More and more of an average person’s life now centers on the use of a computer. Whether it’s a desktop or laptop many individuals and families use a computer for a variety of important functions from homework to paying bills. Yet, few people consider the problem of a memory leak since most do not truly understand how their personal computer uses memory. While most us know how critical and expensive a gas leak or plumbing problems can be, the issue of a computer memory problem seldom tops the list of concerns. Memory leaks are just as damaging and costly especially if the use of a computer is necessary to perform work or run a household.
Overrunning the computer’s hard drive due to a system memory leak will cause the PC’s components to “age” or wear out faster than normal. Memory leaks can also result in software or hardwire issues that cause a hard drive to crash.
Thrashing and Failure of the Hard Drive
The term thrashing or disk thrashing is used to describe the overworking of the hard drive from excessively moving information from the system memory to the virtual memory. This can be caused when the system doesn’t have enough memory, the system swap file is improperly configured, the computer is running too many applications or programs, the PC has low resources, or a memory leak exists.
In all of these events when thrashing occurs the only thing amiss the user will see is that the hard drive is constantly in use, and there’s a decrease in the PC’s performance. Thrashing no matter the cause can result in a total failure of the hard drive if not corrected.
A memory leak is by the far the most serious of these issues, as unlike the others it’s not correctable by increasing the RAM, decreasing the number of programs running on a computer, or adjusting the size of the swap file. Memory leaks also occur slowly, and by the time the user of the computer realizes there’s a problem it’s often too late, and the hard drive is already damaged.
What is a Memory Leak?
A memory leak occurs when a program running on the system fails to release the memory it’s used. What’s supposed to happen when a program is completed is the memory is then released for other programs to use. This can be a program the system uses, a program the user has installed, or a program that runs in association with a device connected with the computer such as printer or MP3 printer. It can be a complex accounting software, or something downloaded for free from a website such as game or social media app. Every time this program or app is used it will grab memory and never release it causing a “leak” of memory the user will not notice at first. This why those who do computer repair recommended keeping an eye on system resources in order to make sure nothing is causing the computer’s hard drive to run double duty.
How to Check for Memory Leak
Just as a homeowner would check for a gas leak or water problem using a meter, it’s possible can check for a memory leak by looking at the system resources of the PC. Look at the computer’s Physical Memory Usage History and notice if something is taking and keeping more memory than it should. Also look for those programs that are closed, but still show they are using memory. Seeing these issues can indicate there’s a memory leak from these programs.