Windows error “Your system is low on virtual memory” (7/2018)

[German]Short question about whether blog readers have been getting the message Your system is low on virtual memory' in Windows since the July 2018 patchday?


A short description

German blog reader Steve M. contacted me at the end of July 2018 and pointed out the following facts to me:

Since we currently have an increased number of issues with various Windows clients at different customers, we wanted to ask you whether you already have similar reports and at the same time also inform you of our previous findings with this problem.

Also, we have already learned that we are apparently not the only ones with this problem. A software company from one of our customers has also already complained about this problem and stated that the only solution was to reinstall the affected computers.

Problem: The Windows client displays the error message: "Your system is low on virtual memory" "Please close the following programs to free memory again". At the same time many programs hang up and the computer reacts very slowly.

After a restart, the issue is usually solved for a few hours. However, it has happened also, that the problem recurred immediately.

The programs shown [in Task-Manager] are those which occupy the most memory, but when adding up the used main memory you only get a fraction of the built-in memory.

This indicates that the programs themselves are not to blame. But something in the background occupies the memory.

Findings: During the analysis – which programs occupies the memory – I recognized, as already described above, that the memory is currently occupied perhaps only to approx. 20 % by active services and programs.

In the Resource Monitor on the Memory tab, however, you can see that the "changed memory" in the bar chart occupies the memory massively and is apparently the trigger for the error message.

However, reading the changed memory only reveals small amounts of insignificant services but no information about the remaining "changed" memory.

Here you can see the changed memory. This PC has a total of 8 GB RAM and the second picture clearly shows that this is not nearly used (approx. 650 MB of 8 GB).

You can also see that not all of the memory used can be allocated to the programs or services. (2329 MB are occupied according to the resource monitor and only about 650 MB are effectively displayed in the task manager)

Used memory

Additional information:

  1. It affects both Windows 7 and Windows 10
  2. No connection can be seen on the computers so far (on the part of software and hardware)
  3. According to our considerations, this error could be caused by a Windows update or even a virus.

Attempts so far:

  1. Physical expansion of the main memory
  2. Paging file enlarged
  3. Paging file completely deactivated

However, all these attempts brought only short lasting success. After some time, the problem reoccurs.

Today we get one of these computers to our company and will scan it for malware and try to find out what occupies the changed memory. I will then report to you on our further findings.

Steve then added in another mail that this problem only occurs since July 16, 2018. He wrote:

We've never had problems like this before. Currently we have the problem with 6 customers and a total of 7 computers. All customers have different environments.

I had pointed out memory wasters like Google Chrome, but got feedback that 'the affected computer was equipped with 16 GB RAM and a relatively large swap file. Even here, the memory was completely full.' All in all, a strange behavior. Hence the question: Has anyone else observed this behavior?

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