Normally, when you quit a program, it says to Windows, “I’m done with this memory.” Windows then lets other software use that memory. You can identify a memory leak by monitoring the computer’s resources. When you see resources dwindling over time, it’s the sign that a program is leaking memory.

To monitor resources, you can use the Task Manager window. The graphs should generally remain steady especially the one labeled Physical Memory Usage History. When this line ramps up slowly over time and you haven’t opened any new programs or done anything on the computer, you have a memory leak.

The Windows Task Manager.

It’s not your job to fix the memory leak; only the program developer can address the issue. For your part, you can narrow down which program is leaking memory all over the inside of the computer. As when you diagnose problem programs at start-up, you must use the process of elimination.

The first thing to do is to start the computer, open the memory usage monitor window in Task Manager, and watch. Walk away from the computer. Let it sit. If the line doesn’t rise over time, the memory leak exists in one of the programs you’re running after the computer starts.

Next, you need to open — one by one — the programs you commonly use and keep the monitor window open. Watch the monitor over time as you use the program. More important, ensure that when you close the program, the memory usage goes down. The most obnoxious memory leaks are caused by programs that don’t quite close completely.

Finally, don’t run the culprit program again. Look for an update or alternative. If running the program is important, recognize that you most likely need to restart the computer after you run the program. Until the developer fixes the code, that’s the best thing you can do.

Windows XP lacks a Physical Memory Usage History graph in the Task Manager window. Instead, it has a Page Memory Usage History graphic, which may or may not indicate a memory leak.