How To Find And Stop A Memory Leak In Windows

| May 30, 2012 | 2 Comments

Does your computer run fast in the morning and then gradually slow to a crawl in the afternoon? If so, your computer might be suffering from a memory leak. A memory leak is caused when a program uses memory temporarily reserved for it and repeatedly fails to give that memory back. In worse case scenarios, the leak will continue until all available memory has been used up and you are forced to restart your computer–even if you shut the offending program down.

Memory leaks are not uncommon. Unfortunately, there’s little an end-user can do except isolate the application and hope there is an update available from the publisher that corrects the bug.

Does Your PC Have A Memory Leak

Just because your computer is sluggish doesn’t necessarily mean you have a memory leak. The easiest way to make this determination is to start your computer as you normally do and then launch the Windows Task Manager to track your system’s memory consumption. To do this in Windows 7, right-click the task bar at the bottom of Windows and select Task Manager. Or click the Start button and type “Task Manager” in the search box. Next, click the Performance tab. You will see boxes for the CPU and Memory.

find a mamory leak in Windows

Walk away from your computer and allow the system to track the memory usage. The line should remain flat. If the leak begins immediately, you’ll want to go into the Microsoft Configuration Utility and turn off any programs that automatically load when the computer boots. To do this, click Start and then type msconfig in the search box. Under the Start-up tab, remove the check marks beside the applications. Save and Exit. Reboot the computer and launch the Task Manager again.

If the line remains flat at this point, open programs you routinely use on a daily basis. The memory usage will move up and down slightly as you open and close these applications. As you close programs the line should go flat again. If the line gradually begins to rise and stay there,  you have a memory leak and now have to isolate the application that caused the problem. It will be a process of elimination, but you should eventually be able to narrow it down.

What To Do About A Memory Leak

Once you’re sure you have found the offending program, go to the software developer’s website and see if there is an update for the program. If not, see if they have a forum or other method through which you could report the bug. If this is a known issue, you’ll probably be surprised to find there’s already an update available that you can download to fix the memory leak issue.

Category: Windows 7

Dave

About the Author ()

Dave has been providing free computer repair and tech support advice online since 2002. Join us on our forums and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for weekly tips and other helpful computer articles. Connect with me on: Google+

Comments (2)

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  1. Scott says:

    That is not a valid test as some of the system programs will use and free memory on a constand basis. Most ISP now pull your router and net card multiple times a second which will cause this also.

    Also just becuase a program, idle, changes memory usage. it does not indicate a leak.

    A true memory leak is also releted to the sim not holding data properly in some of its chips. A good memory checking software will run for 24 hours, writing to a location then verifying that data over a period of time

    • Dave Dave says:

      Good points. Thanks.

      Not so much the occasional blip as you describe above, but the constant and accumulating usage of memory that eventually causes your system to bog down. Personally, I am seeing less and less of this–especially with modern Operating Systems. Thanks for the input!

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