Minimem: reduce the memory footprint of individual programs on demand


Minimem is a free program designed to reduce the memory footprint of individual applications selected by the user. It runs in the background and will handle as many processes as requested.

If you’ve ever encountered a program that simply uses too much memory, Minimem will almost certainly be able to reduce it’s memory expenditure for you; just point Minimem to said app and watch its memory footprint magically decrease to a fraction of it’s original usage.

It really is that simple (and really quite impressive to see).

Now that you know that Minimem will do this, a number of questions arise: is this a good thing to be doing? How is Minimem able to accomplish this? Which applications are a good fit to optimize using Minimem? This review will attempt to answer (or at least explore) some of these issues.

My experience with Minimem: to test this program I set it optimize the memory usage of four programs which I knew consumed too much memory (or memory than I thought they should). These programs were: Internet Explorer, Digsby, Outlook 2007, and VolumeTouch. All I had to do was run Minimen and select the programs I wanted (see image to the right) And although Minimem consumed approximately 20 megs of memory itself, the overall “savings” was in fact many times that number. See the screenshot above for a before and after. (Note: whether or not these apps were a good choice for using Minimem is another story).

How does it work?: according to the Minimem website “it optimizes memory by removing as many non-necessary memory pages as possible from the selected processes.” It will do this every 30 seconds by default, although this time interval can be tweaked by the user. The applications can then load these memory pages back if and when it actually needs it; meanwhile, if it does not, that memory is made available to other applications that might need it.

When is this a good idea?: I am assuming that (a) there are instances where “optimizing” a program’s memory footprint using Minimem is a good idea, and, alternately, that (b) in many

minimem screenshot

cases there is in fact a very good reason why a program might hold on to memory pages and not unload them, and using Minimem to force it to do so is therefore not a good idea. The following are situations where I think that you might use Minimem to very good effect:

  • Programs that have problems with memory leaks: such as Firefox v2 (and maybe v3?). These programs tend to hold onto pages in memory past the point that they should, and get increasingly larger and top heavy without needing to be. You might need to observe your programs and/or do some research on the internet to identify these, though. As a rule of thumb any program that grows exponentially and becomes unwieldy the more you use it might be a good candidate). The authors recommend using Minimem with browsers, office applications, and word processors.
  • Programs that run in the background and are only used occasionally or intermittently: VolumeTouch, which is a program that is used to alter volume using a hotkey/mouse combination, is a good example (down from 16 megs to 2 megs). Judging from this program, it would seem that Minimem can significantly lower the memory footprint of a .NET application, whose memory usage is likely to be inflated to begin with.
  • Other situations: reducing the memory footprint of apps could potentially enable the running of “newer” software on older computers with low resources.

Why it might not be a good idea to use Minimen on all programs: as mentioned above, many programs hold pages in memory and/or cache information in order to optimise performance (to reduce the need to read info off the hard drive, which is slower and can function as a bottleneck). So in theory it is possible that you might use Minimem on a program, reduce it’s memory usage significantly, and nonetheless end up lowering the program’s responsiveness and overall performance, etc.

Portability: simply copy the “minimem.exe” executable that the installer places in “Program FilesMinimem” and use that from a USB device (according to the program website). However, since it requires MS .NET Framework you might not be able to run it in environments that do not have this framework installed (although all Vista OS’s and most Windows XP’s will have it).

The verdict: this an is interesting an original program that at the very least is worth installing in order to optimize Firefox and/or Internet Explorer, and can be extremely useful in case you are running programs that exhibit memory leaks or consume a lot of memory unnecessarily. Not for everyone, but I really like.

Version Tested: 1.0

Compatibility: “should support all Windows versions, though it is only tested on Windows XP 32 bits SP3” – quote from the website. Requires Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5.

Go to the program page to download the latest version (approx 401K).