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[ The PC Guide | System Optimization and Enhancement Guide | System Optimizations and Enhancements | Windows System Resource Optimization ]

Maximize System Resources Under Windows 3.x

Windows 3.x is notorious for its problems with running out of system resources. The reason is that its system resource areas are only 64 KB in size, they are shared by all open applications, and they are not managed optimally by Windows. Problems with resources running out manifest themselves in many ways, the most usual being an "Out of Memory" error where there is still actually plenty of memory available, just not in the system resource areas.

If you are frequently running into problems with Windows 3.x system resources, and if it is at all possible, consider upgrading your system to either Windows 95 or Windows NT. There are of course many different issues involved in making this decision, but one of the many benefits of using either of these operating systems (over Windows 3.x) is that the system resource problems largely disappear. I have opened upwards of 30 application instances under Windows 95 without running out of system resources.

Here are some specific ideas that you can use to help reduce system resource problems under Windows 3.x:

  • Reboot Windows 3.x Daily: This is the single-most important step to take to minimize system resource problems under Windows 3.x. You don't have to reboot the PC, just exit Windows to DOS (don't open a DOS box within Windows, this is not the same thing) and then restart Windows again. This will free up any "leaked" system resources. Doing this at least daily will minimize problems a great deal.
  • Lower the Video Color Depth: Run in 256-color mode instead of a higher color depth. This will use up fewer system resources.
  • Curtail Automatically Loaded Programs: Reduce to whatever extent possible any memory-resident programs or drivers that automatically load when Windows is started. Look in the "Startup" Program Manager group, and also examine the WIN.INI and SYSTEM.INI files in the Windows directory for lines beginning with "RUN=" or "LOAD=". Be careful what you change in there (and make a backup copy of the file first) but if you see something being loaded that you are sure you don't need, try removing the line to see if this frees up more resources.
  • Close Applications That You Are Not Using: Leaving applications open when they are not being used consumes resources that could be used by active programs.
  • Be Careful Not to Open the Same Application More Than Once: If you are using a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel, you can open multiple spreadsheets within it; you do not need to run Excel twice to edit two spreadsheets. Sometimes people run a program twice by accident, since they do not realize that the first one is open. To check what programs are open, go to the Program Manager and click on the upper-left corner to bring up the Window menu (or press {Alt}+{Spacebar}) and then select "Switch to...". This will show all the currently open programs. You can also hold down the {Alt} key and press {Tab} several times to cycle through the open applications.
  • Reboot Windows 3.x Whenever You Have a Crash of a Significant Application: Usually after an application crash, most or all of the system resources used by the application are lost and cannot be recovered by Windows. You have to reboot to reclaim them or you will probably run out resources quickly when you restart the program. This is especially true of larger applications such as office applications and the like.

Next: Remove Unneeded "Toy" Utilities


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