Saturday, December 31, 2011

Warning: System Memory Usage High


A sudden announcement from my computer speakers appeared to be due to a bug in Rizone Memory Booster (MB).  The solution seemed to be to change, rename, or delete the MP3 files in MB's Sounds folder.  I used this problem as an opportunity to look at some related freeware.


I was working along as usual in Windows 7, and suddenly a voice announced from my computer speakers, "Warning:  System memory usage high!"  I had recently reinstalled Windows and all sorts of software, so it wasn't immediately obvious what piece of hardware or software would keep repeating this announcement every few minutes.  I ran a search and saw that nobody else seemed to be reporting exactly this problem, so I thought I had probably better log, here, my efforts to resolve it.

I first checked to see whether the warning was correct.  There were all sorts of things to know about memory, such as whether I was using 32-bit or 64-bit operating systems and hardware.  Getting an accurate and informative impression of the current status of my system could be tricky.  I was using the Windows 7 Task Manager (Start > Run > taskmgr.exe > Performance tab) and the Windows 7 Resource Monitor (Start > Run > perfmon.exe > Open Resource Monitor), but I wasn't entirely sure what they were telling me.  I thought maybe another tool would help to clarify the situation, so I did a search on CNET.

Among the several highly rated options there, it seemed that Iolo's System Mechanic Free might give me a good memory tool and might incidentally address some other needs.  On Iolo's website, I saw that their "standard" version of System Mechanic cost $40, so I was a little concerned that I might actually be installing shareware.  Not that I shouldn't pay for useful software, but I was already running behind in that department, and there were other programs of long service that had first dibs on my financial resources.  It developed, in any case, that flipping the switch from "Disabled" to "Enabled" on System Mechanic's option to "Automatically repair low memory problems" brought up a prompt to upgrade to the $40 version.  System Mechanic did have manual cleanup and reporting options.  For instance, by the time I got to the point of writing these words, its IntelliStatus report more or less agreed with Task Manager that about 70% of my RAM was free, and the adjacent Optimize button opened up a memory defragmentation process that ran for maybe 10 seconds and claimed to recover another 5% of RAM.  I decided to keep System Mechanic for a while and play with it some more.  Using Windows Explorer, I added a link to System Mechanic to the Startup folder in my Start Menu, so that System Mechanic's options window would open up when I started the computer.

At some point, I noticed that CNET's editors and users ranked Advanced SystemCare Free pretty highly.  It was another program, like System Mechanic, for cleaning and optimizing the system.  It appeared to be a lot more popular.  I had used a previous version for years, but I think I fell away from it when I transitioned from Windows XP to Windows 7.  I decided to try it too.  It seemed likely that I would join the crowd and prefer it over System Mechanic.

For present purposes, an automatic memory optimizer appeared to be what I needed, so I went back to CNET and looked at the popular MemInfo.  Its purpose seemed to be to provide fast, system-tray access to memory information and a manual RAM defragmenter.  But then I saw the widely used Moo0 SystemMonitor Portable.  I tried it and liked it.  It took me a minute to catch on to it.  I had to right-click on its onscreen display to get options.  It was easier to access and more configurable than Windows 7 Task Manager or Resource Monitor; it took less screen space; and it could be made to minimize to the system tray.  It didn't seem to have a measure of graphics performance, though, so it seemed I would have to use the Windows Experience Index for that (Start > Control Panel > Performance Information and Tools).

At some point in this inquiry, I remembered that I actually had already installed an automatic memory optimizer:  Rizonesoft's portable Rizone Memory Booster.  I hadn't tried to tweak it or anything; it had just sort of faded into the background or, more accurately, the system tray.  But now I thought, well, of course, that had to be where this phantom voice was coming from.  I right-clicked on its icon, which now seemed terribly obvious there in the tray, and looked at its options.  Yes, it did have an option to "Play warning every 3 minutes if load exceeds 80" (percent, I assumed).  The default values of 3 and 80 were adjustable.  But, oddly, this option was turned off.  I turned it on and changed it to 1% and clicked Apply.  Nothing happened.  I retried with 30%.  Still nothing.  Memory Booster's main screen said 50% of memory was used, so I should have gotten something.  Ah, but when I closed out of the dialog altogether and let Memory Booster retreat to the system tray, the voice came back.  "Warning:  system memory usage high."  So that was the culprit.  The program's readme file seemed to indicate that there had been a previous issue with saving the sound settings, so maybe the fix for that problem had created this new one where apparently the program would sometimes turn on the sound on its own initiative.

I played with Memory Booster (MB) for a few minutes and then sent Rizonesoft a link to this blog post.  MB had options to Optimize or Defrag memory.  Its writeup and an Addictive Tips review agreed that, unlike many other memory optimizers, MB's Optimize option used a safe method, involving "a Windows API call."  This would reportedly leave programs and data in memory and, as such, would only free up a minor amount of memory -- but it might also cure memory leaks and unfreeze programs.  By contrast, the writeup said that the Defrag option was an experimental (presumably potentially unstable) function that, unlike Optimize, would force most of the contents of memory into the pagefile (i.e., the portion of hard drive space set aside as a memory overflow area).  It seemed that Defrag was the more extreme option, carrying a risk of (temporarily) screwing up the system and requiring a system reboot.

The Defrag option was not included in the version that Addictive Tips reviewed.  Possibly it was previously a feature available only in the Gold ($14.95) version of MB.  Then again, I wasn't entirely sure whether a gold version continued to exist.  The writeup (dated July 7, 2011) said that MB "is now part of the Doors system," and explained how to install MB by installing Doors.  But I hadn't had to do that.  Maybe things had changed since the time of that writeup.  I wasn't familiar with the Doors system.  It seemed to be Linux-related.  So that part was a mystery.  One source had said that MB had only a nine-day trial period.  Maybe that had changed too -- maybe it had been removed or lengthened.  Rizonesoft's webpage said, "Demand no nonsense freeware," so apparently there were no worries there, unless the Doors situation had changed that.

I did like the program -- it was informative, and it seemed to be accurate, and its Intelligent Memory Optimization seemed to be working.  While some might not understand or appreciate the sarcasm on the website or in the readme file, it seemed that the programmer was responsible and meant to be helpful.

It occurred to me that I might be able to fix the sound problem myself.  I looked into the program's Sounds subfolder.  There, I saw five MP3 files.  One was called mem-high.mp3.  I played it.  Sure enough, that was the one I'd been hearing.  I created a subfolder called "Originals" and put these MP3s into it.  I wondered whether identically named replacement MP3 files would work.  First, I inserted a song MP3 into the Sounds subfolder, renamed as my new mem-high.mp3 file.  At first it didn't seem to be working, but I fiddled with it for a few minutes, and then it did.  Of course, I realized immediately that this had some prank possibilities.  But for my purposes, I removed all MP3s from the Sounds folder.  The program didn't crash when it failed to find a mem-high.mp3 file to play, and it seemed to continue to work.  I didn't want MB to make sounds, so that was the way I left it.




Thank you for the review. Sorry about the issues, I’ll start working on fixing some of these bugs. Yes, Memory Booster is now part of the Doors system. Doors is basically a collection of all our utilities and more. Doors will always be free.