UPDATED: 86% of Windows 7 PCs maxing out memory ... really?

UPDATED: 86% of Windows 7 PCs maxing out memory ... really?

Summary: I've had so many emails overnight about a story over on ComputerWorld citing data collected by Devil Mountain Software's community-based XPnet claiming that some 86% of Windows 7 machines being monitored are regularly consuming 90-95% of the system RAM that I'm forced from silence to comment.

SHARE:

[UPDATE Feb 21st 2010 14:02 EST: Important revelations about Devil Mountain Software, XPnet, Craig Barth, Randall C. Kennedy ...

... seems some tech pundits have, over the years, been taken in by Devil Mountain Software's CTO Craig Barth, a name that turns out to be an alias for Randall C. Kennedy, ex-Infoworld journalist.

All i have to add to this story is that if you have Devil Mountain Software's Exo Performance Network (XPNet) software installe don your PC, I'd uninstall it, especially given the fact that while Devil Mountain Software claim that data submitted will "never identified as linked to your individual account," this is in fact far from the truth.]

I've had so many emails hit my inbox overnight about a story over on ComputerWorld citing data collected by Devil Mountain Software's community-based XPnet claiming that some 86% of Windows 7 machines being monitored are regularly consuming 90-95% of the system RAM that I'm forced from silence to comment.

OK, let me begin by telling you why I wasn't going to cover this story. Well, I'll be honest with you, it's because XPnet's data isn't a data source that's on my trusted list. Collecting and correlating data is a tricky business, and there are too many mysteries surrounding how XPnet data is collected and what data is collected for me to get a clear picture of what's going on. Those are my thoughts and feelings on the issue, but I encourage you to come to your own conclusions.

OK, but with that out of the way, let's take a look at the claim.

86% of Windows 7 machines in the XPnet pool are regularly consuming 90%-95% of their available RAM

OK, first off, these figures seem way off to me. A quick look at the Windows 7 systems I've running here (which range in RAM from 1GB to 24GB) now shows the highest consumption to be in the region of 42%, and that system has two browser running, a remote desktop session active and a word processor running. This system is a notebook and has 2GB of RAM.

I've asked around a few other folks who are running multiple Windows 7 systems to see if they are seeing anything like what's being reported. So far, no one I've talked to has seen this happen outside of when really pushing the system gaming or other demanding activity, such as running virtual machines or encoding multimedia.

OK, but let's assume that there are systems out there that are consuming +90% RAM. So what? The only time you waste RAM is when you don't use it. If you have 2GB or 4GB or whatever in your system, you want your system to make use of that RAM. Operating systems such as Windows 7 make intelligent use of memory, using it to speed up the OS when no other demands are being placed on it.

High RAM usage only becomes a problem when there's no more RAM to work with because something is hogging the RAM and the system has to resort to disk paging. Problem is, there no data provided about disk paging or page faults, so we can't make any sensible conclusions as to the impact that the memory usage is having on the systems.

Note: Despite this, the article does try to suggest that this causes a problem:

"86% of Windows 7 machines in the XPnet pool are regularly consuming 90%-95% of their available RAM, resulting in slow-downs as the systems were forced to increasingly turn to disk-based virtual memory to handle tasks."

So, once again, assuming that there are a lot of systems out there consuming +90% of system RAM regularly, is it the OS doing this or other applications? The data sheds no light on this:

"... XPnet's data couldn't determine whether the memory usage was by the operating system itself, or an increased number of applications ..."

So there you have it, another blind spot.

Another concern is the use of the word "regularly." A vague word at best, and one that unfortunately gives us no insight into how often memory is above 90% capacity. Spikes in memory usage are common (boot up, firing up an application, or when the system is opening large files), but it's the long-term trends that matter.

Final thought ... if "86% of Windows 7 machines in the XPnet pool are regularly consuming 90%-95% of their available RAM" then a commonality amongst those systems is that they are all running XPnet's data collection utility ...

I've approached Microsoft for comment on this issue, given that the company collects an incredible amount of telemetry on system performance. I'll update this post when I hear something.

(XPnet, via ComputerWorld)

[UPDATE: I just want to clarify a few things. Windows Vista and Windows 7 both incorporate a technology called SuperFetch. This is a feature that monitors which applications and utilities you use and preloads them into memory so they are available for use. This is useful technology that make use of RAM that would otherwise be sitting in your machine wasted.

Another point worth making is the difference between memory reported by Windows as "Free" and "Available" - It is possible for SuperFetch to eat up memory so that the amount of "Free" memory is indeed quite low, but this is not an accurate state of affairs as "Available" memory is what matters as this includes both free memory and memory that the system can free up quickly.

Bottom line, if XPnet is measuring "Free" memory, then under both Vista and 7, this is a totally useless metric.]

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Microsoft, Processors, Software, Windows

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

446 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • 86% of Windows 7 PCs maxing out memory ... really?

    People are getting really desperate to blame Microsoft for any computer problems they may have. Microsoft Windows 7 is using all that memory to make it more efficient. Devil Mountain or whatever they are called are just ignorant on how computers work. Thanks for debunking this issue Adrian.
    Loverock Davidson
    • ...I would be concerned

      What concerns me is what could be running on that site that might cause that type of memory usage.
      Billybob115
      • As he said....

        The 1 thing in common those systems have is their data collector. I haven't seen this and my systems stay around 50% usage at best. 2GB systems as well. Just weird how we don't see any of this, but they claim it as truth on the article. Weird society, I am so lucky I guess?
        OhTheHumanity
        • Sorry, you're wrong.

          There are other things in common.
          For instance, they all run Windows, and are all connected to the Internet, making [i]at least[/i] 3.
          AzuMao
      • RTFA

        Windows is using it for caching/preloading.
        Nothing to do with any site.
        AzuMao
    • win7 and RAM

      Loverock,
      I agree on this one. Win7 has never pegged on my system. Even though it is my secondary OS as you know, Its performance as far as RAM usage is stellar. It has issues but every OS has issues. I say Devil Mountain is way off base here.
      On the side, how goes it man? All good I hope.

      lrfocke
      Louis Ross Focke
      • windows 7 memory

        Devil Mountain is ON TARGET. Our new Sony Vaio (64 bit, 4G RAM) has almost nothing running on it. Every day we get an "out of memory" message. I've checked what's running with CTR-ALT-DEL, and I can't find the problem.
        Kany1221
        • The 3-fingered salute won't show you everything that's running

          in he background. To see everything you need to use something like PRCView. This little guy is a wealth of info. It can show you where everything that is running in the background (the stuff you can't see in Task Manager)is located in the Registry and gives you the option to "shut off" the offending process(es) so they don't start up next time you reboot. I love this tool. Just google for it, you won't miss it.

          As far as your OOM message, have you tested your RAM to see if it's faulty? I know 7 handles mem usage differently than in XP or Vista. If I remember correctly, 7 can deal with a bad mem stick by not writing to the bad areas of RAM and it makes up for it with HDD swapping (swamping, more like). Maybe your RAM is getting too hot? Check your RAM temps lately? Also, make sure your Swap is large enough. You have to have one, I don't care how much RAM you have. A swap is absolutely necessary. So maybe your HDD is too small and it's loading up (this can happen if you let windows handle the swap file sizing on the fly and you didn't have much space free after the installation) with Swap file overload.
          Food for thought is good, testing is better. Don't assume it's the OS without testing EVERY component first. 99% of issues with 7, Vista & XP can be traced back to hardware failures or hardware that has out-of-date firmware. System updates and Driver updates may also be the bane of your Vaio's existance. Now go update all your stuff and let us know where you ended up!
          Dr.Who
        • System Information will tell you if Windows7 is recognizing your RAM

          I agree w/ AK-H; W7 usually doesn't hog RAM (as long as you're running w/ a minimum of 2gb). If you've got 4GB, then it sounds as tho' there's a disconnect between your machine and your ram. If SysInfo isn't recognizing 4GB, Make sure the stix are mounted properly.
          junquemail
        • What a load of rubbish

          What a load of rubbish; firstly you bought a Sony laptop would basically
          invalidates everything you say - if you're stupid to buy their over priced
          crap that quite frankly you deserve everything you get.

          As for the 'out of memory' message - who displays it? what application?
          these messages just don't suddenly appear - you're yet another person
          on this forum concocting scenarios that are based on no evidence what
          so ever. If you had a backbone you'd show us a screenshot of the
          message.

          Screenshot or it didn't happen.
          Macintoshtoffy
          • that's mean spirited.

            You use mean words.
            ed777
          • Why don't you take a stress pill?

            nt
            boomchuck1
        • really?

          It's probably a malfunction
          steveh99
        • Wmpnetwork module=96%cpu-usage on my system

          i run a Windows7, 4Gb ram, 64bit edition-64-dual-core processor(AMD), tablet pc from HP. I get a 95% CPU usuage, whenever I set Windows Media CEnter up to share videos with the other computer on my home network(also HP, win7-64bit, 64-processor.) the next time I opened Windows Media center, the processor report 96% usages. Went to TaskManager, exited the Process tree for Windows media player network sharing module(?name) CPU returned to normal usage(19-42% max)
          so for me the culprit was this Media player module. No other such incident with over CPU- usuage has ever occured before or since.
          YO_GARY17@...
      • RE: 86% of Windows 7 PCs maxing out memory ... really?

        @Kany1221

        Clearly a troll. Instead of offering a plausible circumstance and elaborating on it, you open with "Dumbass Mountain is ON TARGET" so that even spyders can count your remarks as a vote for them--and convince some idiots that the verdict against them isn't unanimous. Typical FUD, like those global warming trolls.

        I agree with Macintoshtoffy, but a heated prejudice toward Vaio owners--while humorous--doesn't contribute legitimacy to your perspective.
        faxrecipient
    • Does It never stop???

      Enough of the BS Kingsly. When do we start ignoring the idiots who post anything, anywhere, to get a little attention for themselves or thier axe. For God's sake we are more than just a culture of victims, we enjoy feeding the needs of lunatics!

      WJ Kennedy
      CATS Network Administrator
      cne@...
      • And your point is??? [nt]

        nt
        Coogol
      • windows 7 memory

        They are not idiots. This is a REAL PROBLEM.
        Kany1221
        • Bullcrap!

          n/t
          tealcat
        • you are wrong

          i have 4 pcs running windows 7 professional and
          none of them are running at 70+%

          I dont think this is a problem.
          millions of people ran the beta version of
          windows 7 and this issue wasn't brought up.
          Now millions more have been sold and only now
          does this issue come up. come one man.

          I call this story FAKE
          blackhawk556