Microsoft details Windows 8 memory usage reduction

One of the keys to Windows 7's roaring success in the market was delivering on the promise of using less memory than its predecessor, Windows Vista, while being just as fast if not faster. Users of older machines or netbooks stand to benefit the most from a more responsive experience with a limited RAM capacity.

Windows 8 continues this tradition. In the //build/ Conference, Windows Division president Steven Sinofsky wowed the crowd with a screenshot of Task Manager running on Windows 7 and Windows 8. The netbook, the same one used for demonstrating the Windows 7 pre-beta three years ago, had a reduction of almost 120 MB of RAM usage.

The reduction of memory is impressive when one also considers Windows 8 now includes Microsoft Security Essentials integrated into the new revamped Windows Defender.

Today's Building Windows 8 blog post describes the techniques Microsoft used to achieve this reduction in memory usage. Some of the following tweaks were also for Windows 7, but improved upon:

Combine shared portions of memory amongst processes: Windows's memory manager tries to remove blocks of system memory that are already duplicated in other running programs. The 'unique' portions of memory are those that are reported to Task Manager in the "Memory" column in Windows Vista, 7, and 8.

Put more services into "load on demand" or manual start: Compared to Windows 7, the Plug and Play, Windows Update, and User PnP Framework services are loaded on demand in Windows 8. That is, they are activated by a trigger, and remain running to complete a required task before shutting down. Windows 8 also has new services added to the OS to support new functionality, however all but two of them are loaded on demand, or set to a manual start.

Consolidate lesser used memory pages: Microsoft went through low-level components of Windows, some dating as far back as the original Windows NT, and reworked code and data structures. The result was separating portions of memory that are frequently referenced from those that are accessed occasionally., which led to across-the-board memory usage reduction amongst Microsoft employee workstations.

Load the traditional desktop on-demand: Microsoft is anticipating that tablet users may want to remain in Metro applications for the majority of their computing tasks. Therefore, "classic" desktop resources are only loaded when needed, saving approximately 23 MB of memory.

Set memory as "high" or "low" priority: Windows 8 is able to prioritize memory chunks based on its usage. For instance, memory used by a word processor can get higher priority over that allocated by the background antivirus scanner. With prioritization, Windows is less likely to free up RAM used by important applications when a newly launched application requests more memory from the operating system, leading to continuous UI responsiveness.

Image Credit: Building Windows 8 blog

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These improvements as well as numerous others in performance segment of Windows are necessary for tablet market, if Microsoft wants to be competitive there. These changes should yield better battery life which is in current Windows tablets appalling.

By showing this, they basically gave out technology to the public for free. That is the technique or you can call it idea. May be Linux can take advantage of this to cure its memory hungry disease

satus said,
By showing this, they basically gave out technology to the public for free. That is the technique or you can call it idea. May be Linux can take advantage of this to cure its memory hungry disease

Ubuntu has so little upfront functionality but uses more memory that Vista.

Udedenkz said,

Ubuntu has so little upfront functionality but uses more memory that Vista.

Not only that the thing annoying the most is that it always use max CPU power causing laptop overheated. Basically, Linux does not know anything about Intel speed stepping technology (reduce computing power for easy tasks) and does not know how to do it .PERIOD.

Now this is the kind of stuff that excites me. Rather than hearing more about markets have no business being in, they're actually looking at what they have and innovating.

Rabbit94 said,
anybody like me and wondering whats left for them to put into windows 9?

Well.. i can answer!
Fast install (under 8 minutes), Come up with tools to develop easy (with beautifull graphics) 3d games for win 8 and wp7 and soo on and soo on.. ^^
Operating systems never will get old, because there is always inspiration to build better and faster things that are more easy and enjoy full to use.
What's really coming into win 9 .. I don't know but you got me thinking!


i think it looks worse how they moved the titlebar text into the middle of the window than in Windows 7

ShareShiz said,
now if only Adobe would work on not using so much RAM

The metro version of ie10 doesn't support plugins so flash won't work unless you run the classic desktop version of IE.

The one on the left is showing 32 processes and the one on the right is displaying only 29. How can we tell for sure this is legit. I absolutel love Microsoft and Windows 7, but the amount of processes should be the same if I really wanna know if the memory usage is really being used with the same amount of services and programs open.

Flippinwindows said,
The one on the left is showing 32 processes and the one on the right is displaying only 29. How can we tell for sure this is legit. I absolutel love Microsoft and Windows 7, but the amount of processes should be the same if I really wanna know if the memory usage is really being used with the same amount of services and programs open.

Go watch the //Build keynote again, they talked explicitly about how they reduced the memory load, and part of that was reducing the number of needed processes

Flippinwindows said,
The one on the left is showing 32 processes and the one on the right is displaying only 29. How can we tell for sure this is legit. I absolutel love Microsoft and Windows 7, but the amount of processes should be the same if I really wanna know if the memory usage is really being used with the same amount of services and programs open.

well you can test it by yourself like i did. and you would see its legit.
I did a test with 3dsmax which is not able to "cheat" or lie.

i did a clean install in an old computer where i have 7 and dev preview and dev preview used less memory.

anyway now my computer uses 42% memory.
when in Windows 7 it used when it started 45-49%, and now im running even zune and jet audio, and skype, and IE. so win7 would be higher memory usage if i was running all these.

They should compare windows 8 when it's out and no sooner. They will eventually add some weight to the system when it's done so it makes no sense to compare those systems now. I do believe they optimized the memory management, reading what the folks did with .NET 4.5 is impressive...

Auzeras said,
You saved the windows 8 screenshot with paint. Only MS paint could give those NASTY washed out colours

Those were straight from the blog.

This is impressive but RAM is so cheap now I don't really see the point now. Could have done with this in 2006 when Vista launched.

Vice said,
This is impressive but RAM is so cheap now I don't really see the point now. Could have done with this in 2006 when Vista launched.

Actually, they couldn't. Vista was the first revision of the OS where they made these strides. Windows 7 is when 'Trigger Started Services' were added. This is the third iteration.

I can't say I'm an expert architect or pm or developer, but after gaining exposure to each dicipline, I can tell you there are always trade-offs to be made during a development cycle.

I'm happy to see MS are continuing down the path of making their OS more efficient.

Vice said,
This is impressive but RAM is so cheap now I don't really see the point now. Could have done with this in 2006 when Vista launched.

cheap yes. but we dont want an excuse for memory-inefficient programs.

Vice said,
This is impressive but RAM is so cheap now I don't really see the point now. Could have done with this in 2006 when Vista launched.

Microsoft's really looking at embedded devices here where throwing 4GB of RAM just because you can would be unreasonable. Plus, I suspect that Windows Phone 8 will really be based on Windows 8 and having low RAM usage would be rather important.

Honestly, today's machines are pretty powerful, and RAM is so damn cheap. Where were these optimizations in the early days when I was strapped for RAM and it was expensive?!

Paging more idle processes doesn't make the OS more efficient, it merely masks the inefficiencies.

Turn off the swap in Windows 7/8 and take a look at the real memory usage.

True, but if you use a smartphone, you're aware that the illusion of "fast" is nothing more than masking the slowness. As a smartphone developer, I deal with this a lot. It's not a fast platform, so you make it look fast by hiding the slowness. The user thinks it's fast, and is satisfied. Microsoft is just doing the same.

P.S. If you use a mac, Apple does the same too. Those flashy animations give the CPU time to process in the background, so when the animation is done, the CPU's had time to finish processing too.

Well, they are doing it well, from all of the leaked versions of Win 8, I've never seen a scrollbar in the list of processes, hence faster machine.... And I still can't believe that my old lappy can boot up 6.8 secs (OS only) using a 7.2 KRPM HDD.

Synomenon said,
Isn't it penny "pinching"?

not really, it's nothing but a good thing if they are more concerned with RAM reduction and general performance boosts which i suspect will be more noticeable on older systems in general who don't have RAM to burn (i.e. 2GB or less)

ThaCrip said,

not really, it's nothing but a good thing if they are more concerned with RAM reduction and general performance boosts which i suspect will be more noticeable on older systems in general who don't have RAM to burn (i.e. 2GB or less)

I suspect it will affect battery life in NEW systems when tablets only need 2GB or less.

I'm quite impressed by this. Good job MS on optimizing better then win7 (in this area at least). Thanks!

I have to agree... I am impressed with win8... Boots up in 10 sec. sleep/wakeup in 1 sec....
my PC goes to sleep when ever i step away from my PC now.... This is a huge improvement and i am sure MS will improve it a lot in 1 year.....