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Parchment Background Image for How To's: Is RAM Optimizing Necessary On Today's Computers? on RAM Optimizing

Various applications have been developed to optimize our RAM. Some of us may be tempted to do this so that our game has access to more free memory but are these applications useful on today’s systems? To find out it will be helpful to start by determining how our computer’s memory works.

The Basics of RAM

When our PC starts a program it loads it from our hard drive and stores it temporarily in our RAM until our computer is finished with running the program or until the the PC is shut down. So, what exactly is RAM?

RAM is a hardware component that is used to temporarily store data for the programs and files running on computers, smartphones, gaming consoles, and other devices. Operating systems such as Windows and MAC need to have a certain amount of installed random access memory just to boot up. RAM is the acronym for random access memory.

RAM is our computer’s short-term memory in that provides a workspace for the data and program codes that our computer is currently using. It can quickly pull up information and hand it over to our central processing unit (CPU). Our computer generally uses RAM to load features, process actions, and launch programs & files.

We can compare our computer's RAM to the papers that we have on our desk while we're working. On the other hand our HDD storage space is like all the papers that we've completed working on and have stored in our desk drawers and file cabinets. Because of the temporary nature of RAM everything stored in it that has not been saved to file is lost when our PC is powered down, just as if we'd opened a window and our work was irretrievably blown away from off our desk. Conversely the saved data that's stored on our HDD will be available when our computer is again powered up which is why we need to re-open folders and re-start applications after a system re-start. At that time we are in effect retrieving our saved work from our desk drawers and filing cabinets.

RAM and hard drives (HDD's) are both measured in gigabytes but as you've seen they're both very different types of memory. RAM is an important component in determining our system’s performance because the speed and performance of our system directly correlate to the amount of RAM we have installed. Larger amounts of RAM installed on our system gives our computer a larger workspace and enables it to handle a greater number of tasks more quickly. The read/write speed and size of our HDD's is also a factor when considering system optimization. As their name implies SSDs (solid state drives) are hard drives that have only solid state components and no moving parts. Because SSD's are constructed similarly to RAM their operating speed approaches the speed of RAM. Using an SSD as our system's main disk is another way to optimize our system and get it to reach its peak performance.

Contemporary Windows Operating Systems

As of Vista Service Pack 1, Microsoft improved resource allocation and system security. This was introduced as Windows Memory Management which takes control of and coordinates computer memory, assigning it to various running programs to optimize overall system performance. It was created in response to Windows' new goal of:

Increased Efficiency

Using memory allocation more efficiently by having our data standing by in RAM as it is needed.

Heightened Security

Ensuring that a process is able to access only that data for which it has the requisite access and that that data should be prohibited from accessing the data of other processes.

Windows Memory Management manages both RAM and virtual memory. Memory Management has two premier responsibilities:


The first is to translate, or map, a process's virtual address space into physical memory. This enables the correct physical addresses to be referenced.

Virtual Memory

The second one is paging some of the contents of RAM to disk when the system RAM becomes overcommitted, and then bringing those contents back into physical memory as needed.

Just like applications need virtual memory to store code and data, the operating system also needs virtual memory. It uses this virtual memory to:

map itself,

map any device driver that needs to be loaded, and

store the data that is maintained by the drivers and by the operating system.

Memory Allocation

If we go to Windows Resource Monitor and select the tab for Memory we can see that our system’s memory is split up five different ways:

Hardware Reserved

In Use




Image 01, HowTo's - Is Optimizing RAM Necessary On Today's Windows Operating Systems

Hardware Reserved

The gray Hardware Reserved bar represents the amount of memory that has been reserved for our hardware devices so that they can communicate with the operating system. Memory reserved for hardware is essentially locked so it's unavailable to Memory Management.

The amount of Hardware Reserved memory will vary depending on our hardware configuration. In some cases it could be several hundred MB. If you find that huge amounts of memory are inexplicably being allocated to the Hardware Reserved list, upgrading the system BIOS firmware will usually solve this problem.

In Use

This bar appears in green and represents the amount of memory being used by the operating system, the drivers, and the running processes. This amount of this memory is calculated by:


adding the Modified, Standby, and Free values,


subtracting the sum of A from the total installed memory, and then


subtracting the Hardware Reserved Memory from the sum of B.


Shown in orange, the Modified memory bar represents the pages of memory that contain data that has been modified but has not been accessed recently. Technically, it’s not in use but it can be quickly brought back into service if needed. If memory in the Modified list has not been accessed for awhile, Memory Management will write that page to disk and move it to the Standby list.


The medium-blue Standby bar represents pages of memory that are currently cached but are in line be discarded in order to free memory for other applications. When our system moves pages to the standby list it does not affect the application's virtual address space because although the memory on the list is unclaimed by the process there is still a back-of-house link to it. Because the page was not altered when it was moved to Standby the process is able to quickly reclaim it should the need arise. If another process needs more memory, any cached page with a low enough priority is cleared and given to that process.

The Standby list is basically a cache, but because the memory pages in the list have the potential of being discarded or overwritten they are prioritized in a range of 0-7 with 7 being the highest value. A page related to a high priority process will receive a high priority level in the Standby list. Processes that are sharable will have high priorities and the pages associated with them will have the highest priority.

When a process requests more memory and there's not enough in the Free list, Memory Management checks the priority of the pages in Standby, will take a page with a low priority from the Standby list, initialize it, and allocate it to that process.


The Free memory bar appears in light-blue. It contains pages of memory

that were previously allocated but were later returned to Memory Management when the associated process ended, and

memory that has not yet been allocated to a process.

Free memory is exactly what it's name suggests; it is memory that is currently unused by the system and is free to be used at any time.

There's a common misconception that more Free memory is better. However, with Memory Management Free memory is often the smallest of the values which can make it appear that the system isn’t running effectively because there is hardly any memory that is Free. While we’d want as much memory available as possible, the goal of Windows Memory Management is to have most of our memory standing by. The more memory the system keeps waiting and ready for a specific purpose, the snappier our systems will be. By using all available RAM and juggling virtual pages, along with using its Standby priority system, the modern operating system helps to keep memory pages from routinely hitting the page file at the same time that that data is needed, something that can cause hard faults and a sluggish system performance.


Memory Status

Below the abovementioned colored bars there is a set of four numbers listed in column formation. The numbers in this list are calculated in this way:

Available Memory = Standby memory + Free memory

Operating systems pre-load data into standby for later use as of Windows 7.

Cached Memory = Modified memory + Standby memory

This is memory that has been recently used by our system.

Total Memory = Installed MemoryHardware Reserved memory

The amount of memory our system has access to after memory dedicated to hardware use has been allocated.

Installed Memory = the total recognized RAM installed

Recognized RAM is acknowledged as installed by the operating system. A 32-bit Windows 8 operating system with 8GB of RAM installed will only recognize 4096MB of that RAM as installed, and not 8192MB.

RAM Optimizing

With the necessary context of Windows memory and Memory Management now understood we can better consider how RAM cleaning works and make an informed choice as to the effectiveness of RAM optimizers on today's systems. We'll explore that next. Here’s a copy of the screenshot we presented at the beginning of this article.

Image 01 Repeat, HowTo's - Is Optimizing RAM Necessary On Today's Windows Operating Systems

Now we’ll use a RAM cleaning utility. Let’s see how our memory set-up is doing now.

Image 02, HowTo's - Is Optimizing RAM Necessary On Today's Windows Operating Systems

In that image the RAM cleaner is hard at work and is using all the memory in order to clean it. Near the end of the cleaning, because the RAM optimizer is using all the RAM the system is forced to resort to paging its memory requirements to disk. Because the system now needs to access that data from paged files instead of from RAM it has caused a sudden high percentage of hard faults. The one way around this is to set your optimizer to use less memory in order to optimize it but the amount of memory optimized by the optimizer is proportionate to the amount of memory it is allowed to use while it is optimizing.

Image 03, HowTo's - Is Optimizing RAM Necessary On Today's Windows Operating Systems

Here we are on the other side with the RAM cleaning completed. Now the modified memory has been removed along with most of the standby memory.  Notwithstanding the situation with the hard faults, before Windows Memory Management all this free memory could have been a good situation. However, the goal of Windows Memory Management is to keep our data on standby so that it is ready for use. As seen in the next image, in under five minutes Memory Management will have the medium blue bar back to where it was before we ‘optimized' our RAM, with our required data again in place on standby.

There were concerns with RAM optimizers even before Windows Memory Management came along. Without Memory Management the problem with RAM optimization is if you’re optimizing your RAM while playing RCT3, instead of the RAM optimizer making your game snappier it will become slowed down while your computer does what it can to maintain it’s own overhead. With Memory Management, in addition to the system struggling to maintain it’s own overhead and your game becoming sluggish Memory Management is also busy trying to return to standby the memory that’s been cleared away by RAM optimizing.

Image 04, HowTo's - Is Optimizing RAM Necessary On Today's Windows Operating Systems

So with a RAM cleaner we’ve temporarily made our RAM inaccessible, have removed all our standby data, have caused a high percentage of hard faults, have caused the system extra work putting the data we cleaned away back on standby, and have made our game laggy in the process.

Having determined that RAM cleaning is obsolete on systems with Windows Memory Management the only way to have additional free RAM available for our game is to install more RAM in our operating system. This is a little more involved than simply walking into a computer store and buying the desired amount of RAM from the shelves. Some community members might take their computer in to their IT person so the additional RAM could be added there. If you’re one to consider doing this yourself, before adding RAM to your system you need to know if your motherboard and operating system can support more RAM, and then the correct type of RAM needs to be chosen. There is a convenient way to do this.

The Crucial Memory Scanner will help you to find memory and storage upgrades. Simply download and install the scanner and within minutes you’ll find out how much memory and storage your computer can support. The scanner will look through your BIOS for system information and then search Crucial’s website for compatible matches. The scanner can’t access any of your personal data so using it will not compromise your system. Of course, if you’re concerned about downloading it you can scan it with your antivirus when it's downloaded.

The Crucial Memory Scanner works with both PC and with MAC. Should you be interested in adding more RAM to your system the results of the scan will enable you to buy compatible upgrades with confidence. Crucial’s website can be found here:

  Crucial Memory Scanner