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Microsoft improves runtime memory usage in Windows 8

In another Building Windows 8 blog post, Microsoft talks about the importance of reducing runtime memory usage in the company’s next operating system, Windows 8. Microsoft details the process it underwent to make sure the memory usage in Windows 8 is efficient to ensure a more streamlined experience.

“The runtime memory usage of Windows 8 is an important factor in determining the Windows 8 system requirements, as well as the broadened spectrum of devices that will host Windows 8. As you know, we’re delivering the complete Windows 8 experience on SoC-based devices characterized by low power consumption. This makes it even more important to leave lots of memory available for multiple concurrent apps and to sustain the overall responsiveness of devices,” Microsoft’s Bill Karagounis stated in the official blog post.

Microsoft’s main goal was to make room for new functionality in the operating system while reducing memory consumed by existing functionality. And according to Microsoft, “Windows 8 is tracking well towards meeting [those] goals.”

Microsoft shows two examples of memory consumption between Windows 8 and Windows 7. In the first picture below, we see Windows 7’s memory use after a few reboots and several minutes of idle time. In the second screenshot, we see Windows 8 with the same configuration. Both machines run on a 1GB RAM machine.

Microsoft also made hundreds of specific changes to minimize memory use in Windows 8. One of those changes include memory combining, which is a technique in which Windows efficiently assesses the content of system RAM during normal activity and locates duplicate content across all system memory. Services are now trigger-started rather than always running in the background.

“Windows 8 will only initialize OS components unique to the desktop environment when necessary. This is another source of memory savings, approximately 23MB right now,” Microsoft stated. “Windows 8 has a better scheme for the prioritization of memory allocations made by applications and system components. This means that Windows can make better decisions about what memory to keep around and what memory to remove sooner.”

Microsoft set its sights on making sure Windows 8 had the same system requirements as Windows 7. “Our goal with Windows 8 from the beginning was to ship with the same system requirements as Windows 7,” Microsoft stated.

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