You’re just browsing the web, listening to music and trying to get that Excel spreadsheet ready, when all of a sudden you get a popup that says “Your computer is low on memory”. Why is this happening and how to fix this error on Windows 10?
Memory is not disk space
In this case, “Memory” does not refer to hard disk space. It refers to RAM (Random Access Memory). That’s the fast working memory of your computer and exists as physical microchipsseparate from the hard drives that permanently store your operating system, apps, and data.
This means that you need to free up your computer’s RAM to solve this problem. However, it also doesn’t hurt to free up some disk space as well if you’re running low.
Close unnecessary programs (or browser tabs)
The most obvious is to close programs you don’t need. You can do this in the usual way by simply using the X button at the top right of the window. If the program doesn’t respond, you can kill it by brute force.
- Open the task management by using one of the following methods:
- Press Ctrl + Alt + Del and click task management
- Right click on the Start button and select task management
- Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc
- Click on the Memory header to rank apps by RAM usage.
- Don’t forget to save your work before closing anything important.
- Right click on the app that is using too much memory. Select End of task†
- If your web browser (we’re looking at your Chrome!) is the big memory hog, try closing some tabs instead of the entire program. Also read our article on how to make Chrome use less memory.
- After closing the offending app, launch it again. It may use less memory after rebooting.
Sometimes memory management goes wrong in a way that cannot be solved by closing apps. In this case, it may be easy to restart your computer.
Check if your paging file is OK
While RAM is not the same as space on your hard drive, Windows does use a reserved portion of your hard drive as overflow space when RAM is full, also known as the “paging” file.
When you get the low memory warning, it means that this safety net is also completely filled. If the above measures do not work, it is: worth adjusting your paging file†
Another option is Disk Cleanup. Windows includes a handy Disk Cleanup utility that can quickly clean up a full hard drive. If your paging file is squeezed by a lack of disk space, it’s worth a try:
- Open Windows Explorer†
- Right click on the entire drive and select Properties†
- Below the General tabselect Disk Cleanup.
- Check all types of files that you want to have automatically deleted.
- Select Clean up system files†
After the cleanup is complete, you can close the disk properties window.
Check for malware
There is a small chance that malware (viruses or spyware) is responsible for the “Your computer is low on memory” warning message.
To detect and remove malware, you need special software. Windows 10 has a built-in application known as Windows Defender. That’s good enough for most people, but if you want, check out How to Scan for Malware in Windows 10 and How to Remove Stubborn Malware.
Check your minimum requirements and buy more RAM (maybe)
If you get low memory warnings with a specific application, make sure your system meets the minimum Windows 10 RAM Requirements of the software you are trying to run.
Allocate more RAM to specific apps
Sometimes the total RAM is not exhausted, but some applications may not get the RAM they need. Windows is usually good at prioritizing RAM, but you can manually override it if necessary. Check out Allocating More RAM to Specific Apps in Windows to see how it works, along with related caveats.
Adjust application settings or workload
Many programs can be modified to use less RAM. For example, Adobe Premiere Pro allows you to adjust the maximum usable memory limit. This frees up memory for other apps.
Alternatively, you can reduce the amount of RAM an application needs by reducing the size of the data it works with. For example, you may want to decrease the resolution of a photo or video you are trying to edit.
Resolving the “Your computer is low on memory” error
Thanks to the way Windows 10’s modern memory manager works, it’s normal for a large chunk of available RAM to be in use, even when the computer doesn’t seem to be doing anything. Windows tries to predict which applications you are likely to launch and preloads that data into RAM. This means that your computer will generally feel faster and more responsive.
RAM usage isn’t a problem unless you’re really running out of RAM and the computer is forced to swap data for running programs in the paging file. Until you get to that point and none of the above solutions help, don’t worry!