Warning: this might seem a bit geeky and too technical for some but it’s actually really simple. And unless you’re someone like me that likes to go days without having to reboot, it probably isn’t relevant to you.
If you run Vista and tend to leave your PC on (I do because I hate waiting 10 minutes for it to start up) then you’ve undoubtedly experienced that feeling that gremlins are pouring treacle into your PC’s CPU!
I’m going to show you as simply and as concisely as I can what I do to extend my needed reboot time to days rather than being a daily occurrence.
I’ll also make the disclaimer that I have Vista Home Premium SP 2, 6GB ram and a dual 6600 2.4GHz core Intel CPU – so your experience may differ but hopefully you can benefit like I do.
My earliest files suggest I installed Vista in Nov 2006 – that surprised me! No reinstall since then. Being a programmer, I have a gazillion licenced programs I depend on and I’m hoping I won’t need to until I go to Windows 7 or 8 and do a clean install.
So it’s fair to say it’s accumulated junk, my registry has errors etc etc etc but it is totally reliable so as it’s my bread and butter, I don’t mess with it too much.
So here’s my regime, starting with power on…
I wait for the login screen and I usually wait longer until the intense disk activity has stopped – I like to give windows time to warm up and settle down before I log in. I log in and again, wait patiently (well, I go off and do something else) and eventually, everything that’s going to load has loaded and the disk has stopped thrashing again.
Now here’s how I check my memory: I use the sidebar widget that comes with Vista (if not, you’ll find it) but you could use any tool that will tell you your ‘used’ memory. This is only for reference so I know the figure includes pre-fetch programs that Windows has cached etc etc but that’s not the point. The point is I know after a fresh power on, patiently waiting for everything to load my CPU meter will tell me I have about 36% memory used (the graphic was not a snapshot of my machine). You can also use windows task manager and note the physical memory figure from the bottom status bar.
I have 3 screens so I usually have this icon visible all the time.
Like I say, all you want is the benchmark figure directly after your system has booted and settled down and mentally make a note of it.
Skype starts automatically for me because I need it constantly as I work as part of an international team and that’s our interactive means of communication. Then I start my other indispensible tool, roboform (my secure password manager, the 2 Go version on a memory stick so I can use a laptop when I need to).
Then my day starts: I fire up my programming environment tools first because they will tend to be open constantly. I’m old school and I still think of each newly started program sitting on top of the last started program, so I want to fire up the ones I leave open first.
And finally, I open FireFox. I have a useful plugin installed called Memory Restart that shows in the bottom right hand side of the status bar, how much memory FF is using. But it’s more than that – if that memory figure goes much above 600Mb (it climbs the longer FF is open, even if I’m not opening more tabs) then I can just click on the memory figure and it will give me the option to restart firefox – but it restarts it with all my tabs and windows restored and usually still logged in – only the memory is now much lower – like < 50Mb (though that quickly climbs as I start working again). But the benefit is FF is snappy and responsive again.
So that’s one part of the strategy.
Other programs I tend to open as I need them and then close them again – things life office programs, word, excel and Photoshop. And as the day goes on, while I’ve been opening and closing programs, opening and closing tabs in Firefox, my trusty CPU Meter will be climbing.
If it gets above 85%, I know I may have left it too long so I have a personal trigger level of about 75%. If I’ve closed all the programs I don’t use all the time and the memory is around 75% or higher then I do my ‘purge’ regime – it’s far quicker than a reboot and will get my system back to a much more responsive state…
I close every running program (I don’t bother closing roboform and I’m not talking programs in the system tray) – just the programs I fired up manually when I started so firefox, the programming tools and (importantly) skype.
My CPU Meter will often now show something like 45% and I want ideally to have it back to my 36% or close as.
I open Task Manager (Alt-ctrl-del to get the windows options screen) and the applications tab should be empty. Switch to the processes tab.
This may not be relevant to you but I use Firefox and sometimes, even after waiting for firefox to do its cleaning up, frefox is still running. That’s not good so right click and end process tree (end process works too with FF but end process tree might be needed with some programs).
I sort the programs by Image name by the way to make it easier to find programs.
Beware that you shouldn’t close any program that you don’t recognise that seem to be taking a lot of memory – mostly they’ll be system processes that you shouldn’t touch.
I use one program that I won’t name but it makes database connections and when closed, I get any number of instances of the same .exe running so I close them down – that’s pretty specific to me so you’re not likely to find that problem.
I’m maybe at 43% CPU – certainly above the 36% I started with. May not sound a lot but the difference between 43 and my trigger of 75 is significantly less than 36 – 75. And while it may sound a very anal thing to do, the closer I get to 36%, the longer it will be before I have to give in, beaten and do a full reboot.
And I have a culprit – sidebar.exe. This program for some reason likes to just accumulate more and more memory the longer it’s been running. It’s nothing for it to be over 250 Mb over the course of a day. So I do the end process tree on it and then restart it (I do it through Task Manager just by going file -> run and typing sidebar) and then it comes back at a disgusting, but much better 48Mb.
And if I’m lucky my CPU meter may now show less than 40% – it rarely gets right back to 36%.
But I find the more frequently, and the earlier (in terms of not waiting till the memory usage gets too high) I do it, the more times I can do it and get the memory usage back close to 36%.
And it takes a minute or two to do at most.
Eventually, the figure I can get back to after ‘purging’ climbs, 37, 39, 41, 45, even 50. At 50, I can still work ok if it’s an inconvenient time to reboot but if I need to eat or be away from the PC, I’ll tend to do a reboot.
And for me that might be now be only every 4 days instead of twice a day. That’s 160 hours or rebooting saved over the course of a year!!