Which applications require 100 GB of RAM

Optimizing RAM: How to get the most out of your RAM

Friedrich Stiemer

We will show you how you can optimally manage your RAM under Windows in order to avoid error messages and never run out of space.

EnlargeThe main memory is used as temporary storage for all open files and programs.
© Maksym Yemelyanov - Fotolia

The main memory is one of the basic elements of PCs. In addition to the operating system, programs store their data in the fast memory so that the processor can access it quickly. But the more programs you open, the scarcer the resources become: At some point the RAM (Random Access Memory) will overflow. Then the PC becomes significantly slower in one fell swoop. We will show you how to manage the main memory so that there is always enough RAM free.

RAM knowledge: This is how Windows uses RAM

Windows reports when the PC no longer has enough memory. However, even before an error message is issued, there are indications that the RAM is running out: If programs open slowly, there is a delayed or no reaction to mouse clicks, or empty windows are displayed.

You can counteract this problem by installing additional memory modules. But first you should use Windows tools to check how scarce the RAM really is.

In principle, any program can be swapped out to the RAM. However, if there is not enough storage space available, Windows temporarily moves the data to the hard disk in the so-called swap file. You can find it in the Windows directory, it is called Pagefile.sys. Temporary paging is virtual memory and is used to ensure that programs run properly.

Memory problems and corresponding Windows error messages only occur when neither enough RAM nor sufficient virtual memory is available. This is the case, for example, when you run many programs in parallel: play a game while listening to music, download something via the browser, update programs and many other combinations. However, this problem can also occur when applications no longer free the memory. Microsoft calls this problem memory overload or memory leak. In the following, we will explain how to free up the precious memory again.

Tip:How to use the Windows memory test

How to debunk RAM eaters on Windows

EnlargeThe task manager helps to expose memory-hungry processes.

To find out which programs take up how much memory, all you need to do is look at the Windows Task Manager. You call it up with the key combination Ctrl-Alt-Del, and then with a click on the corresponding entry. Starting with Windows 8, the whole thing works a little easier by right-clicking on the start icon at the bottom left and selecting the Task Manager from the context menu. By the way, you can go directly to the Task Manager using the key combination Ctrl-Shift-Esc.

Once in the Task Manager, click on the "Processes" tab. Starting with Windows 8, the first time the Task Manager is called, the display may be less detailed and the option may be missing. Then click on "More details" at the bottom left. With a click on "RAM" you can sort the processes according to memory usage and find out which program eats up the most memory.

In our illustration, the working memory is used 25 percent, we are using a PC with 32 GB of RAM. The Google Chrome browser is represented several times and with several hundred megabytes it is the absolute leader in terms of memory requirements! This is followed by the game client Origin from Electronic Arts with almost 220 MB, although the program is not currently updating or has started a game. Skype and Spotify also allow themselves a lot of memory - programs that many users always run in the background. For comparison and not visible in the screenshot due to the sorting: The installed anti-virus protection Avast Free has a real-time scanner, the application executes two processes - but together they only take up around 35 MB.

So if you have the feeling that your system is reacting sluggishly, or you even get the error message about insufficient memory, then close the processes or programs that are using the most RAM. In our example, Google Chrome. In this case, right click on the entry "Google Chrome (32 bit)" and then on "End task". This clears the specified amount of storage space again.

Resource monitor: alternative to the task manager