Reduce Your PC Memory Usage With Minimem

Computer memory is in high demand as you play, err, work on your computer, and performance can take a big hit when it runs low. Control the programs that use more than their share of memory using the Windows program Minimem, which moves unused or unnecessary memory pages to the hard drive. I tried it on Firefox 3, Kallout, Windows Explorer, SpyBot Search and Destroy and a few other processes, most of which seemed to use less memory after being “Minimemed.”

Remember that not all programs should be optimized with Minimem. Some programs manage memory usage well on their own, so you won’t see a difference when trying to optimize that process. It might also have a good reason to keep information in memory, and using Minimem to force it to unload that information will therefore not be a good idea. It might be holding data in memory to help performance (since reading from the hard drive is slower). It is possible that using Minimem to “optimize” a process that doesn’t need it might actually make it run slower, so only optimize where you have to.

minimem screenshot   Reduce Your PC Memory Usage With Minimem

Minimem is good for programs that run in the background but you don’t use all the time. Kallout is a good example, it gives options to look up highlighted terms on a bunch of search, reference, video, news and other sites. It gives some handy features but I don’t use them all the time, and it tends to have a pretty big memory footprint.

Another good use is for programs with memory leaks like Firefox 2. Programs like this keep information in memory for longer than they should, and continue to build up more clutter as you use them. Chances are that it will not need most of the information it accumulates, so optimizing with Minimem will help.

I highly recommend Minimem for any power user, especially if you’re running on older hardware. It requires the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5, which is supported on Windows XP, Vista, Server 2003 or Server 2008 (Linux and Mac users probably don’t have any performance issues anyway, right? :D ).

What do you think? Are apps like Minimem necessary? Would you use it? Do you know of anything similar? Let’s hear about them in the comments!

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7 Comments -

0 votes

sparx

“Memory optimizing” programs never really live up to their hype. By paging the data in memory from your fast RAM onto your much slower hard-drive, you’re not really “saving” or “reducing” the memory usage. In fact, when you go to use a program that has been “optimized” (firefox for example) it’s going to be a lot slower and less responsive at first because the operating system has to transfer all of that data back to the RAM from the hard-drive before it can be used.

Some operating systems (like windows) may not be the best at managing your computers memory, but going against them and forcing data to be paged to the hard-drive when it doesn’t need to be is (in most cases) just going to make things worse.

0 votes

Blake Elias

That’s only true when the program is actually going to come back for that data in memory. Yes, if the program actually needs all that paged data, it will be slower. But if the program has a memory leak and keeps data in memory that it never ends up using, that data paged on the hard drive will never need to be transferred back into RAM and the end result is less memory usage. You have to use it carefully, but if you use it properly with the right programs it can keep only the important data that programs call upon in memory.

0 votes

Transcontinental

I use a RAM optimizer which I believe works in a similar way, but applied to the RAM in its whole.
AMS Fast Defrag (http://www.amsn.ro/) is brilliant, tiny footprint, I can stay for a week opening all the tabs I wish in Firefox, I’ll always stick around the percentage of free RAM I’ve chosen (50% on my 1024 total RAM here). This little app is absolutely astonishing!

0 votes

Holon777

If you have your settings set in Minimem to purge every 30 seconds as shown in the picture, you PC will hiccup every 30 seconds, the more apps you have “optimized” the longer the stall will be, especially if you are actively using the app at the time. Windows will automatically do what the RAM optimizers do if it needs the RAM for another process, so your “leaked” mem will be paged out at some point anyway.

Very often what you are seeing is not leaks but heap fragmentation, IE and Firefox do this in a big way. Open up IE, open 3 tabs to google maps, close the tabs and you would think you have a huge leak but you don’t, Windows just doesn’t bother to recclaim the RAM because it doesn’t need to yet, it’s more efficient to let the process still have it in physical RAM, it will claim the RAM when need be, using the exact same methods as the optimizers.

0 votes

Kerkia

As the author of Minimem, I thought I would answer this interesting thread. I would like to first say that I quite agree with what is being said here, though not all of it. Especially, I would like to point out the following:
- Most applications do load in memory more than what they need, simply because optimizing software tools very well is expensive and developers go for simplicity in most cases. Therefore, moving to disk that stuff does make sense for those apps, and only those apps indeed, as they won’t reload it all.
- Most apps use more and more memory as time goes; this can be due to leaks but not necessarily; bad or lazy programming can again be a cause.
- Many applications can load their data from disk rather than memory without any impact on the user experience, and this is key driver for a tool such as Minimem typically in office and web applications.
Now to answer some comments:
- So why can’t Windows do what Minimem does? Well, Windows does not know applications so it will optimize things in the best possible way, i.e. swap when necessary, by evaluating applications needs. What Minimem does is providing YOU, the user, with the ability to decide what applications should cache data to disk rather than keep it all in memory, rather than leave that choice to the OS. Indeed, if you have no idea what app really should or could use less memory than it does, then just rely on the OS and don’t use Minimem; but if you do then Minime is the right tool to use.
- And won’t it impact performance? Maybe, if your disk is slow and the optimization frequency is high especially. Plus it depends a lot on applications. Used wisely however, it can actually improve the overall performance of your computer a lot if it is memory-limited by freeing memory not used so much by some applications for others to make a better use of it.
As an illustration, version 1.1 now automatically minimizes the memory of Minimem using the same process, and you will see that the performance impact is completely imperceivable while the RAM usage is divided by 4, which I guess is a good example. So why is this? Well, I simply wrote the app using .NET, and any .NET app starts by loading quite a bit of .NET specific stuff without knowing if it will be used or not, and it’s not in the case of Minimem for most of it.
So how does it works? Minimem reduces the working set of the selected processes, to an extent that depends on their processing time, as I tried to do something clever here rather than just emptying the whole working set; I’m not certain how more effective it is than the brute-force approach but users have reported good results so far. So really there is no rocket science and this is all available in the Windows API; of interest you may notice that a command to empty the working set does exist in the Windows toolkit that would have a similar effect.
So how is Minimem different from other regular memory optimizers? Well, simply it allows the user selecting what processes should be optimized. It won’t slow down your computer every 30s or whatever frequency you select as the action performed is very fast. If you select tons of processes to optimize then it may of course, but that may not be wise at all. By the way, I intend to further improve the algo in a future version to only optimize when required, to protect high-CPU and foreground processes, and to distribute the optimization so the perf impact is minimized as much as possible.
Also, I agree that memory optimizers that just empty the working set of active processes regularly are not doing any good and certainly not better than the OS. The point with Minimem is that users choose what programs get flushed out of memory and hence what don’t, something your OS can choose better than you because it does not know your programs as well as you do. I agree Windows will deal with the memory issue when needed, but then you will have no control over how Windows will free up memory and how much, hence what programs will be impacted and what won’t. Minimem gives you that control.
Well, at the end of the day, just try it and decide by yourself if it helps you or not. It’s free, easy to install and uninstall if you hate it, and I am quite happy to take on feedback and suggestions to improve it! I use it myself, which is the very reason why I developed it in the first place, and will be happy if it helps others. Many users have given me feedback that it helped them a lot; I wish it helps many of you. By the way, I’d like to thank you makeuseof.com for the review of the tool, which I found good and accurate. Note also I can provide a .NET 2.0 compatible standalone version for those who need it (for free of course; I have a job so I develop this for fun and for free); just ask me using the contact page on the Minimem web site!

0 votes

Kerkia

Hi there, I thought I would let you know that a new Minimem version has just been released (kerkia.net). It contains a better optimization engine, a new user interface, new options to not optimize if lots of RAM is available, to not impact the foreground process, etc. Feedback welcome!

0 votes

meck

Nice, but I need one step more,,, there are things I want to stay in memory, ex:
add/remove programs’ list takes a while to load, and i’m in there alot. I would like to see when it is running, how much memory is being used, and the option to ‘keep alive’.
just a suggestion.