Make the most of Windows' system resources

McAfee's First Aid program says my system resources are running low. Currently, I'm using just 1.8GB of an 8GB hard drive and running only Outlook Express in 64MB of RAM, yet resources are down to 33 per cent. How can that be? - Quentin KuttenkulerFirst Aid is referring to Windows' operating system resources, not your hardware system's storage and memory capacities.

Windows 9x retains Windows 3.x's system resource structure - two 64KB sections of memory that are set aside for specific jobs. The GDI (Graphics Device Interface) resources section stores fonts, bitmaps and such for on-screen display. When applications run, portions of the User resources section go to their menu lists, window logistics and other information. The more crowded either section gets, the more unstable Windows becomes.

Every program you open grabs some system resources, but some programs don't properly relinquish them once they've been closed. As you repeatedly enter, use, exit and re-enter apps, the amount of available resources continuously decreases. The only reliable way to free up resources is to restart Windows.

Windows 9x comes with a tool for monitoring system resources. To access it, insert the Windows CD-ROM and click Add/Remove Software. In the resulting dialogue box, click the Windows Setup tab. In the Components list, double-click Accessories (Windows 95) or System Tools (Windows 98). Then scroll down, locate and check System Resource Meter.

To run Resource Meter, click Start-Programs-Accessories-System Tools-Resource Meter and the meter will appear as a tray icon. Hover the pointer over that icon to see current resource levels or double-click it to keep the numbers on screen while you work. The User and GDI halves are independent and a lack of either can wreak havoc, so Resource Meter takes the percentage free of the smaller half and reports that as the percent of free system resources.

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