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How to fix Error: “Insufficient memory to run…(due to low system memory)”

The error occurs if the amount of memory available in the system is insufficient to run the application. One of the reasons this message is displayed is that the system has no memory available with an address less than 1 megabyte (MB). When Windows loads an application, it calls the GlobalDosAlloc() API to allocate memory in the address space below 1 MB for the application’s task database. If the GlobalDosAlloc() call fails, Windows displays the application execution error message.

The solution to the problem

Follow the instructions to fix “Error: Insufficient memory to run…(due to low system memory)”:

  1. 1

    Close any open programs.

  2. 2

    In Program Manager, select the ‘Help’ menu and select ‘About Program Manager…’.

  3. 3

    Edit config.sys in Notepad:

    1. Make sure the first line reads: device=:\windows\himem.sys (where is the letter of the disk drive).
    2. If running DOS applications under Windows, make sure the second line reads: device=:\windows\emm386.exe /y=:\windows\emm386.exe noems (where is the letter of the disk drive).
    3. Load DOS high by typing the following statement: dos=high,umb
    4. Decrease the number of file handles (unless one or more applications requires a higher value) to 30: EXAMPLE: files=30
    5. Set the buffers command in config.sys to 10 if using smartdrv.exe. EXAMPLE: buffers=10
    6. Type the following: shell=:\dos\command.com :\dos\ /e:512 /p (where is the letter of the disk drive).
  4. 10

    If available, run MemMaker to optimize the memory configuration.


A common situation that leads to an insufficient memory error regards an application developed using a large memory model that includes many extra data segments and/or large extra data segments. When Windows loads the application, it allocates fixed memory to hold the extra data segments.

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