How to solve memory leaks in Windows 10
You just got yourself a new computer, convinced that the new hardware is worth every penny. But then a problem occurs, and your new powerful machine doesn’t seem so powerful anymore. Performance is awful, and the system struggles with performing even the basic tasks.
You already know the problem isn’t hardware-related because it surely doesn’t take 8GB of RAM to open the File Explorer. But what happened? Well, you’ve just met the biggest foe of ever computer’s memory – memory leak.
Here are some of the most common examples of memory leaks in Windows operating systems:
- Memory leak in Java – Applications that use Java are more prone to having memory leaks. So, there’s a big chance that Java-dependent app is making your computer slow.
- Memory leak in Google Chrome – Even though Google Chrome is the most popular browser, it’s also known for being the most demanding and resource-hogging programs for Windows.
- Memory leak in C – Applications and programs programmed in the C language are also prone to memory leaks sometimes.
- Memory leak in Windows 10 – Although Windows 10 is the most advanced operating system so far, memory leaks are still quite often.
- Memory leak in Windows 7 – People who still prefer Windows 7 can also experience memory leaks.
Table of contents:
- What are memory leaks
- What’s RAM memory, and how programs use it
- How do memory leaks occur in Windows
- How to resolve memory leaks
- How to prevent memory leaks from occurring
- No memory leak, but the system still running slow? Add more RAM
What are memory leaks in Windows
To understand how to solve memory leaking problems in Windows, we first need to know what exactly memory leaks are. Memory leak stands for RAM memory loss in Windows, caused by a program or an app. And when a certain app is taking more memory than it normally does, the system becomes slow, even unresponsive, and users are unable to perform even the easiest tasks in Windows.
The problem is completely software-related, so if you notice a memory leak, you don’t need to worry about your RAM memory being physically damaged. This implies that memory leaks are often temporary, and there are various ways to fix them. But we’re going to talk about it later in this article.
Every running process in Windows is taking a certain amount or RAM. There are programs that are more demanding and require more RAM usage to run properly, like Google Chrome, or Adobe Photoshop, and there are less demanding programs, that actually take smaller, even unnoticeable amounts of memory. So, when a program is taking more memory than it should be taking, we call that a memory leak.
To determine which process is using the biggest amount of memory, we use Windows’ built-in tool called Task Manager. To open the Task Manager, press CTRL + SHIFT + ESC on your keyboard, or right-click on the Taskbar, and choose Task Manager from the context menu.
When the Task Manager opens, head over to the Processes tab, and you’ll see how much memory each program or process uses. Sometimes, the answer is obvious, for example, if Sticky Notes uses 70% of your memory, we have a memory leak. But sometimes, it’s not so easy to determine which program is actually leaking memory.
To make sure we can recognize memory leak in every situation, we need to better understand what RAM memory is, and how different programs use it.
What is RAM memory, and how programs use it
RAM (Random Access Memory) is a relatively small amount of memory that stores data from the running processes. Every program on your computer has easy access to RAM, as it stores all of its data there. Programs store data in RAM temporarily, actually only while running. So, when you restart your computer, RAM is being emptied.
As soon as a certain program is opened, it ‘requests’ a certain amount of memory from RAM, and the memory is automatically allocated to that program. As soon as the program closes, the amount of memory it initially used is immediately ‘returned’ to RAM.
Each program stores its own information about running in RAM. As programs are different, the more-demanding ones, and the programs that actually do more complex action store more data in RAM, and therefore require more memory. While, of course, the simpler programs use less memory.
Long story short, here’s the complete process (simplified): You open a program, it takes a certain amount of memory from RAM, stores its data in it while running, and as soon as you close the program, it ‘returns’ that amount of memory to RAM.
This is the ideal scenario. But what if this process is not performed correctly? Well, that’s where memory leaks appear.
How memory leaks occur in Windows?
Memory leaks occur when a program requests more memory than it actually needs. In that case, the program uses only memory that it actually needs, with the rest of unallocated memory just ‘sits’ there, neither used by a program who requested it, or being available to other programs that actually need it.
When the memory leak-plagued program is closed, it doesn’t return initially allocated memory. That way, there’s less memory available to other processes, and if they’re not able to use needed memory, slow system performance occurs.
There are a lot of reasons for leaking memory, but the most common one is a programming oversight. So, we’ll finally get to the point, and show you how to resolve memory leaking problems in Windows 10, but also prevent them from occurring again.
How to solve memory leaks in Windows 10
As we mentioned above, Windows 10‘s Task Manager is probably the best way to find and deal with memory leaks. By using the Task Manger, we’re going to check if a program is using more memory than it should, and immediately close it.
In case you don’t know how to use the Task Manager in Windows 10, follow these instructions:
- Press CTRL + SHIFT + ESC on your keyboard, or right-click on the Taskbar, and choose Task Manager from the contest menu
- Head over to the Processes tab, and see which program is using the most memory
- Just click End process, to close that program
The program is now closed, but the problem isn’t solved yet. We told you that the amount of memory initially requested by that program is still unavailable to other processes. Well, the best solution for that is to simply restart your computer, and memory leak won’t appear until you open the troublesome program next time.
RAM only stores data of running processes while the computer is turned off. Therefore, when you restart your computer, RAM will get empty, and the memory leaking problem will wiped away. Just because of that, restart is probably the most effective solution for memory leaks in Windows.
The Memory Diagnostic Tool
If you’d like a deeper analysis of the problem, using just the Task Manager isn’t enough. Perhaps the best way to get insights in your system’s memory, and programs using it is by running a memory diagnostic tool. This type of tools scans your computer for potential memory issues, including memory leaks, and gives you precise diagnostics about all detected problems.
Windows 10 has its own, built-in memory diagnostic tool, that’s often enough for providing accurate analysis. This tool is run automatically by the system, but you can also run it on your own, if you think there might be a problem. To open the Memory Diagnostic Tool in Windows 10, do the following:
- Go to Search, type memory diagnostic tool, and open Memory Diagnostic Tool
- If you want the tool to run immediately, choose Restart now and check for problems. But keep in mind that your computer is going to be restarted immediately, so don’t forget to save your work.
Once the Memory Diagnostics Tool starts, you can perform just a basic scan, or dig into Advanced options. For average users, just running the basic scan will do the work, but those advanced ones might be interesting in checking Advanced options.
Advanced options are: Test mix (Choose what type of test you want to run: Basic, Standard, or Extended. The choices are described in the tool), Cache (Choose the cache setting you want for each test: Default, On, or Off), and Pass count (Type the number of times you want to repeat the test). When you’re ready, just press F10 to start testing.
There’s one more useful Windows 10 built-in tool that will help you determining the cause of your problem. That tool is called the Resource Monitor, and it allows you to view real-time data about your system. In previous versions of Windows, you had to run this tool through the Task Manager, but in Windows 10, it is available as a separate tool.
Now that we know how to resolve the memory leaking problem, you may think that we’re done. But, we’re far from being done, because memory leak is very likely to occur again as soon as you launch the program next time. So, what’s the point in solving the problem just temporarily, if it’s going to appear over and over again.
So, we’ve prepared the high variety of solutions that will help you to prevent memory leaks from happening again. There could be various factors involved, and we’re going to address most of them.
How to prevent memory leaks in Windows from occurring
Solution 1 – Check for driver updates
Outdated drivers can be a cause to various problems in Windows 10, including memory leaks. While an outdated driver doesn’t necessarily have to affect any program, and therefore cause memory leak, it itself can use more memory than it should.
So, the most obvious solution in this case is to update your drivers. There are a few ways to update drivers in Windows 10. The most popular way is through the Device Manager. In case you don’t know how to update your drivers in the Device Manager, follow these instructions:
- Go to Search, type devicemng, and open Device Manager
- Now, if you know which driver is causing the problem, you should update that driver. If not, see if any driver that has the yellow exclamation mark sign next to it.
- If you’ve found a driver eligible for update, right-click on it, and choose Update driver software…
- Follow on-screen instructions from the wizard, and the driver will be installed on your computer, if available
But, if you don’t know which driver exactly should be updated, checking each driver individually is too much work. So, you should try some other method for updating drivers in Windows 10.
We strongly recommend TweakBit Driver Updater tool (approved by Microsoft and Norton) to do it automatically. Here is a quick guide for it.
- Download and install TweakBit Driver Updater
- Once installed, the program will start scanning your PC for outdated drivers automatically. Driver Updater will check your installed driver versions against its cloud database of the latest versions and recommend proper updates. All you need to do is wait for the scan to complete.
- Upon scan completion, you get a report on all problem drivers found on your PC. Review the list and see if you want to update each driver individually or all at once. To update one driver at a time, click the ‘Update driver’ link next to the driver name. Or simply click the ‘Update all’ button at the bottom to automatically install all recommended updates.
Note: Some drivers need to be installed in multiple steps so you will have to hit the ‘Update’ button several times until all of its components are installed.
Disclaimer: some features of this tool are not free.
Solution 2 – Adjust for Best Performance
Sometimes, adjusting the best performance for your Windows 10 computer can do the trick of removing memory leak. Since this option addresses processor scheduling, and memory usage, it might directly affect memory leaks, and overall system performance, as well.
To adjust your Windows 10 computer for the best available settings via Windows Advanced Tool, do the following:
- Right-click This PC from your Desktop or the File Explorer
- From the left pane, select Advanced system settings
- Now head over to the Advanced tab
- Click on Settings, under Performance
- Just check the Adjust for best performance option
- Click OK
That’s it, now just restart your computer, and see if adjusting the system’s performance actually resolved the problem with memory leak. If not, try some of the additional solutions listed below.
Solution 3 – Disable Programs Running at Startup
If a program causing memory leak is running on startup, that’s a deadly combo. You’ll just end up in a loop, where the problem automatically re-appears, no matter how many times you temporarily solve it. To deal with this issue, we simply need to disable the troublesome program at startup, and it won’t cause us problems automatically, anymore.
If the Task Manager already showed you which program is leaking memory, and it also happens that program runs on startup, simply disable it, and that should be it. In case you don’t know how to manage programs that run on startup in Windows 10, follow these instructions:
- Open the Task Manager
- Go to the Startup tab
- Now, just click on the program you want to disable, and choose Disable
There you go, next time you restart your computer, the troublesome program won’t be launched automatically. This is probably the easiest way to disable startup programs. However, there’s a ton of third-party apps, like CCleaner, that do the same, so you choose whatever fits you better.
In case you don’t know which program exactly is causing the problem, try with disabling all programs that are not required for Windows 10 to run normally. If you’re still facing the memory leaking issue in Windows 10, keep reading this article.
Solution 4 – Defrag hard drives
It is recommend to defrag your hard drive every now and then. Besides optimizing your hard disk, it could also do some more benefits to your computer, including better memory management. If you don’t know how defrag your hard disk in Windows 10, follow these instructions:
- Go to This PC
- Right-click your current system hard drive (most likely C:)
- Go to the Tools tab, and click Optimize
- Select the drive you want to defrag, and choose Analyze
- Wait for the process to finish
After your disk is freshly fragmented, restart your computer, and check if memory leaking still occurs.
Windows 10‘s defragmentation tool offers just some basic options. If you want more abilities, you’d probably want to try some third-party defragmentation tool. Check out this article for some ideas.
If this workaround didn’t get the job done, move on to the next solution.
Solution 5 – Registry hack
If none of the previous solutions managed to prevent memory leaks from occurring on your computer, try hacking your way out of this error by performing one Registry tweak. Here’s exactly what you need to do:
- Go to Search, type regedit, and go to Registry Editor
- Go to the following path: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlSession ManagerMemory Management
- Find ClearPageFileAtShutDown and change its value to 1.
- Save changes
- Restart the computer.
If the situation is still the same, you know the procedure. Try some of the solutions listed below.
Solution 6 – Disable Runtime Broker
Many users are suggesting that the process in Windows called Runtime Broker actually consumes huge amounts of memory. Runtime Broker is the process that helps the system to manage permissions on your PC for apps from Windows Store. By default, Runtiem Broker should use low amounts of memory, but due to a possible faulty app, this process can significantly slow down your computer.
To check if that’s the case with you, you should disable the process, and see if there’s any noticeable difference.
In case you don’t know how to disable processes in Windows 10, follow these steps:
There you go, Runtime Broker is now disabled, so if that was the cause of the memory leaking problem, it is now solved.
Processes in Windows are tricky. While the system can’t function normally without some of them, certain processes can actually do harm to users. Causing memory leaks is just one of examples.
If disabling Runtime Broker didn’t get the job done, try your luck with another Windows 10 process that might actually cause troubles. Find more details below.
Solution 7 – Disable Superfetch
Superfetch is another Windows service, which goal is to optimize the performance of the system. This process allows Windows to manage the amount of RAM, decrease boot time, and make application loading more efficient.
However, it might have some negative effects on the system, causing it to run slowly. Especially low performances have been noticed during gaming.
Disabling Superfetch is not recommended, but you can experiment with it, if you want to determine if it actually makes your computer slower. So, if you want to disable the Superfetch process in Windows, follow these instructions:
- Go to Search, type services.msc, and open Services
- Now, find the process called Superfetch
- Right-click it, and choose Properties
- Select Stop, to stop the service, and choose Disable from the Startup Type drop-down menu
- Restart your computer
There you go, the Superfetch process is now disabled. After disabling compare your computer’s performance before and after. If the system is still as slow as before, you can enable Superfetch once again.
Solution 8 – Disable Windows Tips and Tricks
Windows 10 Tips and tricks are actually useful to new users. This feature shows them how to use the system, along with some additional useful options. However, it is quite annoying for the majority of users, who doesn’t need any tips on how to use Windows 10.
But besides being annoying, this feature can also be memory-consuming, which is another downside of it. If you were ‘lucky’ enough to have performance issues caused by this feature, we’re sure you’d be more than glad to disable it.
Just in case you don’t know how to disable Windows 10 Tips and Tricks, follow these instructions:
- Go to the Start Menu > the Settings app
- Go to System > Notifications & actions
- Find Get tips, tricks, and suggestions as you use Windows, and uncheck it
That’s pretty much it. After disabling this feature, annoying popups in the Action Center won’t show up anymore, and you’ll also free up some RAM space on the way.
Solution 9 – Remove malware
Just like outdated drivers, malware and other kind of malicious software is a cause of many known problems in Windows, and causing memory leaks is not an exception. So, if your computer is plagued with malicious software, it almost certainly won’t perform well (depending on the malicious software type).
So, the only logical thing to do in this case is to actually clean up our computers from these unwanted guests. So, if you have a third-party security tool, just run it, and see if there are any malicious software found on your computer.
Even if you don’t have a third-party antivirus program, you can also do pretty good job with Windows 10‘s own Windows Defender. Just Windows Defender for analysis, and you should be good.
Speaking of third-party antivirus programs, even they can cause poor performance on Windows computer. This will especially occur if you have more than one third-party antivirus programs installed on your computer, or your current antivirus program doesn’t fully support Windows 10.
So, try disabling or completely removing your antivirus software, and see if performance gets any better. If your system indeed performs better without the antivirus program, consider getting a new security tool, or switching to Windows 10‘s in-house option, Windows Defender.
No memory leak, but the system still running slow? Add more RAM
We’re at the end of our article about memory leaks in Windows 10. We tried to cover all major scenarios where memory leaks occur in Windows. If you’ve recently encountered this problem on your computer, tried all of our solutions, and your computer still performs slow, the problem is probably the actual amount of RAM in your computer.
If you don’t have enough RAM memory in your computer to handle all demands, you’re going to face big time problems. Windows 10 itself is not so demanding, and no major update brought significant changes to the system requirements list. But that doesn’t mean system requirements won’t ‘evolve’ over time.
You can check out Windows 10‘s system requirements here. If your data doesn’t meet the minimum requirements, you’ll have problems using the OS. So, the best available solution, if you want your computer to run normally, is to upgrade RAM memory in your computer. By adding more RAM, your system memory will be bigger, and it’ll be able to handle even more demanding operations.
That’s about it for our article about memory leaks in Windows 10. We hope that these info were helpful to you, and that we managed to solve the problem. In case you have some comments, questions, or suggestions feel free to let us know in the comments.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2016 and has been since completely revamped and updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
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