Windows 8 Significantly Reduce Overall Runtime Memory Requirements

Bill Karagounis, the group program manager of Windows Performance team authored a blog post about their efforts around memory footprint in Windows 8."Fundamentals such as memory usage represent a key engineering tenet of Windows 8. In building Windows 8 we set out to significantly reduce the overall runtime memory requirements of the core system. This […]

Bill Karagounis, the group program manager of Windows Performance team authored a blog post about their efforts around memory footprint in Windows 8.

"Fundamentals such as memory usage represent a key engineering tenet of Windows 8. In building Windows 8 we set out to significantly reduce the overall runtime memory requirements of the core system. This is always good for everyone and especially in a world where people want to run more and more apps at the same time or run on systems with only 1 or 2GB of memory," said Karagounis.

Adding, "The laptop we talk about in this post is the exact same one we talked about at the Windows 7 PDC in 2008 - an off-the-shelf, first-generation, ATOM-based netbook with 1GB of memory."

"We made hundreds of specific changes to minimize OS memory use in Windows 8."

Memory usage in Windows 7 SP1

Memory usage in Windows 8

"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," Karagounis said.

"For example, antivirus programs (AV) do various checks on files when they are being opened by other programs. The memory that the AV program allocates to check virus signatures is usually a one-time allocation (it is unlikely that specific memory will be needed again). On Windows 7, the memory is treated as if it had the same priority in the system as other memory (say, memory allocated by a running instance of Microsoft Excel). If memory became scarce, Windows 7 could end up removing the memory that helps another running application (like Excel) stay responsive for the user, which wouldn't be the best choice for system responsiveness in this case," explains Karagounis.

In Windows 8, any program has the ability to allocate memory as "low priority." This is an important signal to Windows that if there is memory pressure, Windows can remove this low priority memory to make space, and it doesn't affect other memory required to sustain the responsiveness of the system.

He notes, "When assessing the set of OS services during Windows 8 planning, we decided to remove a number of them (13), move a different set of services to "manual" start, and also made some of the "always running" services move to a "start on demand" model. This is where a "trigger" in the OS (like device arrival or the availability of a network address) causes the following to occur":

  1. The service starts.
  2. The service does its thing (whatever that happens to be).
  3. It hangs around for a while to make sure there isn't anything else to do, and
  4. The service goes away.

Adding, he said "You'll notice that Plug and Play, Windows Update, and the the user mode driver framework service are all trigger-started in Windows 8, in contrast to Windows 7, where these services were always running."