Improve server performance by making better use of RAM

Your server may be slowing down because it isn't making the most efficient use of RAM or else simply because you need more RAM. Bottom line: You need to know how to make better use of RAM.

enoughOften your server may slow down . . .sometimes dramatically so. This may happen either because your server isn't making the most efficient use of RAM or else simply because you need more RAM. The bottom line is that you need to know how to make better use of RAM.

Here are few recommendations on how to make better use of RAM.

First of all, open Task Manager and go to the Performance tab. You'll see a list of fields. Here are descriptions of the various fields you'll see on that tab, as well as some tips regarding which fields you need to watch to improve the server's performance.

Totals

Handles

This field lets a program use system resources such as registry keys, fonts and bitmaps. Sometimes, poorly written programs don't close down their handles when the program closes, leading to memory loss. You won't need to monitor this number.

Threads

This field refers to a discrete portion of a program executing a single task independently of other parts of a program. You won't need to monitor this number either.

Processes

This field reports on the number of programs and services (processes) currently running on your system. Monitor this to see whether you have too many programs and services running on your PC.

Commit Charge (K)

Total

This field shows the total amount of physical memory (RAM) and virtual memory (page file) currently in use, in kilobytes. The more programs, files and data you have open, the greater your commit charge will be. The greater the commit charge, the more demands will be put on your system. To reduce the commit charge, close programs and files, especially large files.

Limit

This field reports on the total amount of physical and virtual memory (measured in kilobytes) currently available for your PC. To increase the limit, you can increase the Page File size or add RAM to your system.

Peak

This field reports on the highest total amount of memory (measured in kilobytes) that's been in use during your current session. Check this value each session to see whether the Peak value is frequently at or near the Limit value. If it is, you need to increase your memory by either adding RAM or increasing your Page File size.

Physical Memory (K)

Total

This field displays the total amount of RAM in your PC. But it displays it in kilobytes, which can be confusing. To find out the amount in megabytes, divide by 1,024.

Available

This field reports on the total amount of RAM (in kilobytes) currently available. When available RAM is used up, your system begins to use its Page File.

System Cache

This field reports on the total amount of RAM (in kilobytes) being used for the most recently accessed data and programs. Programs and data can be in the system cache even after they've been closed down. The PC looks to the system cache first when opening a program or file, since it can be opened from the cache faster than from the hard disk.

Kernel Memory (K)

Total

This field shows the total amount of memory (in kilobytes) used by the primary components of kernel. The kernel comprises the core programs and files that make up the operating system.

Paged

This field shows the total amount of memory in a Page File (in kilobytes) used by the primary components.

Nonpaged

This field shows the total amount of RAM (in kilobytes) used by the primary components

Here are three rules to help you make better use of RAM:

Rule 1. If the Total Commit Charge exceeds the Total Physical Memory, you probably need more RAM. When the Commit Charge is regularly higher than the Physical Memory available, it means you have to regularly use a Page File, which slows down your system. Buy more RAM; it's inexpensive and will boost system performance.

Rule 2. Before running a memory-intensive application, use the Processes Tab to identify memory-hogging applications. Close them down. The Processes tab of the Task Manager lists every process and program in use and shows the total amount of memory each uses. Click twice on the Mem Usage heading on the tab to reorder the list of programs and processes so that those requiring the most memory show up at the top. Close programs you don't really need before running a memory-intensive application.

Rule 3. If the Peak Commit Charge is frequently at or near the Limit Commit Charge, you need to increase your memory. When this occurs, it means your PC is frequently out of memory or close to being out of memory. Either add RAM or increase your Page File size.

About the author: Rahul Shah currently works at a software firm in India, where he is a systems administrator maintaining Windows servers. He has also worked for various software firms in testing and analytics, and also has experiences deploying client/server applications in different Windows configurations.

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This was first published in September 2006

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