User, GDI Resources Diatribe

I don't claim to understand of the inner workings of Windows or User/GDI system resources (nor do I want to), and I am not a PC expert - so don't expect technical details from me. I mostly just cite below what I consider to be expert references.

But I have been impacted by excessive user/GDI resource consumption under win95 and w98, and have educated myself to a modestly painful level on the subject. I present this information in hopes of helping others...

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User and GDI space are two stacks of virtual memory of Windows. They are 'system resources' used to manage and track certain functions within Windows. Sufficient amounts are needed to open AND close windows applications and perform certain functions - some applications and functions require much more memory than others, hence, problems may appear "randomly". Possible symptoms when you run short of system resources:


System resources is NOT...

... in other words, you will not affect or fix this problem with any hardware change.
Beware any software programs or products that claim to resolve this problem - I have found none.

The problem is worst in Windows 95. It was improved (impact lessened) in 98 and ME, andfurther lessened in 2000 and NT (stack sizes are roughly doubled). I believe the issue no longer exists in Windows/XP.


I consider the links below to be the best available at describing "system resources. Many more links exist, but most are inaccurate or downright deceptive, and I suggest you don't bother with any but those listed here.  Some appropriate words of caution:

  1. some information on the web is old, i.e. behind the times, or useless,
  2. some strongly suggest certain software products will not cause a problem - I suggest you trust your own experience and testing,
  3. beware statements like "you can take user/GDI spaces down to 30%, 20%, 10% free without suffering" - I've found my limit to be about 30-40% - beyond that peformance, and ultimately performance, suffered (both in Windows 95 and 98). You can avoid the guessing game by using a monitor.

Known Resource Hogs ("*" items are my favorite big offenders)

I suggest you check your applications' system resources usage by installing the memstat monitor and run the application under various conditions. (note: you can often, but not always, free resources by closing the offending application)


Many 'monitors', websites and computer magazine articles claim to discuss and measure and free system resources or memory. Like my admonition in the XPERTS heading above, don't trust such claims.

  1. Resources is not the same as memory, RAM, etc. So beware of explanations and claims regarding freeing 'resources'. MS-Windows' System Resources cannot be freed, optimzed or whatever by tricky software. Don't pay for anything to fix this problem!!
  2. Very few packages actually monitor anything other than RAM (hardware) and Virtual memory - which is NOT the same as system resources. (And again, utilities claiming to free RAM, memory and speed up your PC are typically nothing more than ripoffs.)

Memstat is one of the few, and the best, I have found to monitor "system resources". Memstat is Memory Status Utility written by Mark Gamber, circa 1995. aka memstats, mstat, mstat32. I've used it on Windows 95 and 98. Have not tried it under Windows NT, 2000, or XP.

get mstat32 here

see also: Re: GDI usage

Freeing Resources

Some ideas:

FPS - Franklin Covey's Franklin Planner System

(For more about FPS, visit my palm links)

PDTL (Prioritized Daily Task List) eats system resources over time. You can watch it go away with the mstat32 utility.

For example, simple cursoring down 5 task lines can eat up 1% (though it does seem somewhat variable). Page up and down through tasks exhibit similar behavior, but not nearly as bad as cursor up and cursor down. Task "Move", "forward" and other action items also consume GDI space. My uneducated guess is something related to each task line is getting put into GDI space - most likely FPS stores new font information for each colored line of text. It may be this only happens if you have assigned colors to task categories (which I have). One might assume there is a design flaw in PTDL, but then again, perhaps the design is top notch with no room for improvement -:).

The good news is with FPS, like most software that affect system resources, closing the the application allows MS-windows to free the space - but only if you do so before you are hung or not so critically low on system resources that windows has not become unstable.


Please write me if you find this information to be helpful. Corrections, additions, improvements would be appreciated.
Visitor: since 1999.