Skip to main content

Vista Performance - Memory Check

Vista Performance - Memory Check

Before we begin checking memory on your Windows Vista machine, the question "What action are you prepared to take?" begs to be asked. Would you be willing to buy more system RAM? Or invest in a USB RAM key? Alternatively, are you simply looking for zero-cost configuration changes?

For my part, I just wish to give you the benefit of my advice.  I also want to prepare you for the idea that changing Vista settings such as the Pagefile will only produce limited improvement results. However, buying some form of RAM is more likely to speed up your machine, especially if you are currently using only 512 MB.

Diagnosing Memory Performance in Vista

Classic symptoms of memory shortage

Speed is a major factor when it comes to RAM, or a lack thereof. The operating system is slow to initialize, everything about the startup sequence seems in slow motion compared with other machines, and when you launch applications, they are extremely slow when opening.  Any activity that results in reading or writing data to disk results in the program hanging.

True diagnosis - Not masking

As you analyze Vista's performance, beware of one problem masking another problem.  The classic example is slow file access.  What happens is slow disk reads and writes are mis-diagnosed as a disk problem; in reality, this is due to a shortage of RAM.  People have gone out and bought expensive hard drives or solid state drives when they should have invested in more RAM.

Another example, which particularly affects Vista, is one process hogging the processor and slowing down all the other applications.  Adding more memory to systems that already have 2 GB of RAM is not the best course of action.  Better would be to troubleshoot which program or driver is running out of control, and fix that problem.  When it comes to resource hogging, likely culprits may include rogue drivers from hardware designed for Windows XP, and antiquated anti-virus software trying to update its virus database.  For a solution, start with the Process tab in Task Manager, add sort the Images on the CPU column.

WEI (Windows Experience Index) - Find the weakest link

A good diagnosis will save you both effort and money, thus it's worth spending time finding out what, if anything, is wrong with your machine's performance. A good way to improve performance in Vista is to seek out and eliminate bottlenecks.  Begin with a trip to the Control Panel --> System and Maintenance --> Performance Information --> Check your Windows Experience Index.  Is your Memory (RAM) score less than 3?  Does a low WEI score correlate to the fact that you have less than 1 GB of RAM installed?

Think of your machine's performance as an oil pipeline.  Any constriction will reduce flow, thus removing the tightest constriction will produce the biggest increase in throughput.  Indeed Vista's WEI (Windows Experience Index) works on this principle, the final rating is based on the weakest link and not the average of the 5 readings.

Guy recommends: The Free IP SLA Monitor

The IP SLA Monitor offers so much more than just discovering network bottlenecks, the real joy is learning about router traffic. This free monitor effortlessly analyzes and displays the IP statistics.  The key to configuring this Monitor is selecting the data most relevant to your network, for example, ping echo, DNS resolution times, or HTTP statistics.  As a result of a few hours of investigation is that you can set alerts on key indicators, then get on with the rest of your job.

Task manager (Performance tab)

The Task manager is the forgotten tool when it comes to detecting why a machine is running slowly.  For our purpose the key is the Performance tab (not the default Applications tab).

As usual there are at least three ways to launch the Task Manager; my favorite method is the keyboard combination of: Ctrl, Shift and Esc, whereas the traditional method is right click the taskbar or Ctrl, Alt, Del then select 'Start Task Manger'.

Physical Memory (on the Performance tab)

Total = Amount of RAM installed in Kilobytes e.g. 2 GB will be about 2,097,000 KB.

Cached = The more the better! Typically, 1300 MB on a machine with 2000MB of RAM

Free memory = Low is OK.  (This is a new counter in Vista's Task Manger)

Free memory is usually below 50 MB because Vista uses most of the available memory for the cache (see above).  One amusing trick is to launch a few applications - any of the Microsoft Office suite programs would be suitable, take a reading for free memory.  Now close the programs and see free memory rise.  The interesting part is when you return to the machine 10 minutes later and observe how the cache gradually uses up that free memory.  If nothing much happens then try opening and closing programs a few more times.

  • Caffeinecarl
    Shouldn't this be labeled as a Windows 7 article or is it something that got stuffed away somewhere and never released?
    Reply
  • yeah this is about 2 years too late! Is anyone actually running Vista with 512MB RAM?
    Reply
  • matt87_50
    what the hell is vista?? win7 all the way!
    Reply
  • evongugg
    Using flash memory for ReadyBoost is not a good idea IMHO.
    Flash memory is slow. If you want performance, it is better to increase the RAM if possible.


    Reply
  • Tomsguiderachel
    Guys--this is definitely not a Windows 7 article. A lot of people are still suffering with Vista! They need some help.
    Reply
  • This article is BS. Vista needs 2 GIGS MINIMUM, running with 1 gig is only for folks using it as a word processor and email system. Everybody else needs 2 gigs minimum to not have stalls or bottlenecks. Where is this geek getting his information for OCT 2009 article?

    Also, your system can't utilize more than 3 gigs for a single ap with a 32 bit install of VISTA, all 64 bit installs can accomodate loads more ram per application. So for 32 bit systems don't install more than 4 gigs of ram. I say 4 gigs because most ram kits are sweet spot priced to move 4 gigs not 3 gigs, and in the next year or two many more programs will be dependent on the OS allowing a single app access to more than 2 or 3 gigs of ram.

    Reply
  • sixbone
    is guy on crack? he recommends free IP SLA Monitor as a tool to speed up vista, how does the ping time to some random cisco router help speeding up vista. if the clueless 512meg of ram having vista retard can figure out how to use IP SLA Monitor, then i doubt they would be dumb enough to have 512 meg of ram in thier vista box anyway and wouldn't need the tool anyway.
    Reply
  • False_Dmitry_II
    Also flash drives aren't anywhere near as fast as RAM. You'd better have a damn good one to bother with readyboost. Even then, USB 2.0 limited.
    Reply
  • Luscious
    I'm surprised Tom's even bothered with such a poor article. Almost every notebook sold in the last 12 months has been installed with Vista 64 and offered with 4GB ram. The fact that the author even fails to acknowledge the differences between a 32bit and 64bit OS in his discussion of memory usage shows very poor grasp of technology. This is hardly an attempt to
    Reply
  • Luscious
    ...provide knowledgeable info to Tom's readers.

    BTW: Please get a d@mn edit button for these posts, so that I don't get a half-completed comment submitted when I leave the page.

    And when will we get our avatars back?
    Reply