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What does the ntvdm error message "The Win 16 Subsystem has insufficent resources to continue running. Click on OK, close your applications, and restart your machine." mean, and how can it be prevented?

(Interestingly, but presumably unrelated to the problem, the dialog box displaying the message is actually owned by the session's csrss.exe process.)

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Under what context are you getting this message? Please be specific. – user3463 Jan 11 '11 at 20:41
What I can make up: Win16 subsystem = the DOS emulation layer within WinXP The message means it somehow ran out of ressources (most probably memory), or maybe some component it depends on ran out of memory How to prevent it: Hard to say without details on applications used, etc – Marcus Jan 11 '11 at 21:00
@Randolph: Running a 16-bit windows app (which I thought was clear from the "Win 16 Subsystem" bit). In particular, it was happening with a freecell.exe copied from Windows 98 (along with the needed 16-bit version of cards.dll), but presumably most any 16-bit windows app would have sufficed. – SamB Jan 12 '11 at 0:08
It's not sufficient information to replicate the error on my side. Are you running Windows Vista? Windows 7? Server 2003 R2? WINE? My point is, is the problem the same for any 16-bit app you're running? What happens with compatibility mode? I can't make myself any more clear. – user3463 Jan 12 '11 at 4:11

1 Answer 1

According to, this error messages occurs when GDI returns a handle higher than 16383 for a call made on behalf of a 16-bit Windows program. The handles could go up to 65535, but evidently they get right-left-shifted by 2 bits before being returned to the 16-bit app for some reason (presumably compatibility with something).

Before Windows XP, this couldn't happen, as only 16384 GDI objects were allowed to exist in any given session, but with XP the limit was increased to 65536 GDI objects. Since GDI evidently only allocates a new handle number when all lower handle numbers are in use, this can only actually occur if over 16384 GDI objects ever exist at the same time in the session.

Rebooting would generally remedy this situation, assuming that automatically-started programs don't eat through the first 16384 handles right off the bat.

If "fast user switching" is enabled, another option would be to log out, log some other account (e.g. "guest") in, and log in again. (The important thing here is to end up with a fresh "session"; if you weren't running in "session 0" to start with, the "log some other account" step is irrelevant.)

The linked page also offers a patch to remove the shifts from wow32.dll. Be warned, though: as the page says, applying this patch might be illegal; furthermore, it might be dangerous, and would certainly break whatever app(s) the shift was added for in the first place.

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