I keep getting ‘insufficient memory’ errors

Article contributed by Beth Melton

First rule out Nimda

The first item to rule out if you have resource and insufficient memory errors is the Nimda virus. One of the files it attacks is Riched20.dll. This file is used by Microsoft Word for Rich Text; and of course, without this file, Word cannot run properly.

Take a look at the following article by Symantec for more information and Removal Tool: W32.Nimda.A@mm [Lene Fredborg, 06-May-2020: Removed outdated link to http://www.sarc.com/avcenter/venc/data/w32.nimda.a@mm.html].

Make sure you note the bit about extracting a new Riched20.dll – this step is frequently overlooked.

Also, even though your virus scanner may not report the presence of Nimda, you might want to try extracting a new Riched20.dll anyway. There have been some reports of cases where extracting a new DLL resolved the problem even when Nimda was not reported as present. I suspect that in these cases the virus had been eradicated, so it could no longer infect, but a corrupt Riched20.dll had not been replaced.

Additional notes for extracting Riched20.dll

I followed the above steps and still get an Insufficient Memory error

You may have a corrupt Normal.dot

If you've followed the above steps and extracted a new Riched20.dll file and the problem still persists, then the next item to rule out is a corrupt Normal.dot. This was the main cause for receiving an insufficient memory error in Word prior to the Nimda virus, although reports of this were not as common as the Nimda virus currently is.

If you don't know how to rectify a corrupt Normal.dot, locate Normal.dot and rename it to OldNormal.dot. Word will create a new one upon starting.

If this resolves the problem, then any customizations you may have made to your Normal.dot file can be copied to the new Normal.dot using a variety of methods, which are covered in detail in the article: Why is my Blank Document not blank?; in particular, in the section on  Salvaging your customizations. Once done, you can delete OldNormal.dot. 

On the other hand, if the problem still exists, you can delete the new Normal.dot file and rename your OldNormal.dot file back to Normal.dot.

You may actually have a resource problem

First delete all temp (*.tmp) files:

  1. Close all applications.
  2. Go to Start/Find/Files or Folders.
  3. Change Look in to reflect the drive/folder to the root of your Local drive.
  4. In the Named text box, type *.tmp.
  5. Click the Find Now command.
  6. Delete the temp files you find. (These can be deleted directly from the Find Results. To group the files for a single deletion, click on any file and press Ctrl+A).

It's also worth deleting the Owner files, another type of temporary file Word creates. Search for ~$*.do? and delete them as well. These can cause file in use and read-only errors.

For more information on this and a full cleanup/maintenance procedure that should be run periodically, see this article: I keep getting files that I am working on locked for editing. Word only allows me to open them read-only.

Additional troubleshooting steps regarding resources being low can be found in the Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: WD2000: Error Message: There Is Not Enough Memory or Disk Space to Complete the Operation.

If none of the above resolves the problem, please post full details in the Application Errors newsgroup.