Memory Bottleneck

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What Does Memory Bottleneck Mean?

A memory bottleneck refers to a memory shortage due to insufficient memory, memory leaks, defective programs or when slow memory is used in a fast processor system. A memory bottleneck affects the machine’s performance by slowing down the movement of data between the CPU and the RAM. The increased processing times lead to slow computer operations.


Techopedia Explains Memory Bottleneck

A memory bottleneck occurs when running applications require more memory than the available physical RAM. Operating systems such as Windows use virtual memory on the hard disk to accommodate the memory requirements for all the running applications.

The least-used memory areas occupied by inactive open programs are stored in the paging file and are then retrieved into the physical memory when the program becomes active. Since hard drives are much slower than RAM, accessing this information is slower, which is one of the causes of memory-based reduced performance.

Bottlenecks result from simultaneous or excessive access to shared resources such as the memory, and are likely to occur when:

  • There is insufficient RAM
  • There is a malfunctioning memory, disk or computer system
  • There are incorrectly configured applications, memory or mismatched memory modules
  • Memory allocated is insufficient
  • Systems process high volumes of information, and memory-intensive programs such as financial modeling programs or databases are running

Memory bottlenecks are usually identified by memory errors such as in the following cases:

  • Out of memory
  • Timeouts occurring when waiting for a memory resource
  • An increase in query execution time, drop in the number of active queries or sudden unexpected CPU spikes

Memory bottlenecks can be resolved using various methods such as:

  • Optimizing the cache usage, proper memory usage, adding more physical memory or re-evaluating the applications and processes
  • Monitoring the applications and correcting or replacing those that leak or use the memory inefficiently
  • Increasing the size of the paging file and ensuring that the free hard disk space can accommodate the file
  • Removing unnecessary drivers, protocols and display settings
  • Stopping unused services
  • Adding more physical memory (This may be limited by the maximum amount that the computer hardware and the OS can handle.)

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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.