– Alex –
Windows Resources vs. Memory
A common topic of confusion amongst Windows 9x users is the difference between resources and memory. If you use Windows 9x, you’ll sooner or later run into a situation where you get an error message about low resources. However, this has nothing to do with the physical memory or RAM that’s installed in your PC. Let’s take a look at what those system resources are, how they get depleted, how you can monitor them, and how they can be refreshed.
The term System Resources actually covers two main areas of Windows memory that are reserved for and used by specific Windows components. They are called User and GDI. Each one of these memory sections is 64KB in size, which is fixed due to the Windows 9x architecture, and cannot be increased.
User system resources refer to the input manager User.exe. It handles input from your mouse, keyboard, and other sources, such as communication ports.
GDI stands for Graphics Device Interface and is in charge of graphic components of Windows. It stores fonts, brushes, bitmaps, and other graphics stuff, as well as lends support to other graphic output devices such as printers.
The term free resources therefore refers to the unused portion of each one of these memory areas and is usually measured in percent for simplicity.
As a side note, versions of Windows that are based on the NT kernel such as NT 4 and Windows 2000, do not have those limitations and handle resource leaks a lot better than Windows 9x.
As you can see, these two resources are vital to Windows and every program that you run. Each application on your PC will consume resources as you run them. Small applications might only use one or two percent, while big programs might consume 10 percent or more. Therefore, your resources will drop with each program that you run. Ideally, once you shut a program down again, all the resources used by it will be released back to Windows so that they are available again for later use by other programs. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Sometimes not all resources are being released and Windows still sees them as being used even though they’re not, which means it cannot make them available to another application. This is commonly referred to as a resource leak.
Let’s clear up one thing while we’re at it. A resource leak is different from a memory leak. The memory leak refers to physical memory, RAM, that was not released by a program after exiting. Similar concept, but unrelated to resources. There are a lot of utilities available on the web and in stores, both free and pay, that claim they can fix those leaks and free up used memory. Those programs can only do this for memory, not for resources. If you see a program that boasts it can free up system resources, don’t even bother. These resources can only be released by Windows or by the program that occupied them to begin with.