6 ways to free up RAM on your Windows computer
Put simply, RAM (random access memory) is where your PC stores data it needs in the short term. If its CPU is its brain, RAM is its memory. It’s used to store the results of calculations needed to perform tasks while other calculations are carried out. Even fairly basic applications like word processors and email clients can use huge chunks of RAM when even more complex apps like games and image manipulation tools use several gigabytes at a time.
RAM comes in the form of chips that slot directly into your PC’s motherboard. Most desktop and some laptops have free slots, which you can use to increase RAM in your Windows PC. However, even though it’s much cheaper than it used to be, adding more RAM is still a relatively costly solution. It’s much less expensive and makes more sense to free up the RAM you already have than to add more.
Why free up RAM?
Running out of RAM when you’re using your PC is at best frustrating preventing you from completing tasks, and at worst disastrous, it can cause applications to crash and your data to be lost.
When your PC runs low on available RAM, it will attempt to use storage space on your hard disk or SSD as a proxy known as virtual RAM. However, because it’s stored on a magnetic disk, virtual RAM on a hard drive is much slower than the RAM on a dedicated piece of silicone and so using virtual RAM in place of actual RAM comes with a performance penalty.
How do I know if I need to free up RAM?
There are a few clues that help you to understand when RAM is becoming full. The first is that applications start running slowly. This could be because they have to use virtual RAM rather than actual RAM to store data.
If your PC starts behaving erratically or applications crash, that could also be a sign that RAM is nearly at capacity, and you need to clear some headroom. Finally, you may get warnings from applications that you don’t have enough RAM to run them or complete a task or operation.
You can also check how much RAM applications are using by launching Task Manager either by pressing Control+Shift+Escape or searching for it in the Task Bar and clicking on More Details. Here, you’ll be able to see how much RAM is in use in total, as well as how much is being used by each currently-running process.
How to free up RAM on Windows computer
1. Close programs you don’t need
Back in the days when launching an app meant waiting several minutes for it to start, it was reasonable to keep apps open most of the time. However, now that most programs launch almost instantly, there’s no excuse. So close any app that you haven’t used for a while. That will free up RAM immediately.
2. Prevent applications from running at startup
If you’ve had your PC for a while and use it frequently, there are likely several apps that autorun or launch at startup. Sometimes apps need to launch at startup to work properly; often, it’s just bad behavior. Each app that launches will use up RAM. Fortunately, it’s easy to prevent apps from autorunning. The simplest method is to use CleanMyPC. You can then go through the list of apps that run automatically and disable them all in one go.
3. Use a different browser
All web browsers are not equal. Specifically, for the purposes of this tutorial, some browsers are better at managing memory than others, while some are downright greedy and hog RAM. If you don’t currently use Chrome, try switching to Google’s browser and see if that helps cut down on RAM usage. If you do use it, try a different browser and see if that helps.
4. Close browser tabs
Having lots of browser tabs open at once is convenient, but it uses up lots of RAM. The contents of each tab are stored in memory so that when you click on the tab, the page is instantly available. If you want to optimize memory use, close all tabs you don’t need open right now, remembering to bookmark those you want to refer to later.
5. Uninstall browser extensions
Extensions can add useful features to your web browser (although they are also used to distribute malware, you should only install those whose identity you are certain about). However, they add to the total amount of memory your browser needs. You can free up RAM by disabling or completely uninstalling extensions.
The simplest way to uninstall multiple browser extensions is to use CleanMyPC where you can find all browser extensions in one place and remove those you don't need.
6. Restart your PC
If having carried out the steps above, you still need to free up RAM, the final step is to restart your PC. Restarting works like pulling a flush, it clears your computer’s memory of all the stored data. This is the most effective RAM booster of all the steps here.
Freeing up RAM on your PC is very straightforward. There are several different steps you can take that should make some more memory available for applications and processes running on your PC. CleanMyPC can help you with some of these steps. Other steps should be taken manually. Once you’ve cleared data from RAM, you’ll notice a big improvement in your PC’s performance. If not, you should think about a hardware update.