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I have a Windows 7 64 bit system which has a strange problem for past several months: After the computer runs for several days continuously a problem is encountered where clicking on the task bar to launch applications fail to launch the GUI of those applications. The failed applications could be as simple as the Notepad or the Calculator. So when I click on the application icon in task bar they get highlighted but don't launch. They do launch if I close some other running GUIs (such as Outlook). And as far as I can remember the Task Manager does show the 'process' of the failed-launch application.

I don't know much about Windows GUI/windows management but my guess is something to do with 'stacks' of windows: Not enough space to show new windows unless some existing ones are closed? The problem goes away for several days once I restart the computer.

Any idea? Thanks!

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Sounds like some program is consuming ever more resources while runnning. I suggest you start Task Manager, make every column visible that you think could apply (proces ID, processor usage, all memory columns, threads, user and gdi objects), and take a screenshot of that window once the computer is freshly rebooted. Then take another snapshot when the problem occurs. Maybe you can see some differences. – Jan Doggen May 29 '13 at 13:54
@JanDoggen, yes, great idea. But even the Task Manager window doesn't launch once the windows stop launching! CTL ALT DEL doesn't launch the TM. But I could always close some other application windows and then see what TM shows in that case... Thanks! – Meengla May 29 '13 at 14:01
Keep it open and keep the program open that you use to make screenshots. As long as they listen to keyboard/mouse it should work. Don't close windows when you have the issue because you might lose the task manager data that you're looking for! – Jan Doggen May 29 '13 at 14:02
Okay, I have just taken a screen cap after the fresh installed and have enabled some extra 'views' such as Working Set Memory, Peak Memory, Private Memory, Threads, GDI Objects. Should know more in a few days--possibly on Monday! Thanks again! – Meengla May 29 '13 at 14:08
Question: Looks like I can only 'sort' based on one column inside TM--I have too many processes running (because enabled for all users) to fit in the screen cap. So what should the sorting be based on? Number of Threads? Memory Usage? CPU Usage? – Meengla May 29 '13 at 14:13
up vote 1 down vote accepted

This sounds exactly like the "Desktop Heap" memory limit that was a common issue back in the Windows xp days when mIRC was popular.

The issue is not that your running out of memory as such, but that there is a specified amount of ram dedicated to generating "desktop" objects such as context menus, windows and other graphically generated details (icons as well I believe).

Normally this isn't a problem for everyday use but some programs (like mIRC for example) handles it's own generated windows in a way that uses the Desktop Heaps memory pool (instead of just using ram).

I assumed they had this fixed since the windows XP age or increased the limit to something useful at least. This doesn't seem to be the case and the limit is still something ridiculously small (we're talking between 3-20mb for the entire desktop heap which isn't exactly much).

I could go into detail on how to fix it, but now that you know to search for "Desktop Heap" you should be able to find the issue / fix the problem in short order. (hopefully this is the problem your having, since from what I remember it's a relatively easy fix)

EDIT: The Issue could very well be that you have a program that does use the Desktop Heap but doesn't close it's own windows properly after ending functions (so you have invisible non detectable windows that just bogs you down in the long run), if so you should hopefully be able to find it by googling through your likely suspects. (I don't believe desktop heap usage show up in the task manager, but I never did read that deep into it)

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Hi, Thanks. I will look into it. BTW, I have 16 GB RAM. It is a Dell Optiplex 990 and never had this problem until a few months ago--most probably some software I installed. – Meengla May 30 '13 at 21:03
Ye that's the thing, the amount of memory reserved is completely skewed from how much ram we actually have now a days. 3MB desktop heap might have been appropriate when most only ran with 256-512 MB ram, but there isn't much reason to not have a much higher allocation now when almost any standard system have at least 4 GB, with many running 8-16+ GB ram. – Curs3d May 31 '13 at 10:48
The problem has not happened for a few days; I am presuming I wasn't running some problem application over the weekend. Hmmm. Here is a possible solution at but my Win7 doesn't have the 3rd parameter of 1024 and the second one is already 20480. I am Accepting the Answer because that is the closest to I have come. Thank you! – Meengla Jun 4 '13 at 14:56

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