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How to Get More Free RAM and Speed Up Your Computer

Do you ever get frustrated when your computer slows to a crawl, with programs taking forever to respond or load? I totally get it – a laggy PC can drive anyone crazy when you just want to get things done.

The good news is there‘s an easy fix that doesn‘t require expensive upgrades or getting a new device: freeing up more RAM (random access memory).

I‘ll walk you through exactly why RAM matters for performance, how to monitor your memory usage, and simple tweaks to eke out more free RAM space. With the right tricks, you can speed up that sluggish computer and have it running like new again.

What Does RAM Do and Why Do You Need Enough of It?

RAM acts like your computer‘s short-term memory. It temporarily stores data from open apps, files and software so the CPU can access it quickly when needed.

Think of it like boxes of Legos that your computer takes out to build with as it works. When it needs to build something new, it grabs Legos from the boxes in RAM because that‘s fastest.

The more RAM you have, the more Legos your computer has handy to snap together instantly. If there aren‘t enough Legos in the RAM boxes, it has to slowly go fetch them from the bigger Lego stash in your hard drive storage.

Having enough RAM is crucial for speed. My friend Lauren was pulling her hair out over her 3-year-old laptop that took ages to do anything. Web pages crawled to load, videos were choppy, and switching between basic tasks felt like wading through molasses. The final straw was waiting 20 minutes just to open Photoshop!

I had her check the RAM usage, and sure enough it was constantly in the 90-95% range even though she didn‘t have many programs open. The 4GB RAM was nowhere near enough for smooth performance with Windows 10 64-bit.

We upgraded her to 16GB RAM and the computer became snappy as the day she bought it! It just goes to show how a lack of RAM can make an otherwise decent computer seem ancient.

Signs You Need More Free RAM

How can you tell if your system is RAM-starved and slowing down as a result? Here are some common symptoms:

  • Apps/files taking ages to open: Launching programs and documents will be glacial as data has to be fetched from the hard drive rather than near-instant RAM.

  • Frequent disk thrashing: You‘ll hear constant disk drive grinding and churning as it swaps out data that RAM can‘t hold. Definitely a noise you don‘t want!

  • Choppy video and music: Playing multimedia requires temporarily storing fast-changing data in RAM, so with insufficient capacity buffering and stuttering occurs.

  • Web pages loading slowly: Even basic web browsing eats up RAM with each tab open. Too many active tabs means your system has to use your much slower hard disk as virtual memory.

  • Computer freezing up: Lack of free RAM can cause the system to lock up completely for a few seconds or minutes as it tries to handle more data demands than available memory.

  • High RAM usage: Check your RAM usage in Task Manager. If it‘s consistently around 90% or more your system is likely thrashing a lot to disk or even using the page file on your C: drive for virtual memory. Neither is ideal.

How Much RAM Do You Really Need?

Now you know that limited RAM can turn your computer into a slowpoke. So how much is considered enough?

It depends a lot on what you use your computer for. Basic needs like browsing the web, office work, streaming video and music can get by on 8GB. But if you leave multiple apps, browser tabs and files open 8GB can still get used up fast.

For optimal speed I‘d recommend 16GB RAM for most mainstream users. Gamers, video editors and other power users doing intensive work should consider 32GB or more.

According to a recent Steam survey, over 72% of gamers have 16GB RAM or higher. For smooth high FPS gameplay while streaming, chatting, and having other apps open in the background, 16GB is currently the gaming sweet spot.

Here are some general RAM guidelines by type of use according to experts:

Computer UsageRecommended RAM
Basic office work, web browsing, video streaming16GB
High-end gaming, game streaming16-32GB
Professional content creation, video/music production32-64GB
4K/8K video editing, 3D modeling/CAD64GB+

Of course, make sure your motherboard and operating system can actually support the amount of RAM you plan to install. Most newer consumer desktops and laptops support at least 16GB RAM nowadays. Professional workstations can handle 128GB or more!

Monitor Your RAM Usage

Before you can free up RAM, you need to understand how much is currently being used. Task Manager gives you an instant snapshot of memory utilization on Windows:

On Windows 10/11:

  • Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open Task Manager
  • Go to the Performance tab
  • Check memory utilization under the RAM section

You want to look at the percentage of RAM in active use, which ideally should not consistently exceed about 90% for responsive performance. If you see it pinned near 100% often, then you definitely need to free some RAM!

On MacOS, Activity Monitor is your friend:

On MacOS:

  • Open Finder > Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor
  • Go to the Memory tab
  • Look at Memory Used vs Total physical memory

Again, aim to keep active usage below 90% if possible to avoid disk paging.

For Linux distributions, the System Monitor tool offers similar RAM monitoring:

On Linux:

  • Open System Monitor
  • Go to the Resources or Processes tab
  • View memory utilization

Or just run free -h in terminal to see a memory usage report in human-readable format.

I also recommend installing a system monitor desktop widget so you can always glance at current RAM usage. Many are available for Windows and Linux distros.

Tips to Free up Precious RAM

Now for the good stuff: practical techniques to eke out more free RAM space on your system. Try these tweaks one by one and check if RAM usage drops:

1. Close Unnecessary Apps and Browser Tabs

One of the easiest ways to free up idle RAM is by closing programs and browser tabs you aren‘t actively using.

Chrome and Firefox can each eat over 2GB RAM with multiple tabs open! Shutting down unused browser windows can reclaim a ton of memory.

Leave open only the essential apps you need right now and quit any others hogging space in the background.

2. Update Software and Drivers

Outdated software often has memory leaks or inefficiencies that get fixed in updates. Keep everything updated for best performance:

  • Windows Updates
  • Graphics drivers
  • Motherboard BIOS/firmware
  • Browsers and other applications

Updated drivers and programs are better optimized to work efficiently together and free RAM when it‘s no longer needed.

3. Disable Unused Startup Programs

Startup programs automatically launch when you boot up and claim RAM, whether you want them to or not!

Disable any apps enabled to auto-start that you don‘t really need running permanently in the background:

Windows 10/11:

  • Open Task Manager > Startup tab
  • Right click each unwanted program and select "Disable"

This stops them from pointlessly taking up RAM every time you restart.

4. Uninstall Bloatware

Bloatware refers to unnecessary software often pre-loaded on retail PCs. These can include promotional trialware, branded utilities, redundant app helpers and more.

Get rid of any you don‘t need so it‘s not arbitrarily claiming RAM:

  • McAfee Antivirus trial
  • Duplicate media/audio apps
  • OEM support utilities
  • "Optimizer" helpers

You can always reinstall anything you do end up missing.

5. Use a RAM Disk

A RAM disk is a virtual drive that your PC treats like a separate storage device, but it‘s allocated from your physical RAM modules instead of the hard disk.

Because it leverages your fast RAM, data here can be accessed much quicker. This makes RAM disks ideal for temporary files and caches:

  • Browser cache/history
  • Application temp files
  • System pagefile
  • Downloads folder

By moving such transient data to a RAM disk you can free up some ongoing RAM capacity and reduce disk paging.

Popular RAM disk software includes SoftPerfect RAM Disk and ImDisk Toolkit. Just be sure to save important data externally, as a RAM disk is cleared after each reboot!

6. Add More RAM

If you‘ve tried all the above and your system still feels RAM-starved, it may just need an upgrade.

Adding more physical RAM chips/modules is the ultimate solution for increasing free memory. Check how many RAM slots your motherboard has and the maximum capacity it supports.

For older systems, a RAM upgrade can extend useful life and offer a significant speed boost. Before trashing a machine as obsolete, try upgrading the memory!

On laptops unfortunately RAM is often soldered directly to the motherboard and not upgradable. But some laptops still allow accessing modules through a service panel on the bottom.

7. Adjust Visual Settings

If all else fails and you can‘t add more RAM, slightly reducing visual fidelity can marginally lower memory load:

  • Lower in-game texture resolution
  • Reduce display output resolution
  • Disable fancy transparency effects

The performance gain will be minimal, but every bit counts when RAM starved!

"Download More RAM" Scams – Avoid Them!

You may have seen dubious websites claiming you can literally download more RAM to upgrade your computer for free. This is 100% a scam.

While you can optimize RAM usage with virtual disks as mentioned earlier, it‘s impossible to download physical RAM chips to increase total capacity.

Any site offering to magically give you more installable RAM through software tricks is fraudulent. Avoid these scams or else you may end up with malware!

The only way to add more usable RAM is by physically installing bigger memory modules.

Give Your Computer a Memory Boost!

Whew, that was a boatload of memory management info! Here‘s a quick recap:

  • RAM stores short-term data for fast access and is vital for performance.
  • Lag and freezing issues are often caused by insufficient RAM.
  • Close unused programs and tabs, disable startup apps, and uninstall bloatware to free idle RAM.
  • Keep software updated and use a RAM disk to reduce disk paging.
  • Adding more RAM is the ultimate solution if you need sustained high memory.

I hope these tips help breathe new life into your computer by unleashing some extra RAM capacity. Let me know if the tricks speed up your once sluggish system – I love hearing when I‘ve helped solve frustrating computer problems for someone!



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.