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Monday, February 25, 2002

Get the garbage out

THERE is a very old concept in the computer world, "garbage in, garbage out." This signified that in programming if you fed in wrong information and syntax, then the output you got would be wrong. Though today with user-friendly application-based programs available there is not much scope for programming at the user level, this concept still holds true.

Now this concept might mean that if you keep a lot of junk or garbage in your system, you are most likely to get garbage eventually in the form of troubles and various system-generated problems. "Garbage out" is represented by the error messages, which signify errors in your computer. One of the very common errors generated by the junk inside your computer is the message "Dangerously Low on System Resources." This is an error that can bring down your system. This error is inherent in the Windows 98 platform due to a small area of memory called "system resources." When the system resources are not utilised optimally, then this type of error occurs.


Every time you open an application, it loads all of its visual components, such as windows, menus, text boxes, buttons, checkboxes, and lists, into the memory. Windows keeps track of the visual components of all the applications-for example, when you drag a window across the screen, it knows what was behind the window and is able to redraw it. These visual components are stored in the system resources. The system resources never increase and are always fixed despite the fact that you may have large memory installed on your computer. When you open an application, it takes up some system resources and that get shared with other programs in use. Also, when you close an application all of the system resources utilised by that application are not released. So, under normal circumstances, opening and closing too many windows consumes a lot of system resources and if there is anything wrong then you may actually run out of system resources, which could eventually lead to a system crash.

In case your system is working fine and is error free, you are not likely to get this message, but in other cases, when your system resources are already taken up by the memory resident programs like video screen savers, games involving heavy graphics, you may encounter the problem of low system resources. It is also important to understand here that the low system resources may not only be reflected by the message "Dangerously Low on System Resources" alone as some of the other symptoms of low system resources include slow performance, error messages when starting programs, application windows not updating properly, applications hanging, or the entire system crashing. If you are experiencing a particular problem repeatedly, then the temporary solution to could be simply restarting your system as on restarting resources are cleared. Although this is not a permanent solution, but it works well in case you do not have many options.

For a permanent solution to this problem, you should first do a complete audit of your system. A system audit means hunting down the program that could be causing the trouble. Normally, this error would be found in a possible16-bit application running on your system. Though there are a few programs that still run on the 16-bit architecture and may cause memory leak in the system. In case of a memory leak, the system resources consumed by this application are not restored even after it is closed and, for all practical purposes, that much system resources are wasted, causing your system to flash an error message. So, if you are using any of these old programs on your system, then you should uninstall them and use a recent version on your system. It is worth mentioning here that in a majority of the cases the memory leak is caused by older versions of games, which a lot of people install on their systems.

If you are not able to find the application causing the problem, then you should try and load a minimal number of programs at one time; also you should reduce the applications in the start-up folder to the bare minimum. This will conserve system resources and will save you from problems. The other possible solution is to reinstall Windows and, if possible, to upgrade it to the higher versions like Windows NT, Windows 2000 or Windows XP. By advising an upgrade, it is not meant that Windows 98 is not a good operating system. It is, in fact, a very good operating system, capable of meeting the needs of the modern computer system. But in certain cases, like the one mentioned above, upgrading works better in providing more stability to the system. Vipul Verma