Every now and then, you'll have a bunch of desktop applications open in Windows. Let's say you have a word processor, a web browser, a music player, and video game open simultaneously. All of these programs have been open all day, and perhaps the word processor has been sitting in the background, minimized and untouched for several hours. You decide to restore its window from the taskbar for the first time in a while, and lo and behold - it's as if your computer is frozen for 10 seconds, before the word processor finally comes to life.

What's happening here is Windows saved the state of the word processor to paging memory to free up RAM. Operating systems have been prioritizing applications this way for decades, it's the right way to do it. Just means we need to deal with the wait time to retrieve old memory from paging. (This is one of the reasons why computers occasionally freeze up, there are obviously others, some of them that can be fatal to the session and lead to the infamous BSOD)

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So the question I have is, isn't there a better way to deal with the wait time then just let the computer freeze up and let the user get confused. Some of the current solutions windows uses are: (1) show a blank screen, (2) show a greyed out screen, (3) show a not responding dialog as above (4) do nothing...? There MUST be a better way.

I know this may be a fairly broad question, but a very important one that most of us have simply failed to consider because we've grown to accept it. Imagine loading a social network in your web browser on a slow connection and scrolling to the bottom. Rather than seeing a loading animation, you just see a blank area. The webpage looks like it's broken. 10 seconds later, it abruptly resizes itself and shows more content. Why can't we apply the lessons we learned from lazy loading on the web to Operating Systems?

The same question can apply to any operating system. I've experienced freezing on my iPhone many times. I guess Windows is just an easy target ;)

P.S. There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle. Quite often, the freeze-up leads to frustrated clicking around the screen which can further overload the operating system and exacerbate the problem. Maybe the solution may lies in something as completely different, like having a persistently visible status bar which shows how much ram/paging memory is in use. We show how much battery life is left, why not how much RAM?

1 Answer 1


Good question. I see this screen in your question so many times I've gone blind. And this even on a new PC with 24 GB RAM. Looking at the performance monitor there would be no reason to save to a small SSD disk which is almost full. But it does save inactive programs to pagefile.sys.

From the User Experience point of view, your question is very valid. Having an informative splash screen that on restarting said just that: Restarting.... Maybe accompanied with the five dots progress activity (equal to the old never ending hour glass, with a new GUI) or a restarting progress bar. Personally I like to see a single progress bar going from 0 to 100 percent over a no ending hour glass.

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