How to Tell How Much Memory is Left on a Computer

By Gregory Hamel

Computers use two main types of memory when they operate: hard drive memory, which is permanently stored data on a physical disk, and random access memory, or RAM, which is data temporarily stored on small circuit boards for quicker access. The amount of memory remaining on a computer's hard drive impacts whether new files can be installed and the file access speed, while the amount of available memory on RAM affects the speed at which a computer can run new tasks.

Determining Available Hard Drive Memory

Step 1

Click "Start," and then "My Computer."

Step 2

Locate the hard drive you wish to check (drive C is usually your main hard drive) right-click on it, and select "Properties."

Step 3

Observe the general tab in the properties menu which pops up to find out the free space and used space on the hard drive. You may be able to free up some hard drive space by clicking on "Disc Cleanup" to the right of a pie chart showing disk usage.

Step 4

Click on the "Tools" tab. Here you have the option of checking the disk for errors. If you haven't performed these operations in several months, they can help improve hard disc performacne.

Monitoring RAM Usage

Step 1

Hold down "Control + ALT + and Delete" at the same time. On Windows Vista, you will also have to select "Start the Task Manager," when prompted.

Step 2

Click on the "Performance" tab on the task manager.

Step 3

Observe the second bar meter called "Memory," and the chart called "Physical Memory Usage History." The bar shows how much RAM is currently in use out of your total. In the data fields, the number listed as the "Total" under "Physical Memory" is your maximum amount of memory, "Cached" is data stored for quick access to frequently used programs, and "Free" is the amount of RAM available for new tasks that is neither in use nor cached.

Tips & Warnings

  • * You can keep the task manager open to monitor RAM, CPU and network usage over time.* Deleting unused media files or games from a hard drive can free up significant amounts of memory space for new files.