Let’s take a look at some practical steps to get back to a smooth computing experience in no time.
RAM stands for Random Access Memory. It’s a short-term storage that holds programs currently running on your computer.
The more RAM that’s in your machine, the more programs you can run at once without negatively affecting performance. When your computer runs low on RAM, it uses a part of the hard drive called the page file that acts as “pretend RAM.” This is much slower than actual RAM, which is why you notice slowdowns.
Because RAM is volatile, you’ll lose its contents when your computer shuts off. Anything you want to keep must save to a hard drive or other permanent storage.
This is a tip you’re probably familiar with, but it’s popular for a reason.
Restarting your PC will also clear memory and reset all running programs. While this obviously won’t increase your total RAM, it will clean up processes running in the background that could be eating up RAM.
You should restart your computer regularly to keep it from getting bogged down, especially if you use it all the time.
You don’t have to guess what’s using your RAM; Windows provides tools to show you. To get started, open the Task Manager by searching for it in the Start Menu, or use the Ctrl + Shift + Esc shortcut.
Click More details to expand to the full utility if needed. Then on the Processes tab, click the Memory header to sort from most to least RAM usage. Keep the apps you see here in mind, as we’ll discuss more on them later.
For more information, switch to the Performance tab. On the Memory section, you’ll see a chart of your RAM usage over time. Click Open Resource Monitor at the bottom and you can get more information.
Now that you’ve seen what apps use the most RAM on your system, think about whether you really use them.
Apps you haven’t opened in months are just wasting resources on your computer, so you should remove them. Do so by navigating to Settings > Apps and clicking Uninstall on any app you want to remove.
If you don’t want to uninstall an app because you use it sometimes, you can instead prevent it from running at startup. Many apps set themselves to automatically run every time you log in, which is inefficient if you rarely use them.
What if you really need to cut down on RAM usage, but the apps hogging RAM are necessary to your workflow? You can work with this in two ways.
First, try using lighter app alternatives when you can. If your computer struggles when you have Photoshop open, try using a smaller app like Paint.NET for minor edits. Only use Photoshop when you’re fully dedicated to working on a project.
Second, pay closer attention to the programs you have open. Close any software that you’re not actively working with. Bookmark open browser tabs that you want to read later, then close them to free up RAM. Keeping a tighter leash on what’s open will help free up RAM.
It’s worth checking for malware on your PC. Rogue software stealing resources will obviously suck up your available RAM.
We recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes. Hopefully it won’t find anything, but at least you can rule out the possibility.
We mentioned the paging file earlier. If you see error messages that your system is low on virtual memory, you can increase this and hopefully keep performance stable.
To do so, search for the Control Panel on the Start Menu to open it. Switch the Category view in the top-right to Small icons (if needed) and choose System. On the left side, click Advanced system settings, which will open a new window.
Here, on the Advanced tab, click Settings under Performance. Switch to the Advanced tab once again and click the Change button.
Now you’ll see the paging file size for your main drive. In most cases, you can leave the Automatically manage box checked and let Windows take care of it. However, if you’re running low on virtual memory, you may need to uncheck this and set the Initial size and Maximum size to higher values.
While it sounds great, this feature offers limited use today. If your computer has an SSD, ReadyBoost won’t do anything. This is because an SSD is faster than a flash drive.
Plus, since computers have more RAM installed by default now, you won’t see as much gain from ReadyBoost as you would on an anemic system from a decade ago. The “pretend RAM” from ReadyBoost doesn’t offer the same performance gains as actually adding more RAM.
If you’re really low on RAM or want to run more programs at once, there’s really no way around it: you need to add some more RAM to your machine. While it’s not cheap, adding RAM will grant much-improved performance if your computer hasn’t had much until now.
You’ve likely seen RAM cleaning utilities that promise to help you boost your RAM in various ways. While these sound great, we recommend avoiding them.
Memory management is a complex computing issue. The developers of Windows, who are experts in their field, have a much better grasp on how to do this than some random developer who publishes a RAM cleaner.
We’ve taken a look at several ways to manage the RAM on your computer. Ultimately, adding more physical RAM to your machine is the best solution for RAM-related issues. Walking through the above steps will help you decide if this is necessary, though.