Memory Optimizers are annoying back seat drivers

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Memory Optimizers are annoying back seat drivers

Postby Siegfried » Fri Mar 27, 2009 9:17 am

I was reading some news on CNET and I was surprise to see a Memory Optimizer recommended. To put it politely, these programs are 100% rubbish, and I'm stunned that the belief goes on that they do anything useful. There have been many write-ups explaining why they don't do as they claim, yet they keep being promoted as a useful product. We've even been asked to write one... but more on that later.

It's all been said before, but I'll repeat the truth here. A computer is at its most efficient when the physical memory (that is the RAM, not the pagefile) is 100% used. A computer that uses only ever uses part of its memory is either badly designed or has excessive memory. Windows (and other OSes) will try to fill up the memory with data from the most active programs/files so the slower forms of storage (such as hard drives, DVD, network resources) are used as less as possible. Memory Optimizers disturb this by forcing/asking the system to empty the RAM when there is no need to; Windows will do the same by itself as needed. Annoyingly, testing these programs and proving this point is problematic as if you need to do a side by side test of the computer in the same state, over several hours, which is near impossible. Thus, any casual test will make it seem the program is doing good; running a Memory Optimizer prior to loading a program that needs a lot of memory will in many cases make it load faster, but there won't be any long term benefits. Can I prove this? Not easily, but if it was possible to make more free memory this simply wouldn't Microsoft have done it for Vista? :wink:

Interestingly we do have a program that can be used as a bad Memory Optimizer; Obrut! It can do the same thing that the worst type of Optimizers do; allocate a lot of memory, force Windows to find it (often by removing data that will have to be reloaded from the hard drive later), free it, and thus memory seems free. More intelligent types request each program to free as much as possible; and while these are much better, they still serve no purpose. Memory is often deliberately over-allocated by the program or Windows itself so if a program needs some more it's already there. Thus by forcing the program to run with less when the program needs more memory it has to stop and wait until more has been re-allocated. Remember that if a program can reduce its memory at the request of a Memory Optimizer it just means that it would have happened automatically if Windows decided that memory was needed. This isn't proof that the Optimizer is doing good.

People really need to stop thinking that low memory availability is a bad thing by itself; the truth is that it can be bad, but you need to look at the stats more holistically. If you have less than 10% free RAM but your system is running fast where is the problem? Only if your active tasks need more memory than you have available is there a problem, and you'll know when that happens as the computer will be making a lot of noise by loading memory in and out from the hard-drive and your system will slow to a crawl. But no Memory Optimizer will help you there; only doing less at once or buying more memory will make any difference.

I think memory management should be left to Windows. The interesting fact is that even when using a Memory Optimizer Windows still is doing all the hard work, it's just that the system and programs are forced to react to incorrect signals. Microsoft spends a lot of time testing and tweaking memory handling for each OS, and it makes no sense at all to have a back seat driver with a limited view telling the system that it's doing things wrong.
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Postby Siegfried » Tue Feb 23, 2010 5:11 am

There's a good article here that agrees on the angle of memory not allocated is a waste.
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