There are few things more annoying than a slow-running computer. At the very least, though, you know that the issue likely lies with your RAM.
First things first: what is RAM? In simple terms, RAM is the short-term memory of your computer. The more RAM you have, the more processes and programs your computer can handle at once.
If your computer is running low on RAM, it starts using its page file. This file acts as pretend RAM and is much slower than the real thing. If your computer has to use it, you’ll notice a drop in performance.
Fortunately, buying more RAM isn’t the only solution to this problem. Here are seven ways to free up RAM that you already have.
1. Restart Your Computer
Before doing anything else, try restarting your computer. This is a common fix for computer troubles, but it’s popular for a reason.
See, RAM is a type of volatile memory. When you restart your PC, you also restart all your processes and clear any contents of RAM. If any processes in the background are eating up your memory, this will put a stop to it.
In general, you should restart your computer every once in a while anyway. This is particularly true if you use it all the time. Most computers get bogged down over time, and a reboot is a natural solution.
2. Identify Memory Leaks
If a restart doesn’t help with freeing up RAM, it’s time to look into what’s using it. The good news: you already have the tools to do so.
On Windows, open the Task Manager and select More Details if needed. On the Processes tab, click on Memory to sort your processes by RAM usage. Take a note of which apps seem to be eating up the most RAM.
Next, head to Performance > Open Resource Monitor > Memory. You’ll get a chart that shows you how much RAM you have available. Sort the processes by Commit (KB) to see if there are any issues here.
Now that you know which apps use the most RAM, consider deleting some. On Windows, there are plenty of background apps you don’t need. Go to Settings > Apps > Apps & Features to uninstall them.
On a Mac, this issue is present in the form of memory leaks. This is most evident in macOS Monterey, which introduced a host of memory leak bugs. Here’s more information on what fixes leak bug.
3. Update Your Programs
Updating programs is important for all sorts of security reasons. What you may not know is that updates help you reduce RAM waste as well.
For starters, there are plenty of programs that suffer from memory leaks. This occurs when a program uses some RAM but doesn’t send it back when it’s done. Over time, these programs will only use more and more RAM.
Program updates tend to fix memory leak issues as soon as they show up. Plus, these updates can help optimize the programs’ performance. In some cases, the software won’t need to use as much RAM in general.
4. Adjust Virtual Memory
Earlier, we talked about how your page file can serve as virtual memory. Well, there’s a way to increase it and keep your performance stable.
Start by going to Settings > System > About. In this window, click on Advanced System Settings on the right side. If you don’t have this option, start expanding the window horizontally until it appears.
In the Advanced tab, click on the Settings option. This will open another new window. From here, go to Advanced > Virtual Memory > Change.
You’ll now see the page file sizes for all your main drives. First, uncheck the “Automatically manage paging file size for all drives” box. Then, set new values for the minimum and maximum sizes of the page file.
5. Disable Startup Programs
If you’ve had your PC for a while, you’ve likely downloaded a lot of software you no longer use. Some of them may still hide in your Startup section.
As the name implies, startup programs activate as soon as your PC boots up. Each one takes up a bit of RAM in the background. If you have a lot of startup programs, these processes can add up, slowing your PC down.
To disable startup programs, open the Task Manager and click on Startup. Select Startup Impact to organize these processes by usage. Then, disable any programs you don’t want or need.
6. Track Your Processes
What if you need to free RAM up, but you also need all the apps hogging it? Well, there are two ways you can solve this issue.
Your first option is to use alternative programs where you can. For instance, if your PC struggles with Photoshop, consider switching to GIMP or Paint.NET. These allow you to make minor edits while being easier on your RAM.
The second method is to be more proactive about tracking your processes. Close any program you’re not actively using. Bookmark any tabs you want to read later, then close them to clear RAM.
The System Tray (or what we know by it) can help you keep a tighter leash on your programs. Anything that has an icon here is running in the background. If you don’t need it, right-click on it and select Exit.
7. Use ReadyBoost
When it comes to how to free up RAM, every little bit can help. Well, one bit that’s not talked about much is a Windows feature called ReadyBoost.
What ReadyBoost does is allow you to plug in an SD card or flash drive and use it as extra RAM. Of course, this only works if you have an HDD. SSDs are faster than flash drives, so ReadyBoost won’t do anything for them.
Keep in mind that most modern PCs come with more default RAM. As a result, ReadyBoost will only help older computers. Also, the extra RAM it adds isn’t as fast as actual RAM, though it’s still serviceable.
Other Ways to Free Up RAM
Hopefully, that answers the question of “How can I free up RAM?” All these methods provide real benefits, so try them out to find the best solution. If nothing seems to help, you can always install more RAM.
Interested in other ways to free up RAM? Want to know more about why RAM is an essential part of your computer? Keep checking out our Tech section!