Friday, February 8, 2008

Reclaiming your memory from Windows XP

How about getting Windows XP to run into just below 70MB of memory?

Then follow these three steps:

1 - Disable the wallpaper

I've always used wallpapers, ever since I started using Windows (back in the 3.11 days). But I have to admit: these things eat up a lot of memory, are pretty much useless, and most of the time are buried under a stack of windows, where nobody can look at them! So our first step towards a lower Windows baseline is to give up a bit of aesthetics in favour of improved functionality.

2 - Lower color depth and screen resolution

This may not be acceptable to everyone, but if you are a software developer like me, chances are you'll barely notice the difference in color depth. And you may even be doing your eyes good by settling to slightly bigger visual objects. So, our second step is to lower video settings to something more affordable. If your machine uses a shared memory architecture, you may also lower the amount of memory reserved to video.

3 - Turn off the virus scanner

It may be a bit of a temerity, this being Windows and all; but there are scenarios where you can sanely do without a virus scanner. Particularly, if you are (like me) working inside a virtualized environment, you can isolate the virtual machine from the network, relying on the host OS for all remote accesses.

If you follow all three steps, you'll end up with a much lower memory baseline – without having to resort to obscure (and in my experience, ineffective) tricks such as turning off Windows services. For some this may not be a viable long-term solution, but since it's easy to roll those changes back, it may do when you have an immediate need to get more free memory.

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