How to Fix Windows 10 Memory Leaks

Windows 10 can sometimes use more RAM than it actually needs. Here’s how to resolve that issue…

Introduction
Ove the years, I’ve noticed that the more you do with your computer, the more RAM you need. Now, that statement likely isn’t surprising for anyone. I mean, it makes perfect sense. If you wanna do more, you’re gonna need more – RAM, processing power, hard drive space – you’re gonna need more. It’s really just that simple.

However, with RAM, Windows has cleanup procedures that often take RAM that was used by one app, but is no longer needed and “cleans it up,” returning it to a larger, common “pool” of memory that any and every application can take needed memory resources from. Unfortunately, this clean up process doesn’t always work correctly, and in some cases, applications can grab RAM and not give it back. These applications don’t manage memory correctly, and continue to consume more and more RAM until you either run out, start using virtual memory (in the form of your swap file growing in size) or until you notice the performance of your PC tanking. It’s this type of memory “leak” that is often a problem for many PC users.

If you find yourself in that last category, don’t worry… you’re not alone. Windows has a history of memory leaks that go back to the earliest days of Windows. Some people will tell you that – depending on the app or applet – Windows versions from 3.x to Windows 95 to Windows Vista, heck even Windows 10, can leak like a sieve.

Fortunately, there ARE things you can do to better manage your resources. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

I Forget What Kinds of Memory my Computer Uses
I get this all the time… many folks don’t know or understand the difference between the different kinds of memory their computers use. So, here, very quickly, is a rundown of the different types of memory a computer uses.

• RAM
RAM stands for Random Access Memory. This is the type of memory that your computer uses to actively think. Its where the OS and other running applications and actively used data are stored and accessed by the PC’s processor(s). It’s different from storage or other kinds of memory (like SD cards) that are used to store data. Once this type of memory loses power, any and all information stored there is lost.

Depending on the type of application or program that is running, your computer may request more and more RAM. As programs end processes or terminate (close or exit), RAM is released back to the operating system where it can be reused by other applications, programs and processes.

Depending on how many applications you have running (as well as the type, as noted above), it is possible for you to run out of available RAM. Your computer can then use any available hard drive or SSD space as “virtual memory,” through a file called a “swap” file. Virtual memory allows you to do more with the limited amount of RAM that you have, but the process slows down your PC, as your computer has to write the information it needs to your storage space, but then read it back when that information is needed.

• Storage
This is your hard drive or SSD; or even in some cases, an SD card or other external storage device. This is where data can be permanently written to and read from. This is where your documents and data – like your pictures, videos and other content – are stored and viewed.

The amount of space available here is almost always larger than your available amount of RAM, and despite the speed of your hard drive or SSD, is nearly always slower than the RAM your PC has. The upside is that you can store a great deal of information here, without fear of it being lost after the power on your PC is turned off. The downside, as I mentioned, is that its slower than the RAM of your PC. Depending on the demands of your computing activities, it’s possible that your PC may need to read and write information to and from your storage faster than your storage can keep up. In cases like this – with large picture or video editing tasks, for example – your storage device can create a bottle neck, requiring you to wait for the hard drive to “catch up” with the needs of your microprocessor.

• VRAM
VRAM or video RAM is a special type of memory that is often directly hard wired to your computer’s graphics card. In the cases where your PC has integrated graphics (instead of a dedicated and separate graphics card), VRAM is simulated by the graphics processor. Your GPU will segregate a set amount or set amount range of available RAM specifically for graphics processing on your computer.

Dedicated VRAM is nearly always faster (or at least as fast) as your PC’s RAM. When your computer’s integrated graphics processor simulates VRAM from available RAM, the amount available to the rest of your PC’s OS and running applications is reduced.

Memory Leaks and How to Plug Them
So, what exactly is a memory “leak?”

A memory leak refers to a loss of available memory to the operating system. Available memory continually decreases due to programs and processes not releasing it back when they are done. Memory continuously gets allocated and is never reusable by the OS or any applications. The lack of available memory causes the PC to use virtual memory, taking up hard drive space. The result is a slower computer.

Several experts in popular forums have identified the Windows 10 system process notskrnl.exe as a major cause of memory leaks, and since memory leaks are software related – and software can change – this is a temporary problem.

Thankfully, there’s a quick fix for all of this. You can use Windows Task Manager to determine what processes and program as using more memory than any other app or process, or they reasonably should. For example, if you open Task Manager, and find that a program like Notepad, for example, is consuming 50% of all of your RAM, it’s a pretty good sign that it has a memory leak.

To check for a memory leak, follow these steps:

1. Open Task Manager
a. Right click the Task Bar
b. Select Task manager from the context menu that appears, OR
c. Press CTRL-Shift-Esc
2. Click More Details
3. Click the Processes tab
4. Click the header in the memory column twice to sort by memory usage

Check the amounts of RAM being used. If you see an app that’s got a disproportionate amount of your RAM being used, it’s a candidate for a memory leak. Possible causes of a memory leak include malware infections, outdated drivers, and just buggy software.

Stopping Memory Leaks
Stopping memory leaks takes a bit of doing; but it’s not hard. Once you figure it out, it’s fairly easy. However, getting it right is hard. There are two basic ways to do this – updating your drivers and programs, and disabling startup items.

Updating your Drivers
If your earlier versions of Windows were running well and you started noticing memory leaks after you upgraded your PC to Windows 10, it’s very probable that Windows 10 and the current version of your peripherals or PC ‘s drivers don’t work and play well together. The best thing to do here, is to check for updates and then install those updates. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this.

Update your drivers via Device Manager
Despite Windows 10 redesigned user interface, it’s still possible to get access to Device Manager.

To get access to Device Manager, follow these steps

1. Click the Start button and then type the term, “device manager” into Cortana’s search bar. When Windows locates what you’re looking for, press enter. Device manager will open
2. From Device Manager, search for your custom peripherals.
3. Click the arrow to the left of the peripheral.
4. From the expanded category, find the device’s driver and right click it.
5. Click Update Driver from the context menu that appears.
6. On the following screens, follow the instructions for downloading an update to your component’s drivers.

Download Drivers via the Web
Many of the peripherals that you buy will have either a CD or other media that contains the drivers you need to run your new computer gadget; or will have a link for you to download an install file.

The best way to get the latest version of your gadget’s drivers is to visit the manufacturer’s website and download the latest version driver.

Disable Startup Programs
The other way to get rid of memory leaks on your PC is to disable startup programs. If the bad app has a startup component, you can disable it.

To disable startup programs on your PC, follow these steps

1. Open Task Manager
a. Right click the Task Bar
b. Select Task manager from the context menu that appears, OR
c. Press CTRL-Shift-Esc
2. Click More Details
3. Click the Startup tab
4. Click on the startup program you wish to disable.
5. Click the Disable button.
6. Repeat for any other desired program(s) you wish to disable
7. Restart your PC.

With the apps disabled, they won’t load when your PC starts, thus removing any memory leak that may exist.

Conclusion
Windows 10 can be an awesome operating system. However, it’s not without its issues. Its memory management is better than in previous versions of Windows, but it’s not infallible.

Windows still relies on drivers and other apps to help you get work done. Application developers are not all created equally, either. Some of them are obviously better than others, and it’s very possible that you can bump into a badly written, not very well behaved application or utility. When that happens, it’s very possible that you’re headed for a memory leak.

While this can be bad, it’s not the end of the world. Resolving memory leaks is simply a matter of removing the offending app or process. It may take a bit of investigation, but is not too difficult.

I’ve given you some really easy to follow steps for a few solid methods for plugging memory leaks. Eliminating leaks will help keep your PC running at its peak performance capabilities.

Have you noticed your PC acting strangely? Have you noticed performance issues when you run specific applications or utilities; or perhaps after you installed a new application? If you started noticing performance issues after you visited a new internet site, you may have contracted some malware. Assuming that this is NOT the case, then giving my advice a go, can and likely will restore your PC to its former performance glories.

If you’ve had a memory leak that you’ve plugged, I’d love to hear about it. Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below, and tell me all about it?

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