My computer is out of memory

Tips & Hints

My computer is telling me I’m out of memory, should I upgrade my computer?

3 October 2001

While memory is currently cheap and upgrading not a bad idea if you have the right computer, upgrading the memory will probably not fix your problem. It is much more likely you are out of hard drive space.

When you open a file in many programs, a copy of that file is made to the hard drive and it is that copy you are working on. For instance, whe you open a Microsoft Word document called boris.doc and start to work on it you are actually working on a temp file called something like ~oris12345.tmp. When you tell Word to save the document, the temp file is copied over boris.doc.

Generally an out of memory message is telling you the program doesn’t have room on the hard drive to create a temp file. In our optimising your computer page we go through the steps to clean up your hard drive.

If the problem is only happening in one program, it may be a corrupt template or something trying to start with the program. Microsoft Word can have this problem if the normal template is damaged. To fix this problem, search for and rename it. Note that you will lose any custom macros, font sizes and other features that you have created.

It is also possible that a renegade program is causing the problem. Windows 98/ME users can use MSCONFIG (click start>run>type msconfig) disable everything in the startup section and see if the problem goes away. Mac users can disable extensions in the Extension Manager. If the problem does go away it is a matter of ticking each startup program and restarting until the problem comes back. Then you’ll have found the culprit.

Upgrading memory or a hard drive to get rid of an out of memory message is a classic example of upgrading your way out of trouble. It may work, but it doesn’t address the underlying problem. Fixing the problem is usually cheaper and certainly a lot more effective.

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