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Windows 7: Physical Memory Usage phenomenon, Windows design flaw?

05 Jan 2014   #1

Windows XP Professional SP3/Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Physical Memory Usage phenomenon, Windows design flaw?

I noticed that if I leave my PC on for a long time, and even if I don't open any application, that the RAM (Physical Memory) Usage, as reported by the "Performance" tab in Windows Task Manager, will increase as time progresses. I'm curious what will happen if I leave my PC turned on indefinitely without rebooting (several weeks, months), will the RAM usage eventually go to 100% or over, forcing windows to shut down? Is this a system design flaw inherent to Windows OS? Thanks.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Jan 2014   #2

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

What you're seeing is a "memory leak", an occurrence where a program claims more and more memory as it runs, but never releases it back to the OS. It's difficult to tell where it comes from, but have a look at the task manager, look for the memory usages of different programs and try to find one that increases memory consumption over time without going back.

But the problem itself may be located in a program you're running (even hidden), in a faulty driver, or even it may be a virus. I doubt that it's a problem with Windows itself, but it's not impossible of course. I leave my computer on for long periods (days, if not weeks) and never had a problem with RAM memory going short, and the few Windows-based servers that exist out there are in fact running always-on for years, with maybe a reboot once in a while, but generally no other problems.

As a routine, try a virus scan to see if you've got something nasty to discard the problem, or try safe mode and see if it repeats there.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Jan 2014   #3

Microsoft Windows 10 Professional / Windows 7 Professional

What OP is seeing is prefetch loading stuff in memory, perfectly normal, If windows tops ram usage, then it unloads or frees whatever was fetched instantly to prevent an out of memory crash.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

05 Jan 2014   #4

Windows 7 ultimate 64-bit

Ive sorta wondered about these memory leaks myself; but I do know now that is is most likely poorly coded software and or drivers etc. that cause this sorta thing. I tend to leave my computer on all the time with just a occasional reboot(like once maybe every couple weeks or so); but Its probably also a good idea to shut it down completely and let the system "rest" every so often.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Jan 2014   #5

1. Windows 7 Home Premium sp1 - 64bit 2. Windows 7 Pro sp1 - 64bit

I found that lsass.exe would continue to use more memory with Eset Smart Security protocol filtering. Sometimes it would exceed 1.6 GB. I found that it is the nature of lsass.exe to hold memory by design according to MS.

Excluding my browser from protocol filtering resolved the ever growing memory use and it holds at about 6.7 mb. I'm not sure what danger that presents to my system yet. I have posted in the Eset forum for more information.

On edit:
I got an answer over at ESET. The danger is that I am opening the door to infection. With lsass.exe increasing 12 mb for each page change or opening and closing the browser has been called a "known issue" and instructed to reboot to release the accumulated memory use.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Jan 2014   #6
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8

will the RAM usage eventually go to 100% or over, forcing windows to shut down?
The system will never shut down. It will start paging. But it is unlikely you will ever see that.

Have a look in Resource Monitor > Memory tab what the situation really is.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
06 Jan 2014   #7

Windows XP Professional SP3/Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Hi all and thanks for your replies. Let me add that I've noticed this "issue" for years since I'm using Windows OS's (Win95, 98, XP, 7, 8). No, it's not due to any malware, I have a myriad of antimalware products and run scans regularly. I usually keep my PC on for days without reboot and it's very stable, only that the RAM usage increases over time, even though it's a very gradual and slow increase. Usually I notice that the process "svchost.exe" is the one responsible for this.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
06 Jan 2014   #8
Microsoft MVP

Windows 7 Ultimate X64 SP1

The svchost.exe is like a mini-OS that hosts, runs' different Windows processes and services like Indexing, Updates, pre-fetch, etc., I currently have 17 instances of it. This fluctuates depending on what I do or that Windows needs to do.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
06 Jan 2014   #9

Windows 7 Pro 64 bit

I noticed that if I leave my PC on for a long time, and even if I don't open any application, that the RAM (Physical Memory) Usage, as reported by the "Performance" tab in Windows Task Manager, will increase as time progresses.
This in itself is not an indication that anything is wrong. There are multiple legitimate reasons why this may occur and without further information that indicates otherwise that would be the most reasonable explanation. The you have observed this in multiple systems over a period of years is a strong indication that this is normal.

Be aware that it is the system memory manager that controls physical memory usage at all times. Applications do not control this and in fact have only limited influence.

To say that memory management in a modern OS is very complex would be an understatement. And it often follows principles that are poorly understood (not by the designers) and contrary to general beliefs. Most people, including many computer professionals, have a concept of memory management that is rooted in the 1980's (or earlier) and has long since been abandoned.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Physical Memory Usage phenomenon, Windows design flaw?

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