FileBack PC 4.1
Fast & Flexible Backup Software for Microsoft Windows
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System Resources Usage in Windows 98/Me

The error reporting tool in FileBack PC is providing us with extremely valuable information regarding some of the problems that people are having with FileBack PC. (If you are currently running any release prior to the March 17, 2004 release we highly suggest that you upgrade; especially with the new error reporting capabilities added to this release, and that you send us error reports whenever you are prompted to do so.)

Most of the error reports we are currently receiving from users seem to center around system resource related issues on Windows 98/Me machines, so this brief document has been put together describing how these situations can be avoided.

What Are System Resources?

Under Windows 95/98/Me a small area of your computer's memory is set aside for storing information about windows, buttons, list boxes, and other similar visual objects, such as size, location, color, etc. These buffers are called system resources. The size of these resource buffers is fixed, and it does not matter whether you have 8MB of RAM, or 512MB of RAM, the amount of system resources cannot be changed. (Windows NT/2000/XP do not have these limitations.)

This becomes a problem because many software applications manage their system resources poorly. This is especially true of "shareware" type applications, where software developers pay little or no attention to the system resources that their software use. It isn't uncommon to find software which uses 30% or more of the total available resources. Even worse is that when some of these applications are closed, they do not release those resources back to Windows so other applications can use them.

When your total available system resources drops below 15% your computer may start to misbehave. Unnecessary software applications should be closed right away to avoid potential problems. If it gets any lower, applications might start to crash or give error messages or warnings. When resources get low enough Windows itself will crash. The only way to recover from this situation is to restart your computer.

Windows has a tool called the System Resource Meter which can be used to monitor the status of your resource buffers. More information is available in the Microsoft Knowledge Base, article 300059:

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?kbid=300059

How Resources Affect FileBack PC

From the very early days of FileBack PC, Maximum Output Software has been very cautious about system resource utilization. To minimize its impact on your system resources, FileBack PC requests and releases these system resources dynamically as needed. So at any given time, FileBack PC only uses the very minimum system resources required. This has both advantages and disadvantages.

The biggest advantage is that it has a very minimal impact on your computer's precious system resources. FileBack PC typically uses 3-6% of available resources, which is very low for an application of its size and complexity. The two biggest disadvantages are that (1) when system resources are too low FileBack PC will be the first to start to give error messages as it attempts to request resources from Windows and those resources are not available, and (2) there is a slight reduction in speed of the user interface as the resources are dynamically requested and released. We were willing to make this tradeoff to keep system resource requirements at a minimum.

If you begin to see error messages such as "EOutOfResources," "Win32 Error," "A Win32 API function failed" or "The parameter is incorrect" in FileBack PC most likely your system resources have gotten too low and FileBack PC is not able to request the resources that it needs. When the computers situation has degraded to this level there is nothing that FileBack PC can do about it... system resources are depleted and it cannot force other applications to release them. The only way to fix this is to restart your computer.

We did some investigation into whether or not it was possible for FileBack PC to monitor available system resources and issue a warning when they are getting too low. Unfortunately from what we have discovered, only 16-bit applications (such as those written for Windows 3.1) are able to retrieve this information from Windows, so as a 32-bit application FileBack PC is not able to request or present this information. Consequently we have put this article together, so you might be made aware of the situation and avoid possible crashes and other warnings. We will continue to investigate the situation to see if there is something more that can be done from our end, but we wanted you to be aware of the cause of the errors mentioned above.

One thing that we were able to do is add a "Disable FileBack PC Resource Management" option (File / Preferences / Advanced).  While this feature is designed to make FileBack PC faster under Windows 2000/XP/2003, it can also be used under Windows 98/Me to help ensure that the resources needed by FileBack PC can be requested sooner, thereby reducing the chance of resource-related errors occurring later on.

Recommendation

We recommend that the System Resource Meter become something you utilize regularly, and that you become conscious of the resource levels on your computer. As you do so you will be able to avoid potential problems and become aware of the cause of some of the errors and crashes that plague your computer. You can also begin to make choices as to which software you run on your computer based on how well each application behaves, making tradeoffs where necessary.

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