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Why antivirus uses so much RAM – And why that is actually a good thing!


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Lots of computer blogs and magazines give smart advice on how to speed up your computer by reducing the load on your hardware resources. While it is true that having a few gigabytes of free hard disk space is better than no space, the same wisdom usually isn’t true for your RAM (Random Access Memory), your computer’s super-fast short term memory.

RAM is the fastest component of your PC

To give you some numbers to work with: An old school hard disk with spinning disks (HDD) usually allows for transfer rates of around 80-160 MB/second. A newer, solid state disk (SSD) that uses memory chips similar to those of the SD-card in your camera or smartphone, provides speeds of around 200-400 MB/s. But your RAM, that can’t store memory without power on, allows for 10-20 GB/second. That’s more than 100 times faster than the hard disk!

If you were an operating system architect, where would you preferably run programs from? RAM is the obvious choice.

How Windows uses RAM

When Windows starts up, it reads all the programs that are part of the system from the hard disk and puts them into RAM. That’s the place where the CPU can access them most efficiently. The working data that is created by your programs, along with other programs, are kept in RAM. That means the more programs you start and the bigger the data you’re working with, the earlier your RAM gets maxed out.

As RAM is typically between 2 and 16 GB nowadays, it may happen that Windows requires more RAM than you physically have installed. No cause for alarm, as the developers at Microsoft were aware of that risk and introduced something called Page File. The principle is simple: Programs or data in RAM that aren’t used frequently get written down to a ‘virtual RAM’ file on the hard disk (hidden at c:[sign in to see URL]). That way, you get some free extra RAM space. However, any data required from virtual RAM needs to be read from the slow hard disk before it can be used again.

This is when your computer gets significantly slower and you start scratching your head, asking yourself what happened and if your computer is maybe about to bite the dust. Don’t be concerned, it has merely started swapping data to the page file.

Good high memory usage vs. bad high memory usage

Let’s conclude what we have learned so far: RAM is fast, make use of it! Reducing memory usage from e.g. 70% down to 40% doesn’t get you any advantage, as free RAM is wasted dead material. It doesn’t save you any power nor does it provide any performance improvements. From that point of view: Make sure you’re using as much RAM as possible to get the best overall system performance.

But there’s a tipping point when it’s maxed out and Windows starts to use the page file. You can avoid Windows hitting this point frequently by making sure you have enough RAM installed. RAM is cheap to buy and a bigger RAM module is probably the easiest way to extend the lifetime of your old computer for another year or two. For example, I’m a heavy computer user but I rarely need more than 4 GB of RAM.

Why does antivirus/anti-malware software need so much RAM after all?

We often hear customers blaming our software for using too much RAM. Well, we want to detect malware. To do that, we need recognition/search patterns to compare files with our database of known threats. Those patterns (sometimes called fingerprints or signatures) are not really that big, but there is a really huge number of threats out there, and therefore we need many signatures too.

At present, the Emsisoft protection software uses more than 7 million malware signatures. To load them all into RAM, it needs a bit more than 200 megabytes. That sounds like a lot, but keep in mind that this equals a short sequence of 28 bytes on average that we can use to confirm whether a file is good or bad. To illustrate that: Imagine a text sequence of just 28 letters that must be found in a library of 1 billion books, and you are not allowed to come up with a single false detection. A malware scanner has to check 7 million signatures against each of roughly 300,000 files on your hard disk, – all within a fraction of a second!

Technically there is no way to make 7 million signatures suddenly disappear. They must be stored somewhere if you want a really good detection rate instead of an absolute minimum (as seen in Windows Defender). They also need to be accessed somewhere quickly, so they can scan every new and modified file that enters the computer. Fast enough, so you don’t even notice that something was scanned in the background. The place to do this is the RAM.



here

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SS eH PF
4/13/2016, 2:38 pm Link to this post PM Susa Blog
 
Queenyforever Profile
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Re: Why antivirus uses so much RAM – And why that is actually a good thing!


[sign in to see URL] know, I never knew any of that.
To [sign in to see URL] stuff is just "magic) emoticon

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Re:


I did not know a lot of that!

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4/13/2016, 4:58 pm Link to this post PM Susa Blog
 
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Re: Why antivirus uses so much RAM – And why that is actually a good thing!


 emoticon Guess we should not apply for Tech support job at Microsoft! emoticon

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Re:


It sounds like that would be a good idea. LOL

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4/13/2016, 5:12 pm Link to this post PM Susa Blog
 
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Re:


I did know all of that or at least very familiar about it.

Great article, well written so that everybody can understand.

There is a page (swap) file limit setting in PCs but I've let Windows choose the amount.

And I have an app that graphs and names all CPU running processes plus it shows RAM used and remaining and the current swap file usage if any.

The name of this app is: ]System Explorer

"System Explorer is a complete tool that could be described as the standard Windows Task Manager on steroids."

This is a tiny part of what can be seen.

--Log in or sign up to see linked image content--



 



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4/14/2016, 12:56 pm Link to this post Email HappyGeezer   PM HappyGeezer Blog
 
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Re: Why antivirus uses so much RAM – And why that is actually a good thing!


[sign in to see URL] is quite the program, HG. emoticon

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Re:


Cool, HG!

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SS eH PF
4/14/2016, 7:06 pm Link to this post PM Susa Blog
 


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