A modern operating system should be able to keep track of everything that's happening. After all, that's its job. But Windows doesn't know how to.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

Why Windows misbehaves, Part 1:
It runs out of one kind of memory at 64 kilobytes

March 12, 2000

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright ©2000, Al Fasoldt
Copyright ©2000, The Syracuse Newspapers

   Every now and then I get a desperate letter from someone asking why Windows still runs out of resources (an area of memory) even after a big memory upgrade. How can a PC with tons of RAM run out of memory so frequently?
   The answer might surprise you. Get ready to be disappointed.
   Windows runs out of resources when all 64 kilobytes of resource memory are used up.
   Play the tape backwards. Rewind the movie. Read this part again.
   Windows runs out of resources when all 64 kilobytes of resource memory are used up.
   You read it right. That's all the memory Windows can handle when it is keeping track of things. It's less than 1/100th of the memory of even the cheapest modern PC.
   Windows is supposed to keep track of what fonts you're using, what program windows you have open, what shapes and objects you're moving around and what operations you are performing. All these things are "resources." A modern operating system should be able to keep track of everything that's happening. After all, that's its job.
   But Windows can't. It doesn't know how to.
   You say your computer has 32 or 64 or 128 megabytes of memory? Not according to the way Windows deals with the vital area of resource memory. All it knows about is 64 kilobytes.
   When that tiny 64-kilobyte area of memory is full, Windows does something a real operating system is not supposed to do. It locks up.
   I find this the most annoying thing about Windows, mostly because it's so ridiculous and unnecessary. The inane way Windows handles memory has remained unchanged and unimproved from the dawning of Windows 3.1 until now. Microsoft fixed this problem, at last, in Windows 2000, which was introduced last month. Microsoft also fixed it in Windows NT, the cantankerous and expensive big brother of Windows 95 and Windows 98.
   But the problem of resources remains in every new PC sold with Windows 98 installed. That seems astonishing. Even though Microsoft knows how to fix the problem of computer lockups and crashes caused by the inadequate 64 kilobytes of total resource memory, it continues to sell Windows 98 with that flaw.
   Hold on. There's more. Grab your aspirin bottle.
   You'd think Microsoft would fix this in the grand new version of Windows it's introducing for consumers later this year. That version is going to be called "Windows Me," meaning Windows "Millennium." (And meaning "the personal Windows version for all consumers," I suppose.)
   But the latest and greatest version of Windows has no changes at all in resource handing, no changes in the way memory is handled.
   Is there a way around this? Can you do something to reduce resource errors?
   Unfortunately, this problem has no real solution as long as Microsoft thinks it can get away with shoddy design. All you can do is rely on what software troubleshooters call "workarounds."
   Here are three such workarounds for the resource problems in Windows:
   Reboot often.
   Restarting Windows (not the entire computer) is enough. To restart Windows, hold down the Shift key while clicking the "Restart the computer" button in the Start Menu. I know some users who do this every hour or so, but once every two or three hours is probably enough. Rebooting or restarting Windows clears out the area where resources are stored.
   Stop running old software. 1 can mess up the way Windows 95 and Windows 98 deal with resources. It's bad enough as it is, so don't make it worse. All you have to do is run ONE older program to cause a problem. Typical large programs in this category are Microsoft Word 6 and old versions of Quicken. There are thousands of other Windows 3.1 programs that can cause resource problems.
   Get rid of the junk programs your PC is running all the time.
   Unless you're a pro at this kind of pruning, your Widows PC probably has a dozen hidden or half-hidden programs that insinuate themselves into the startup sequence and rob Windows of resource memory. You probably don't need to have most of them running.
   Use the System Information program (in the System Tools section of the Accessories menu) if you have Windows 98, or install System Suite from Ontrack and use the user customization function if you have Windows 95, 98 or Me to take control of what's running. Uncheck (disable) all programs you don't need from the startup process.