When my machine with Windows 8.1 runs out of memory (RAM), Windows displays a message telling that memory is low and that I invites me to terminate an offending application.

  • If I agree, the termination means that I will lose any unsaved changes in the given application.

  • If I ignore the message, a few seconds later I lose access to the machine: the screen turns black and there is nothing I can do aside holding power button for five seconds.

In both cases, the handling of low memory situation by Windows seems too unprofessional. It's like if when I run out of disk space, Windows would ask me if I want to format the disk right now or on the next boot.

The amateurish approach makes me think:

Is it the expected behavior, or something is broken in my case, and normally, Windows handles low memory situation differently? If so, how?

  • 2
    How else do you want Windows to handle low memory. The cold, hard, fact is that no OS can operate without RAM. If it doesn't clear up some room, it can't keep working. – lzam Sep 11 '14 at 1:08
  • 1
    Windows does a better job than you think, but you are impatient. Unless the offending application has a memory leak that cause all freed memory to get used immediately, then windows will resolve the issue, but until it's done swapping mem pages your computer will seem to be out on break. In your case the problem is most likely NOT windows, but an application with a severe memory leak. – Tyson Sep 11 '14 at 1:17
  • @Tyson: Interesting. Currently, the two concerned applications, by the way, are Adobe Lightroom and Adobe After Effects. If I remember well, Visual Studio and Maxon Cinema 4D caused similar issues when I used it in the past. – Arseni Mourzenko Sep 11 '14 at 1:56
  • @MainMa Adobe Products use lots of memory, it doesn't help that their installations are so massive. – Robin Hood Sep 11 '14 at 2:09

Windows does not have any such error message for running out of RAM. You're seeing this because you're running out of pagefile-backed virtual address space (i.e. "commit charge" is approaching the "commit limit"). You can fix it by increasing the size of your pagefile - or by setting up a pagefile, if you've deleted it.

  • 2
    +1. This may be the root of the problem. Indeed, pagefile size was 1920 MB (determined automatically) for 4 GB of RAM (x64). I now changed the size of the pagefile to the recommended 3583 MB; will monitor the pagefile usage and see if it solves the problem. – Arseni Mourzenko Sep 11 '14 at 2:00
  • p.s. since the "commit limit" is pagefile space + RAM size, adding RAM would also help, but increasing the pagefile is much cheaper and is easy to try.:) – Jamie Hanrahan Sep 12 '14 at 6:13
  • Regarding the "unprofessional" behavior - Windows can't make virtual address space available if there's no place to put the contents. If an app calls VirtualAlloc for 500 MB and only 200 MB are remaining, you get the pop-up you're seeing and the app gets an error status from the call. App developers are expected to check that error status and do something reasonable (like save existing data) rather than just crashing. If they don't, Windows really has no way of knowing how to save the app's data, or whether the app was coded to avoid loss of data - hence the warning. – Jamie Hanrahan Sep 15 '14 at 21:55

Operating systems, and applications need access to memory. If you use it up Windows will ask you if it's okay to free some through program termination, but if you refuse all Windows can do is keep running till it runs out of memory. If you don't want the system to crash you'll need to close applications. This is not a Windows thing, it's an EVERY operating system thing.

If you computer doesn't have much ram, an upgrade could help.

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If your pagefile is currently small, increasing the size may help. To check/alter size go to your Control Panel/System And Security/System/Advanced System Settings then under the Performance area choose "Settings", click on the "Advanced" tab, and in the "Virtual Memory" area click "Change". You will then be able to see, and alter the pagefile sizes. Typically 1.5x the amount of ram you have is a good amount (some people say 0.5x), and if possible make the initial size and max size the same so the space is pre-allocated (this improves performance). If you change the pagefile size a reboot is needed for it to take effect.

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