How to Increase RAM Memory Without Adding RAM

By James T Wood

Random Access Memory (RAM) allows your computer's processor to hold information that is currently being used. Think of RAM as a workspace where you can lay out all of the papers and projects you are working on--the larger your workspace, the more things you can do without having to slow down and put things away to clear space. Your computer has the same limitations. When too many programs are open at once, it has to stop and store some of that information on the hard drive to clear space in the RAM. The more RAM you have available, the more quickly your computer can deal with the programs that are open, but adding RAM to a computer requires opening the case and working on the hardware of the system. Fortunately, there are some ways to gain RAM without actually adding RAM to your computer.

Things You'll Need

  • Pad and pen
  • USB drive of at least 256 MB (if you are running Windows Vista or Windows 7)

Step 1

Plug in a spare USB flash drive to your Windows Vista or Windows 7 machine for the easiest way to increase memory. Microsoft says, "Windows ReadyBoost can use storage space on some removable media devices, such as USB flash drives, to speed up your computer." Basically what happens is that your computer uses the faster flash memory on the USB drive instead of your computer's hard drive. This allows the computer to free up RAM without sacrificing speed. Note that not all USB drives will work, and the drive must remain plugged into the computer for as long as you want the increased performance.

Step 2

Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc on your Windows computer to launch the Task Manager. Select the "Processes" tab and then look to see which programs are using the most RAM. The easiest way to do this is to click on the top of the column labeled "Memory" to sort by the amount of memory used.

Step 3

Write down the top 10 or 20 programs that are using memory. You will use this list to determine which programs you can do without. Note the name of the program and how much memory it's using. (Round the numbers to make it easier.)

Step 4

Uninstall any programs that you no longer use. Be sure to actually use the uninstall function rather than just deleting the files. (Go to "Start," then "Control Panel," and then click on "Add/Remove Programs.") Select any programs from this list that you no longer use and uninstall them. Be very careful that you know what you are uninstalling. If you don't know, don't touch it. Refer to the list you made and cross off any of the programs that you uninstalled.

Step 5

Launch the MSCONFIG application by clicking "Start" and then "Run" and typing "MSCONFIG" (without quotes). Under the "Startup" tab, look for any of the programs from your list. Remove any programs that you don't use. Again, do not remove programs that you can't identify. Doing so may cause your computer to return an error. You will need to restart your computer after completing this step.

Step 6

Disable any Windows features you may not use. In Windows Vista and Windows 7, there are some resource-intensive features that do little more than make the operating system look good. For example, TechRadar UK suggests that you "turn off the Aero interface if you can do without it (right-click the desktop, select Personalise > Theme and choose Windows Classic). Your desktop won't look nearly as pretty, but as compensation you'll save close to 40MB of RAM."

Step 7

Minimize any applications that you aren't actively using. This signals to Windows that it can free up the RAM for programs on which you are currently working. You can quickly minimize all programs by pressing the "Windows" key and "M" at the same time and then click on the program you currently want to use from the taskbar.

Tips & Warnings

  • Go step by step as you disable programs and services. Keeping a list of the changes you have made will make it easier to go back if necessary.
  • Set a restore point before you start so you can reverse any changes. Click on "Start," then "Control Panel," then "System Properties" and select the "System Protection" tab and click the "Create" button at the bottom.
  • There are performance-optimizer programs you can purchase. If you would like to try one, check the Resources section of this article.