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What Is a Memory Leak on a Computer? – Technipages

Computer users often experience memory leaks. If we were to create a list of the most frequently encountered computer issues, memory leaks would make it into the Top 5.

Nowadays, 8GB or 16 GB of RAM is the norm on personal computers. Theoretically, that amount of memory should be enough to meet the needs of the average user.

However, sometimes the processes and programs running on your machine simply won’t let go of the memory resources they no longer need. And this is when things get complicated.

What is a Memory Leak?

Memory leaks occur when programs fail to release the memory resources they no longer need. This translates into performance problems. Simply put, your computer is running out of memory.

Normally, your machine distributes memory dynamically. This means the computer gradually allocates more RAM when and where it’s needed. When that need is gone, memory is returned to the source, so to speak. Your computer then distributes memory to the next process that requires it. And so on, and so forth.

This equilibrium is broken when programs refuse to free up the memory resources they no longer need.

When memory leak issues occur, your machine usually tries to compensate for this problem by storing and retrieving temporary data from your storage drive (HDD). The process is called paging. Basically, your computer uses the storage drive to exceed the physical memory size. In this manner, your device can temporarily power up processes that would otherwise crash.

However, this workaround takes its toll on system performance over time.

Are Memory Leaks Bad?

Memory leaks are terrible. When memory is reserved without any clear usage purpose, there may not be enough RAM left for other programs.

Moreover, memory leaks translate into a series of severe issues. These include software aging, freezes, crashes, unresponsive programs, and many other similar problems.

How Do I Know If My Computer Has a Memory Leak?

If you’re running low on RAM memory, you’ll start experiencing all sorts of technical problems. We’ll list some of the most common ones below.

  • Slow computer performance. Your machine needs tens of seconds or minutes to process requests that usually did not take more than one second to complete.
  • You can’t launch additional programs. This is because there’s no free memory left.
  • The programs that are already running often freeze and crash. When these processes request access to more RAM, there’s no response. As a result, they get stuck.

If you want to check what programs are eating up your computer memory, launch the Task Manager. Click on the Memory tab to list the memory-hogging processes.

check memory usage task manager

How to Prevent Memory Leaks?

  • Make sure you have enough RAM. Install more RAM if necessary.
  • Run fewer programs at the same time. Close redundant background programs when you’re running memory-hogging processes.
  • Don’t open tens of tabs. Browsers are notorious for using too much memory. The more tabs you open, the more RAM your browser needs. Chrome is known to use huge amounts of memory, so keep your tabs in check.
  • Use a memory monitoring program. Many memory leaks go undetected, especially if they don’t cause any visible issues. That’s why installing a memory monitoring app is crucial. Don’t forget to check out the reports regularly to quickly detect any memory anomalies.

How to Fix Memory Leaks

Close the Programs and Restart Your Computer

Manually closing the programs and processes that are eating up your memory should help. If that did not work, you need to reboot your machine. Restarting your computer should help you to free up all the memory that was previously blocked.

Reduce the Number of Programs Running at Startup

If multiple programs automatically launch when you start your computer, you’re putting an unnecessary strain on your RAM. If you don’t need those programs, don’t launch them automatically.

Launch the Device Manager and click on the Startup tab. Disable all the programs that are not necessary at startup.

task manager disable startup programs

Use Memory Diagnostic Tools

Windows 10 has a convenient tool called Windows Memory Diagnostic. As its name suggests, this tool scans your computer for any memory anomalies.

To launch the tool, click on the Windows search bar and enter the mdsched.exe command. Then press Enter to launch the tool.

windows memory diagnostic

Update Your Drivers

Outdated or corrupted drivers can cause a long list of issues, including memory leaks. Make sure you’re running the latest drivers on your machine. Use the Device Manager to update your drivers. Alternatively, you can manually download the latest drivers from your device manufacturer’s website.

How Much Memory Should My Computer Have?

If you’re planning to purchase a new computer, make sure the machine sports at least 8GB of memory. This will come in handy when multitasking. If you’re running intensive processes, get a computer with at least 16GB of RAM. Examples of intensive processes include video editing programs, engineering software, statistics programs, and so on.

The more RAM you have, the better. Some say that you should actually buy twice the RAM you need just in case.

Speaking of RAM, you may also be interested in this guide: Does Adding More Cores Mean Better Performance?

This post was written by Madalina Dinita and was first posted to Technipages

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