One of Microsoft's stated goals for Windows 8 is for it to run on any system capable of running Windows 7, which at a minimum will require the its resource usage to remain the same as its predecessor's. Today on the Building Windows 8 blog, Microsoft's Bill Karagounis details how the company has worked not just to maintain memory usage relative to Windows 7, but to reduce it, with an eye toward making it run acceptably on ARM-based tablets that lack the beefy processors and multi-gigabyte RAM banks of today's PCs.

One improvement to the memory manager allows it to search for duplicated items in memory, and to unload all but a single copy to save space (the Windows installer and image deployment tools for enterprises do something similar to reduce the size of the install media, keeping one copy of a given file and a record of everywhere that file needs to go on the hard drive rather than, say, five copies of the same file). Another allows developers to designate certain parts of programs and processes as "low priority," meaning that when the OS needs more memory it can maintain system responsiveness by removing those less-important bits from RAM first.

The OS's other major memory-saving trick comes not from reprogramming major programs and services, but changing how and when they run. Many services in Windows 8 - Windows Update, the Plug and Play service, and others - run only when they're needed, while in Windows 7 they run in the background more or less constantly. By changing some traditional Windows services to run only when triggered and making many new-to-Windows 8 services behave the same way, the OS can save RAM without actually shedding features.

For more, Microsoft's blog post is as always more exhaustive and detailed than what we've reported here - it's linked below for your convenience.

Source: Building Windows 8 Blog

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  • Shining Arcanine - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    Linux had it before Mac OS X.
  • Exodite - Friday, October 7, 2011 - link

    Since we're on 32-bit for the foreseeable future we can't expect memory addressing extensions significantly past the 4GB boundary.

    Anyway, the problem isn't just cost but also space and power use... Microsoft is trying to push MIDs and tablets down the pipe too.
  • JonnyDough - Saturday, October 8, 2011 - link

    On 32 bit? Where have you been. Most of Win 7 sold is 64 bit. Vista was a good 40% or so last I read I think...I could be wrong. I've been using XP Pro x64 for years.
  • Exodite - Sunday, October 9, 2011 - link

    Microsoft's reluctance to push for 64-bit fully have marginalized the idea to the point that the only 64-bit parts of most systems is the memory subsystem and drivers.

    Since 32-bit application software runs on 64-bit systems there's no real reason to develop 64-bit software.

    Enter Windows on ARM and you're looking at a situation where 32-bit is going to be the standard for a long time to come.
  • Targon - Sunday, October 9, 2011 - link

    You should look at the different modes that PROCESSORS support, since that is a big factor. A 64 bit OS has to handle 32 bit applications somewhat differently from "native" applications, and going back to 16 bit becomes a bit of a problem. When compatibility is a REQUIREMENT, then it would be a bad idea to push for a move to 64 bit before the software has been updated.

    How many people just could not go to Windows Vista or Windows 7 due to older applications not working? The move to 64 bit from 32 bit increases the difficulties in making those older applications working, and only a VM is the solution for SOME older applications. For those who have played computer games over the years, they still want to be able to play their old games on new computers, and keeping things compatible is NOT easy between 16 bit, 32 bit, and 64 bit.
  • JonnyDough - Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - link

    64-bit allows more memory addressing, so it is essentially faster. Also, it is supposedly more secure. Not to mention 64-bit development tools are more up to date/more friendly GUI/easier to use.
  • Taft12 - Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - link

    Because there is more overhead associated with all those additional available registers, there are many cases where 64-bit code is SLOWER than 32-bit.

    I'm not aware of any cases where security is enhanced or superior development tools available for 64-bit systems that aren't equivalent in the 32-bit world (perhaps you have some examples? Perhaps not)
  • yyrkoon - Saturday, October 8, 2011 - link

    "Anyway, the problem isn't just cost but also space and power use... Microsoft is trying to push MIDs and tablets down the pipe too."

    That rabbit hole goes much, much deeper than tablets my friend.

    ARM is the go to platform for many embedded devices, and since Microsoft has a whole line up of embedded versions of operating systems . . . Just expect to see an embedded version of Windows 8 at, or around release time.

    As for memory companies going out of business . . . I disagree. As it stands ARM would compete head to head with mobile device platforms. Low power laptop platforms at best. As such, many ARM platforms in this arena will be competing with Atom platforms. Where ARM will shine best. Later, perhaps ARM will perform as good as ( more or less ) a low end desktop platform. Personally, I do not see that happening any time soon, but no one says that I have to be right either.

    All the while, you *should* know that Intel is not going to sit still.
  • yyrkoon - Saturday, October 8, 2011 - link

    By "competing with". I mean on a performance level. That does not mean, such a platform could not be used as some form of a low demand server. It certainly could be used as such.
  • australiabatterycom - Saturday, October 8, 2011 - link

    In a double-barrelled assault, Microsoft has explained why the Start menu in Windows 8 has met its demise, and why the Start screen is better. The first round of the attack sees Chaitanya Sareen putting forward a compelling case about just how useless the Start menu in Windows 7 is, and Alice Steinglass follows up with some sound reasons for why the Start screen is slicker, more efficient, and generally more awesome.

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