Windows Explored

Everyday Windows Desktop Support, Advanced Troubleshooting & Other OS Tidbits

Exploring Video-Graphics Performance – Event IDs 500 and 501

Posted by William Diaz on December 8, 2011


If you had a chance to review the Diagnostics-Performance logs, you may have encountered warning events coming from event ID 500 “The Desktop Window Manager is experiencing heavy resource contention. Video memory resources are over-utilized and there is thrashing happening as a result…” or 501 “…Graphics subsystem resources are over-utilized.”
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This warning has existed since Vista but there is still a lot of chatter about this being caused by some inherent problem with the DWM, poorly written graphics drivers (which can be true), or whatever else. I have even seen recommendations to disable or decrease the page file. The cause, though, is often as simple as message itself: this condition is being met when dedicated video memory is being exhausted by the demands being placed on the graphical sub-system by the OS (think Aero) and running applications, especially those rendering complex graphics or video. Whether its actual physical video memory or system memory set aside for so-called “on-board” video chipsets doesn’t matter*; when it begins to become exhausted, you are going to encounter this warning.

To see how much graphics-video memory is being utilized, run the latest version of Process Explorer, open System Information and go to the GPU tab. When I had last encountered event ID 500 I could see that I was pushing the dedicated video card in my workstation to its limits (256 MBs):
12-8-2011 10-54-12 AM
This doesn’t mean that the OS is going come to a halt or applications are going to stop working (well, they might but your not likely to get there). When GPU memory becomes exhausted, it falls back on system RAM. If GPU memory is has already been allocated system RAM because it is “on-board”, then it will just use more system RAM, which is also tracked in the GPU tab under GPU System Memory.
In most cases of everyday use, there isn’t really a need for alarm. Yes, “heavy contention” and (disk) “thrashing” is bad and will have a negative affect on performance. But what this message is telling you is that this is “the (next to) worst case scenario because at some point, if you keep pushing the curve, we are going to have to start paging the contents of physical RAM to the disk to make room for all these pictures, videos, programs and blah, blah, blah. And Aero is awesome.”

Luckily, the warning message is kind enough to point toward the most direct solution, which is to start closing stuff. After closing all the unused apps, a good portion of GPU RAM reclaimed along with system RAM:
12-8-2011 10-59-14 AM
Somehow, the part where it informs you that “if your standard workload is often causing the OS to report this event then you should invest in more RAM, a dedicated or beefier video card, or turn off Aero, and, when all else fails, set or expand the page file or update your video drivers cause you may have a memory leak in cases where you have the latest and greatest” wasn’t included in the warning. But then that why you are reading this.

Taking it a step further, you can turn off Windows Aero and realize even more gains:
12-8-2011 11-06-00 AM


*I suppose this is a matter of semantics. Often, dedicated GPU memory has often meant video card RAM, whereas systems that have on-board video allocate RAM from the system for its own use, often referred to as shared. In the context of Process Explorer and this blog, dedicated GPU memory is any RAM allocated to the graphics sub-system, whether it’s on-board or from a separate video card.

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2 Responses to “Exploring Video-Graphics Performance – Event IDs 500 and 501”

  1. mohit said

    I am having the event Id 501 problem
    I have upgraded my ram from factory installed 4gb to 8gb.
    After a month I had a problem with my pc and blue screen appeared with an error code.when I researched about the error code on the web i found that it was due to a faulty ram. But I did not removed the ram instead I formatted my PC and made a clean installation of windows from nearest dell service centre.After that when I ran memory diagnostics every thing was fine and there were no errors.
    I have also been facing problems with over heating of of my laptop dell 15z ultra book .
    So I ran diagonistic tests and the result showed that the temperature of my GPU was higher than the max limit and it showed warnings.
    I recently formatted my PC and made a clean windows installation from a dell service centre.
    I told them of faulty gpu and I again ran the diagonistic test for my GPU infront of them but this time it didn’t showed and error or rise in temperature.
    I thought everything was OK . When I went home I updated my driver version from 305 to 320.18 whql. I installed all my 3d application and games.when I started them when my laptop was charging the games worked fine but my file explorer was not responsive as needed.When I ran the games on battery mode they lagged and the file explorer was unresponsive. When i checked the event log I saw event Id 501.
    Also my power source is not a reliable one.
    My GPU is Geforce GT 630M
    My laptop is under warranty
    I want to get rid of this event Id 500 and 501
    Please help me

    • mohit said

      Also I forgot to mention that,
      While playing games if the laptop is charging and I turn on high performance instead of balanced mode, after 5 to 10 minutes the laptop automatic all shut downs itself as if I have removed its battery but while charging if its balanced mode then the game works good and also the laptop does not automatically shuts down itself but the windows explorer remains unresponsive.
      Whereas on battery mode the game lags and windows explorer becomes a little unresponsive
      Pls help

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