This is a picture of a HEAP of Desktops. Recently I found out the hard way that Windows XP also has a Desktop HEAP. I recently was upgraded at work to a Dell Optiplex GX620 with Windows XP Pro. I received the nice new machine with 2 gigs of RAM, a fast large hard drive, and a dual core processor. I thought everything would be great. After about 1 month the flakiness began.
With about 10 or more applications open Windows XP began freaking out. When I right clicked on a desktop icon nothing would happen. I would click on the My Computer icon and get nothing. I would click anything that should open another Window and get nothing. It was if I had reached the maximum total number of Windows.
I tried restarting EXPLORER.EXE. Basically EXPLORER.EXE controls your start bar and coordinates many windows functions. This did not seem to help. If I closed out of 1 application it seemed to temporarily fix it. After a Windows reboot it would seem to be better for a short period of time.
After enduring this problem for far too long a session Googling produced THE answer…. The Desktop HEAP. The answer is a quick registry change. For technical details about the Desktop HEAP see this link. The registry string in question is:
Windows=”%SystemRoot%\system32\csrss.exe ObjectDirectory=\Windows SharedSection=1024,3072,512 Windows=On SubSystemType=Windows ServerDll=basesrv,1 ServerDll=winsrv:UserServerDllInitialization,3 ServerDll=winsrv:ConServerDllInitialization,2 ProfileControl=Off MaxRequestThreads=16″
I simply edited the 3072 and upped it to 8192. The 3072 is 1024 KB x 3 or 3 MB. I simply increased it to 8 MB. Always be sure to back up your registry before making any changes. The problem instantly went away. I found later that Microsoft does provide a tool for determining if this is your problem. Link. In a nutshell Microsoft describes desktop heap problems as:
“When you run a large number of Windows-based programs, “Out Of Memory” error messages appear when you attempt to start new programs or try to use programs that are already running, even though you still have plenty of physical and pagefile memory available.”
This was a Windows quirk that appears to be more of a problem with Windows XP than any previous version of Windows. The diagnosis was the hardest part. If you think you might have the same problem I would suggest downloading the “Desktop Heap Monitor Version 8.1″ tool from the above link.