How to Free Up RAM

Three Methods:Close Unnecessary ProgramsRestart Windows ExplorerOther Tweaks

When too many programs are using up your computer’s RAM (Random Access Memory), you may find your system becoming unresponsive. Follow this guide to clear out the clutter from your system’s memory, and get it running smoothly again.

Method 1
Close Unnecessary Programs

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    Understand how programs use RAM. Programs store temporary data in the computer’s RAM while the program is running. The more programs that you have running, the more RAM is required. The simplest way to free up RAM is to close programs that you aren’t using.
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    Close extra windows. If you have multiple programs on your screen, close the ones you aren’t using. If you have a chat program running, but aren’t currently chatting, close the program.
    • Web browsers with multiple tabs open can take up a significant amount of memory; close tabs that you aren’t using to help get clear out some RAM.
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    Close background programs. Some programs will continue running even after you’ve closed the window. You can see most of these programs in the System Tray, which is located in the bottom-right corner of the desktop, next to the clock. Hover your mouse over the icons to see which programs are still active.
    • Right-click on the icon to bring up the program’s menu. Most programs can be fully exited from this menu. Some programs, such as antivirus programs, may not allow you to close from the right-click menu.
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    Keep programs from starting with Windows. If you have too many programs opening when Windows starts, it can have a serious impact on your computer’s performance and startup speed. There are a couple ways to keep programs from starting when Windows does:
    • Change the program’s settings. Most programs that launch with Windows have options to disable launching at startup. Open the program’s Options or Preferences; turning off startup is usually located in the General section. For example, right-clicking the Google Drive icon opens a menu. If you click Preferences… a new window open up. In the Misc. section, there is a checkbox for “Start Google Drive automatically when you start your computer”.
    • Disable the startup services. Open the Run command by pressing the Windows key + R. Enter “msconfig” into the box and press enter. This will open the System Configuration window. Click the Startup tab to see a list of all the programs that start with your computer. Uncheck the boxes next to the programs that you want to disable.
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    Force close background programs. There are some programs that run in the background that do not have icons in the system tray and do not show up in the System Configuration. To kill background programs that are normally inaccessible, open the Task Manager. To do this, press Ctrl+Alt+Del and select Start Task Manager from the options.
    • Find the programs that you want to stop. Open the Processes tab. This will show every process that is currently running on your computer. At the bottom of the window, you can see the percentage of your total RAM being used. Click the Memory category to sort the programs by the amount of RAM they are using.
    • Select the program you want to close and click End Process. A window will open asking if you want to close it, and warning you that closing programs can cause negative effects. Only close programs that you are sure you want to close. Closing certain programs can cause your system to become unstable until you restart. Programs with the User Name “SYSTEM” are generally required for your system to operate correctly.

Method 2
Restart Windows Explorer

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    Open the Task Manager. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del and select the Task Manager from the list of options. The Task Manager window will open. Click on the Processes tab.
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    Find Explorer. Windows Explorer is the user interface for the Windows operating system. Restarting it clears it from the RAM and reloads it, potentially freeing up some memory. Look for explorer.exe and hit End Process. You can sort by program name by clicking the Image Name category. If done correctly, your taskbar and desktop icons will disappear.
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    Restart Windows Explorer. Click on the 'Applications' tab, and then click the 'New Task...' button. In the window that opens, type “explorer.exe” into the text field and click OK. Explorer will open and your taskbar and desktop icons will reappear.

Method 3
Other Tweaks

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    Disable Windows Defender. If you have an antivirus/antispyware program running, then Windows Defender is redundant and can be disabled. To do so, open Windows Defender from the Control Panel. Click Tools, then select Options. Under Administrator, uncheck the “Use this program” box and click Save.
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    Turn off Windows Aero. Windows Aero is the graphical theme that Windows uses in Vista and 7. Open the Control Panel, and select Performance Information and Tools. In the left menu, click “Adjust visual effects.” This will open the Performance Options window, where you can adjust the visual details of Windows. To turn Aero off, select “Adjust for best performance” and click Apply. The screen will turn gray for a moment as your settings are changed.
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    Add more physical RAM. The cost of memory has dropped significantly over the years, so upgrading the RAM in your older computer may be much cheaper than it used to be. Consult your computer’s documentation to determine what RAM is compatible with your system. Check out our guides for installing desktop RAM and notebook RAM.
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    Clear up memory on a Mac OS X computer. Mac OS X is fairly efficient when it comes to memory usage, but sometimes programs with large memory consumption will set aside memory and then not free it when the program ends. To clear your Mac's memory, first launch the Terminal. This can be found in the Utilities folder, which is located in your Applications.
    • In the terminal simply type "purge" and press Enter. The system will process for a couple of minutes.
    • You can check the before and after memory usage by opening the Activity Monitor in the Utilities folder.

Article Info

Categories: Computer Memory