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1/7/2004
02:56 PM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
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The Explorer: Resource Leaks, Part Four: Final Fixes

Once you've plugged the leaks, take the time to fine-tune your setup.

In Part One of this series, we discussed the how and why of "resource leaks;" what they are, the problems they can cause, and how you can determine if your system is suffering from them. To refresh your memory, resource leaks typically involve two special, fixed-size areas of Windows memory (how much RAM you have is irrelevant); in poorly coded software applications, some of the memory used by an app may not be released when the app closes -- or crashes. Over time, more and more resources may be marked as "in use" even when they're really not. Eventually, there's not enough space available in these two special memory areas to continue working (again, regardless of how much total RAM you have), and you get an "out of memory" error message or crash.

In Resource Leaks, Part Two, I detailed the inner workings of a variety of tools and utilities that claim to solve memory leaks. Along with explaining the pros and cons of "opening holes in RAM," "RAM defragmentation," and related issues, Part Two tells you why these apps can be worthless or even counterproductive. But it does detail one limited and specific use of one particular freeware utility that I feel is worthwhile.

After Part Two appeared, I also covered some ancillary information in my newsletter. In a recent issue of my LangaList, for example, I explained why Windows has memory limits in the first place.

In Resource Leaks, Part Three, I explained a five-part strategy I use that just may let you solve your memory leak problems once and for all -- or, barring that, perhaps reduce their severity to a negligible level. It focuses on the way Windows' various memory subsystems work together -- the swapfile, Vcache, and so on. Part Three is the heart of this series, so if you missed it or haven't yet tuned your system, your best bet is to go back and get tweaking. Once you're done, you'll have a system that's probably far more stable than what you now have.

When the worst leaks and memory problems are resolved or reduced, there are additional fine-tuning steps you can take to refine your setup and preserve its newfound stability. These steps are an extension of Part Three: by perfecting the rest of your Windows setup, you can reduce or eliminate "ripple effect" problems that can cascade from one area to another. These final steps, in fact, can help make up the remaining differences between systems that can run for long periods without resource or memory problems, and ones that can only run for periods of time ranging from a couple days down to just a few hours!

Here's what's involved. As with Part Three, it's not hard, but it touches on many areas, so fasten your seatbelts -- we're again going to be moving fast!

Heavy-Duty Nightly (Automatic) Maintenance
I use a modified version of the "Scheduled Tasks" as set up by the Win98 Maintenance Wizard. You can access the Wizard by typing Tuneup in the Start/Run box, or by clicking on C:\windows\tuneup.exe, or by clicking to Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Maintenance Wizard.

I use the "Custom" configuration option, and manually select and adjust each item. On its own, the Wizard will offer to preferentially position some files at the start of your hard drive ("Start Windows More Quickly"), Defrag ("Speed Up Programs"), ScanDisk ("Scan Hard Disk For Errors"), and Disk Cleanup ("Delete Unnecessary Files"). On some systems, the Wizard may also set up Walign. (See Resource Leaks, Part Three.)

Once it's set up, the Task Scheduler icon will appear in your system Tray, near the clock. (Except in Windows Millennium Edition [WindowsMe] -- but we'll deal with that in a future column.) If you double click on the Task Scheduler icon, you'll see all scheduled tasks and, by right clicking on any task and selecting its Properties, you can further refine and adjust its settings. You also can prevent any scheduled task from running via the "Enable" checkbox in each item's Properties sheet; or can add new scheduled items -- you can run any program automatically -- via the Add Scheduled Task icon.

For example, I prefer Norton's Speed Disk to Windows' Defrag -- the Norton version is much faster and affords more options. I've disabled Defrag in my Scheduled Tasks, and added Speed Disk in its place. Likewise, I prefer Norton's Disk Doctor to Scandisk; I've disabled the latter, and added the former.

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