Do you need to learn how to free up RAM on your computer, perhaps after seeing a Windows PC out of memory message? Don’t worry; we have many tricks to reduce RAM usage in Windows.

Let’s take a look at some practical steps to clean up RAM and keep your computer running smoothly.

What Is RAM?

Before we dive into the techniques of how to clear RAM in Windows, let us briefly introduce the role of RAM in case you are unfamiliar. For more details, see our full RAM description.

RAM stands for random access memory. It is a short-term storage medium that contains programs and processes currently running on your computer.

The more RAM on the machine, the more programs you can run at the same time without negatively affecting performance. When your computer runs out of memory, it uses a part of the storage drive called the paging file to act as virtual RAM. This is much slower than actual RAM, so you will notice a slowdown when Windows needs to use it.

Because RAM is volatile, it will lose its contents when you turn off the computer. Anything you want to keep should be kept on a permanent storage device, such as a hard drive or solid state drive. This is the reason why, for example, when your computer is turned off, you will lose open Word documents that you have not saved.

How to Free Up RAM on Your Windows PC: 8 Methods

Let’s look at ways to reduce the amount of RAM you use. You shouldn’t do this often, but these methods can be helpful when you notice memory problems.

1. Restart Your PC

This is a technique you may be familiar with for troubleshooting other problems, but it is popular for a reason.

Restarting your PC will also completely erase the contents of RAM and restart all running processes. Although this obviously won’t increase the maximum RAM you can use, it will clean up processes running in the background that may consume your memory.

You must restart your computer regularly to avoid stalls, especially if you have been using it. If you haven’t restarted within a week and your PC feels slow, then it’s time to restart.

2. Check RAM Usage With Windows Tools

How to Free Up RAM and Reduce RAM Usage on Windows

You don’t have to guess what your RAM is using; Windows provides tools to show you. To get started, open the “Task Manager” by searching in the “Start” menu, or use the shortcut Ctrl + Shift + Esc.

If necessary, click More Details to expand the full view. Then, on the “Processes” tab, click the “Memory” heading to sort all processes from highest to lowest RAM usage. Remember the applications you see here, as we will discuss them in detail later.

For more information, please switch to the Performance tab. In the memory section, you will see a graph of RAM usage over time. Click Open Resource Monitor at the bottom, you can get more detailed information in the memory tab of this utility.

The table at the bottom will show how much memory you have available. Sort by Commit (KB) in the list above to see which programs use the most RAM. If you suspect you have a deeper problem based on what you see here, check out our complete guide to troubleshooting memory leaks.

How to Free Up RAM and Reduce RAM Usage on Windows

Related: How to Stop Your PC from Making Random USB Noises

3. Uninstall or Disable Unneeded Software

Now that you know which applications use the most RAM on your system, consider whether you are actually using them. An easy way to reduce RAM usage is to prevent programs you’ve never used from consuming it.

Applications that haven’t been opened for months but are still running in the background are just wasting resources on your computer, so you should delete them. Navigating to Settings > Apps > Apps & features and clicking Uninstall on any app you want to remove.

How to Free Up RAM and Reduce RAM Usage on Windows

If you don’t want to uninstall an app because you sometimes use it, you can prevent the program from running at startup. Many applications are set to run automatically every time you log in, and if you use them infrequently, you don’t need to.

4. Update Your Apps

For security reasons, you should always install application updates in a timely manner, but doing so can also help you reduce RAM waste.

Some applications have a memory leak problem, which occurs when the program does not return RAM to the pool after using it. Over time, these applications will use more and more RAM, causing a shortage of other applications on the system. If the application has a memory leak problem, hope that the latest update installation can solve this problem.

In addition, the latest version of the application may include optimizations and improvements, so the software usually does not need to use as much RAM.

5. Use Lighter Apps and Manage Running Programs

What if you really need to clean up your computer’s RAM, but the application that takes up RAM is necessary for your workflow? You can approach this problem in two ways.

First, try to use lighter application alternatives as much as possible. If your computer is having trouble opening Photoshop, try using a smaller application (like Paint.NET or GIMP) for minor edits. Use Photoshop only when you are fully committed to project work.

Secondly, pay more attention to the programs you open. Close any software that you are not actively using. Mark the open browser tabs that you want to read later, and then close them to free up RAM. Keeping tighter constraints on content running at the same time will help free up RAM.

Make sure to expand the system tray section of the taskbar at the bottom right corner of the screen by clicking the small arrow. All programs with an icon here run in the background, so you have to right-click and select “Close” or “Exit” on anything you don’t need.

Google Chrome belongs in its own category here, because it is known to eat memory. See how to control Chrome memory usage for tips. If you frequently work in the browser, it is better to switch from Chrome to another option that is easier on RAM.

Regardless of the browser you use, you should check your browser extensions and remove anything you don’t need. Every extension you add to your browser consumes additional memory, so getting rid of them is an easy way to further reduce RAM usage.

6. Scan for Malware

It’s worth checking for malware on your PC if your RAM always seems to disappear. 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.

7. Adjust Virtual Memory in Windows

Earlier, we mentioned the paging file. 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, head to Settings > System > About. On the right side of this menu, click Advanced system settings, which will open a new window. If you don’t see this link, expand the Settings window horizontally until it appears.

In the new box, on the Advanced tab, click the Settings button under Performance. This will open a new window; switch to the Advanced tab once again and click the Change button in the Virtual memory section.

Now you’ll see the paging file size for your main drive. In most cases, you can leave the Automatically manage paging file size for all drives box checked to 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.

8. Try ReadyBoost to Add More RAM

If your computer is very old and has a small amount of RAM inside, you can try a little-known Windows feature called ReadyBoost to increase RAM. This allows you to insert a flash drive or SD card and let Windows effectively treat it as additional RAM.

Although it sounds great, this feature is currently of limited use. If your computer has an SSD, ReadyBoost will not perform any operations. This is because SSDs are faster than flash drives.

Also, because computers now have more RAM installed by default, you won’t get as much benefit from ReadyBoost as you saw on weak systems years ago. ReadyBoost “dummy RAM” cannot provide the same performance improvement as adding more RAM.

Therefore, ReadyBoost only allows you to increase the effective amount of RAM in the old system. In all other cases, the only way to get more RAM in your computer is to add it yourself.

9. Install More RAM

If you are always running out of memory or want to run more programs at once, there really is no way – you need to add more memory to your machine. Although it costs some money, if your computer hasn’t had a lot of stuff up to now, adding RAM will greatly improve performance.

If you want to know how to get more RAM, know that you can increase your RAM just by adding physical removable memory to your machine. The online saying “download more RAM” is a joke, adding memory this way is impossible.

On desktop computers, adding memory is often a simple upgrade. However, due to the small space of the laptop, adding more memory to the laptop may be difficult or even impossible. Check out our laptop RAM upgrade guide for a tutorial.

In any case, you need to make sure to purchase RAM that is compatible with your system. Check your PC manufacturer’s documentation to find out which type of RAM is suitable for your system and whether it is easy to upgrade. Online forums will also help with this.

To help you get the most benefit from the upgrade, we compared whether faster RAM or total RAM is more important.

What About RAM Cleaners?

You may have seen that RAM cleaning utilities promise to help you improve RAM in a number of ways. Although these sound great in theory, we recommend avoiding them.

Check out our report on CleanMem, an app like this, to understand why. In short, ADR enhancers are a placebo at best, because they “release” ADR by acquiring it from programs that may need it.

Memory management is a complex computational problem. Windows developers are experts in their field and they know how to do it better than some developers who randomly release RAM cleaners. Your computer’s use of most of its available RAM is not necessarily a problem, you are making full use of its available resources.

RAM Is Just One Important Computer Upgrade

We studied various ways to free up RAM in Windows 10. Ultimately, adding more physical RAM to your computer is the best solution to RAM-related problems. However, completing the steps above will help you determine if it is necessary.

When it comes to RAM, don’t forget that other PC components are important too. Compared to other components, updating certain components has a greater impact on PC performance.

Related: How to Fix 100% CPU Usage in Windows 10?