BlackBerry How To: Determine Memory Use, Avoid Performance Degradation

Load up too many apps without proactively managing your BlackBerry's memory and you could end up with an underperforming--or even worse, frozen--smartphone. Here's how to determine memory use, as well as total application space, and avoid trouble.

Getting the most from you Research In Motion (RIM) BlackBerry smartphone means downloading and installing third-party applications, whether they're for business productivity, work/life balance, play, or a little of each. But go overboard with those apps and your BlackBerry's memory will not thank you for it. Your handheld only has so much memory, and unfortunately, memory cards aren't any help when it comes to applications; by default, RIM blocks the ability to load apps to external memory.

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In the past, we offered lists of our favorite BlackBerry applications--many of which are free, some open source--and even asked the pros at RIM for their opinions on the best third party BlackBerry apps. We knew you'd want to try each and every one, so we also wrote up a quick lists of tips to help free up smartphone memory. This week, we're taking your knowledge of BlackBerry memory management a step further. What follows are detailed instructions on how to use the BlackBerry Desktop Manager software to determine your exact memory usage at any given time, your device's total application space, as well as when you should start deleting those unused apps to avoid performance issues.

1) Update your BlackBerry Desktop Manager, BlackBerry Handheld Software

Before you attempt to determine your RIM smartphone's memory usage, you should ensure that your PC is running the latest version of BlackBerry Desktop Manager and that your smartphone's operating system is also up to date. To find out which version of the desktop software you've got, launch the application, click the Help option at the far left of the screen and select About BlackBerry Desktop Manager from the dropdown menu. If your software isn't version 4.3 or higher, visit RIM's site for an upgrade.

Screenshot of BlackBerry Desktop Manager

To find out if you have the newest version of the BlackBerry handheld software on your device, visit your carrier's website--you may have to login--and locate the software upgrades page. From there, make sure the software running on your smartphone matches the latest version available from your service provider. Click the Options icon your BlackBerry home screen, followed by About to see which software you're currently using. (Note: Users connected to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) may need to go through their IT departments to upgrade handheld software.)

2) Convert File Free and File Total Values to KB, Determine Total Size

Next you'll want to locate your File Free and File Total values and convert them from bytes to kilobytes for easier measurement. To do so, simply click the Options icon on your smartphone's home screen once again, and this time select Status. On the next screen, among various other data, you'll find numbers in bytes for your File Free and File Total. From there, you should divide both numbers by 1024--the number of bytes in a kilobyte--and then record or store the new values in another location for later use.

Screenshot of the BlackBerry Options Status screen and memory numbers

To determine your device's total file size, click the BlackBerry Menu--located directly the left of your device's track ball, if you're using an 8xxx series device--and select Database Sizes. Your Total Size value will be listed in bold at the top of the screen. Again, write down this number for later.

3) Launch BlackBerry Desktop Manager, Find Total Application Space

Open your BlackBerry Desktop Manager software and connect your BlackBerry to your PC. Type in your password if necessary.

On the Desktop Manager screen, click the Application Loader component, hit Next on the welcome screen, and make sure the box next to List additional applications that are installed on the device is checked. (Depending on the last time you used the Application Loader, you may need to click through another configuration screen at this point.) Next, record the value for Total application space, listed directly beneath the Application Name field.

Screenshot of the BlackBerry Desktop Manager Application Loader

Finally close the Application Loader and the BlackBerry Desktop Manager. Detach the BlackBerry from the PC.

4) Find Reserved Pictures Memory, Convert Value to Kilobytes If Applicable

(Note: Step Four only applies to users with BlackBerrys that have internal cameras. Users without digital cameras should skip this step and move on to step five.)

From the BlackBerry home screen, click the Media icon to launch your media folder. On the main screen--the one that displays additional icons for Music, Ringtones, Pictures, Video, etc.--click your BlackBerry Menu key and select Options.

Screenshot of BlackBerry Media Options screen

Roughly halfway down the Media Options page, you'll see a value in megabytes (MB) for Reserved Pictures Memory--zero, two or five. Multiply that number by 1024 to convert it to KB, and record the result.

5) Calculate the Total Memory in Use

Next, you'll need to calculate the Total Amount of Device Memory In Use. To do so, simply add the values you recorded for Total Application Space, Total Size and, if necessary, Reserved Picture Memory.

6) Determine Specific Amount of Free File Memory

Finally, you need to subtract the Total Amount of Device Memory in Use from your BlackBerry's Total Flash Memory.

If you're using a BlackBerry 8xxx series handheld, your Total Flash Memory is 62500 KB, according to RIM--unless you're using the recently released Curve 8330, which has 94500 KB of flash memory.

If the number you come up with for Specific Free File Memory is less than 5120 KB, you'll want to visit our BlackBerry Memory tips page post haste.

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