Long-time subscriber Noel wrote about a problem that seems to be more and more common.
Greetings Terry, from the Antipodes.
Thanks for your newsletter which I always read with interest. I never thought I’d write to you about a problem, but an annoying, and time-wasting problem has cropped up on my PC
I use an Acer 5740G laptop (Windows 7, Core i3 330M processor, 4Gb memory, 500Gb HDD). Free space on my HDD is currently 225Gb. My default browser is Firefox, and I utilise Thunderbird as my email client to access 4 Gmail accounts + 1 ISP email account. I have Office 2010 installed. I have automatic backups scheduled regularly to my 1Tb expansion drive, and I’m using True Image 2013 for system backups weekly.
For the past several months, I’ve been experiencing a lot of ‘Not Responding’ periods when using any application on my laptop — particularly emails, and web browsing (where I am a lot) but also whilst in Word or Excel. When this occurs, the PC goes dead for up to 2 minutes before re-awakening and allowing me to carry on. It becomes pretty frustrating, as there is no predictability for these events, nor any clue as to why they occur.
Do you have any thoughts about what I can do to stop, or at least minimise these "Not Responding" periods?
I wrote back to Noel to thank him for the great description of his system. I think he’s got a good setup — and it sounds like we’re running a lot of the same software.
I’ve seen some "Not Responding" problems, too. I think they are a function of Windows 7’s “garbage collection” routines. I think Win7 simply waits too long to do its memory cleanup, which is a normal function that has to occur.
This problem didn’t occur in Win7 when it was initially released. It wasn’t in Windows XP, either. But, today, it’s in both (I have to use WinXP at the office). That leads me to believe that the problem was introduced in one of the many Windows Updates that have occurred. (That’s not going to stop me from doing Windows Updates, and it should not stop you either.)
Why is there a memory cleanup, also known as garbage collection, step?
When a program needs memory to store data, it requests Windows to allocate some memory to it. When it finishes using that particular block of memory, it releases that memory. However, Windows can’t immediately use it. Windows simply builds a table of the blocks that have been released. Eventually, garbage collection occurs – and Windows in effect defragments the memory to recover the released memory blocks.
I also think that the amount of memory in the computer is one of the culprites — the more memory in the computer, the longer the garbage collection process takes when it is triggered.
What’s the solution? I think it’s to reboot more often. I like to leave my computer running, maybe let it go to sleep, but I don’t like to reboot. However, I’ve found that I have fewer issues like this if I reboot occasionally.