How to Free Up RAM on Your PC

Random access memory, or RAM, is the short-term or operating memory in a personal computer, and it is responsible for how the PC runs. Slow-running PCs are frustrating, and limited or misused RAM is a key culprit when computers become sluggish. There are different reasons why inefficient RAM can slow down your PC, and a number of ways to free up RAM and boost computer speed and operations. Even when your computer is running fine, it is a good idea to periodically check the RAM usage and clean up the memory as a part of regular computer maintenance.

Computer with flat screen and mouse
credit: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

Step

Check the RAM on your computer by right-clicking on the "My Computer" icon on your desktop. Click "Properties" and then the tab marked "General." The RAM information is listed on the bottom of this small window. Today’s PCs generally require around 1 GB (Gigabyte) of RAM to operate smoothly.

Step

Delete any unused programs from your PC to free up additional RAM space. Sometimes applications and "add-ons" are installed with other software, but these programs are unnecessary and can be deleted. Click "Start," "Control Panel," and double-click "Add/Remove Programs" to see a list of all of the applications installed on your PC. Uninstall any files that you do not use by selecting them and clicking "Remove."

Step

Run the Windows Disk Cleanup by clicking "Start," "Programs," "Accessories," "System Tools," "Disk Cleanup." Your PC will automatically calculate how much space Disk Cleanup can free, which can take a few minutes or longer, depending on the last time it was done and how much data is on your PC. Once ready, place a check in the check boxes next to the files you wish to clean up and click "Ok." For maintenance purposes, run the Disk Cleanup every couple of months.

Step

Reorganize the files saved on your computer by clicking "Start," "Programs," "Accessories," "System Tools," "Disk Defragmenter." Click "Defragment." This is a lengthier process than the disk cleanup, but it reworks the way certain files are saved and can speed up software programs and computer processes.

Step

Run anti-virus and spyware applications to clean up any undesirable files that may have crept into your computer's memory. Both viruses and spyware tend to hamper computer operations and slow things down. Delete or quarantine any offending programs found by anti-virus and spyware searches.

Step

Empty your computer’s recycle bin. This often gets overlooked and is especially important after cleaning out, uninstalling and deleting a number of files or programs. Right-click on your recycle bin on your desktop and click "Empty Recycle Bin," then "Yes," when asked if you are sure that you want to empty your recycle bin.