How to Clear RAM in Windows 11

edited November 2023 in PC Tech

Speed up your Windows 11 performance by clearing your RAM Cache. It's your computer's short-term memory—fast but limited in space. Overload it, and your system slows to a crawl.

Clearing RAM doesn't just free up space; you're supercharging your machine for the tasks ahead. Learn why it's a critical part of your PC's maintenance routine. 

What is RAM? 

RAM—Random Access Memory—is your computer's mental scratchpad. RAM holds data for your CPU to grab instantly, making your system's performance fast. But, when RAM reaches its limit, your PC's performance stutters, making even the simplest tasks feel like a slog. Let's dig into why that matters. 

Why is RAM important? 

The amount of RAM you have directly impacts your system's performance. Insufficient RAM means your computer will struggle, as it doesn't have the storage space to complete its tasks, particularly when multitasking or juggling multiple programs. More RAM equals a zippier, more responsive machine.

One solution is more RAM. It lets your computer hold more data at the ready, avoiding slower writes to your hard drive - making multitasking and app-switching almost telepathic. 

Why is clearing RAM important? 

Your RAM Cache is your computer's real-time working memory. Managed by Windows, this temporary mini-storage compartment holds frequently used data for quick retrieval, acting as a buffer between your CPU and slower storage drives (SSD or HDD). By storing this data in its cache, it speeds up the performance of apps.

But here's the hitch: overload your RAM Cache, and your system hits a bottleneck. Clearing this cache speeds up data access and fine-tunes your system's performance. Plus, RAM is a volatile memory. This means every time you reboot, you're giving your computer a fresh start.

Imagine it as the desk where your PC juggles all its tasks in real time. Cram too much onto this desk, and tasks get delayed; productivity takes a nosedive. Clearing RAM is like decluttering your desk and making room for new tasks.  

 5 signs it's time to clear your RAM 

Watch for these red flags to know when to free up memory:

  1. Error messages: Get pop-ups like "Low Memory" or "System Out of Resources"? That's your cue to clear your RAM. 
  2. Sluggish system response: Noticeable lag? Clearing RAM boosts performance immediately. An overloaded cache slows down your computer. 
  3. Software crashes: Frequent application stalls or crashes? Resetting your RAM cache smooths out these disruptions for a better user experience. 
  4. High CPU usage: CPU running at high capacity even for simple tasks? It's a hint your RAM needs decluttering, relieving your processor from undue stress. 
  5. Basic troubleshooting: Facing application errors or performance issues? Your first step should be to clear the RAM cache. This often resolves minor issues, allowing you to tackle more complex solutions if needed.

Keep reading for a few different ways you can free up RAM space.

How to check your RAM cache on Windows 11 

To find out how much RAM cache your system uses, open the Task Manager. Here's a quick list:

  1. Press Windows Key + X to open the Power User Menu. 
  2. Select Task Manager
  3. Select the hamburger menu that’s in the top-left corner.  
  4. Navigate to Performance on the left sidebar, then click Memory in the right menu. 
  5. Look for the Cached value to see your current RAM cache usage. 

Now that you know where to find it, let's work out how to clear your RAM Cache. 

How to clear RAM cache on Windows 11 

Here's a step-by-step guide to clearing that RAM cache. Follow these methods to give your system a quick refresh. 

1. Restart your computer to clear the RAM Cache 

A restart is as basic as it gets. It's effective because it flushes the RAM cache. Windows shuts down all your background applications and services, including those using the RAM cache.

  1. Press Alt + F4 to open the shutdown menu. 
  2. Select Restart from the drop-down options. 
  3. Click OK to confirm and restart your computer.

Restarting gives your system a clean slate, wiping the RAM cache and allowing your machine to start fresh. It's not the best option if you're in the middle of something, but it's a surefire way to clear that RAM.

2. Analyze RAM with RAMMap 

RAMMap is a nifty tool by Sysinternals that gives you a deep dive into how Windows allocates your RAM. You can discover which processes eat up your RAM to the nitty-gritty details. You can fine-tune your system's performance and even clear specific cache areas. 

Here's how to use RAMMap

  • Download RAMMap from the Sysinternals website
  • Extract the ZIP file and run the RAMMap.exe. 
  • Check out the various tabs to understand RAM allocation.

RAMMap is more of a diagnostic tool than a quick fix. But it's a great way to understand what's happening so you can make informed decisions on managing it.

3. Delete temporary files 

Next on the list is clearing out temporary files. By deleting them, you remove unnecessary files that accumulate over time. This includes data that may be stored in the RAM cache. 

Before clearing temp files, it's best to save your work and close any open apps to play it safe. 

 Delete temporary data running under your user account 

  1. Type Win + R to bring up the Run window. 
  2. Enter %temp%. Click Enter to access the folder with temporary files. Usually, it's: C:\Users\[Username]\AppData\Local\Temp 
  3. Use Ctrl + A to highlight everything in that folder. 
  4. Tap the Delete key to clear all the files.

Delete your system-level temporary directory files 

  1. Type Win + R to re-open the Run dialog. 
  2. Enter temp. Press Enter to locate your folder with temporary files. 
  3. Wipe out all the files in this second folder to ensure you've covered all your bases.

Now, your RAM cache is looking a lot less cluttered.

4. End processes via Windows Task Manager 

The Task Manager isn't just for closing frozen apps but also for clearing RAM. You can end resource-hogging processes, freeing up more space for other tasks. Just proceed cautiously, as you don't want to shut down essential system processes accidentally.

Here's how to end processes through Task Manager:

  1. Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open Task Manager, or the steps outlined above. 
  2. Navigate to the Processes tab. You'll see a list of running apps and background processes. 
  3. Identify high-memory usage processes: Click the Memory column header to sort from most to least RAM usage. 
  4. Right-click on the app you want to end. Avoid system processes or ones you're unfamiliar with. 
  5. Select End Task from the context menu to terminate the process. Then, repeat the same process for other processes.

5. Reduce startup programs you don't need 

Startup programs are those that activate when your computer is booted up. Too many startup programs can slow down your computer and consume RAM immediately. Lighten the load by disabling non-essential apps that launch at startup.

How to disable startup programs

  1. Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open Task Manager
  2. Click the Startup apps tab. You'll see a list of apps set to launch at boot-up. 
  3. Identify non-essential apps: Sort by Startup impact to see which apps are resource-heavy. 
  4. Right-click and pick "Disable" for apps you don't need at startup. 
  5. Reboot your device for these changes to take effect.

When these programs start, each one consumes RAM in the background. By removing them, you've streamlined your startup process, freeing up RAM and accelerating boot time!

6. Uninstall unused apps to free up RAM 

Ditch those apps you never touch. They do more than take up disk space; they can hog your RAM.

  1. In the taskbar search, enter 'Control Panel' and click to open it. 
  2. Navigate to Programs > Programs and Features
  3. Right-click on the unwanted program and choose Uninstall or Uninstall/Change
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions to finalize.

7. Stop background apps 

In Windows, apps can continue to operate even when they're not open. Background apps can be silent memory consumers, eating up:

  • RAM 
  • Battery life 
  • Mobile data

So, let's remove them. 

How to disable background apps in Windows 11

  1. Open Windows Settings: Hit Win + I to open. 
  2. In the left pane, click Apps
  3. Click on Installed apps in Windows 11. Use search if you need to find a specific app. 
  4. Next to the app, click the three-dots menu, then select Advanced options. If the option isn't there, the app doesn't support this feature. 
  5. Scroll down until you find the Background Apps permissions section. 
  6. Click the drop-down for Let this app run in the background and select Never.

8. Use ReadyBoost to supplement RAM 

ReadyBoost is an old-school trick for enhancing RAM without actually adding physical RAM. It uses a USB drive to act like extra RAM. Great for older systems but won't work or speed up if you have an SSD. 

Here's how to set up ReadyBoost

  1. Plug in a USB drive that you're willing to allocate to ReadyBoost. 
  2. Open File Explorer and right-click on the USB drive, then select Properties
  3. Go to the ReadyBoost tab. 
  4. Choose Use this device and allocate the amount of space you want to use for ReadyBoost. 
  5. Click OK to finalize the settings.

ReadyBoost won't replace actual RAM, but it's a helpful tweak when you need a quick performance boost.

The Takeaway: RAM's Your Fast-Track in Windows 11 

You now know why RAM is your PC's MVP and how to keep it uncluttered. Clear your RAM, speed up Windows 11. It's that simple. Make it a habit.

Robert is a Taiwan-based writer and digital marketer at iamrobert design. He has a passion for helping people simplify their lives through tech.


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