Do I Need a Memory Optimizer?

Category: Memory

My system seems to be getting bogged down lately, especially when I have more than one program open. And the other day I got a 'low virtual memory' warning. I've been looking into memory optimizers for Windows, but there are widely varying views as to how effective they really are. What is your opinion?

Are Memory Optimizers Useful?

So-called "memory optimizers" have been around for over 15 years. These programs are also called memory boosters, memory cleaners, and other names. They claim to help your computer run faster with fewer crashes by "optimizing" your system's RAM. But do they really do anything useful? Let's take a look at these claims...

Memory optimizers claim to "free up unused RAM," making it available for the applications and data that you are using. You can verify that a memory optimizer actually makes more RAM available. The optimizer itself will show you in its graphical user interface, or you can look at Task Manager's Performance tab to see how much memory is available before and after running an optimizer.

More free RAM is a good thing, isn't it? Well, actually, it isn't, when it's recovered by a memory optimizer. Optimizers recover RAM by forcing Windows' memory manager to push some contents of RAM out to the page file on your hard drive.
Memory Optimizers

Basically, an optimizer tells Windows that it needs lots of RAM. Windows swaps the contents of its system cache to the page file and gives the freed RAM to the optimizer. Then the optimizer releases the RAM and tells you there is more RAM available than there was before it ran.

But now the contents of the system cache are in the page file. When you need that content, Windows must read it back into RAM from the hard drive. That takes much longer than reading from RAM. The result is a significant performance hit. Supposed you are working on a Word document. You switch to your Web browser for a moment to look up something on the Web. The Word program and its data are stored in the system cache temporarily. Switching back to Word is quick because everything you need is already in RAM... unless a memory optimizer has run while you were browsing.

Defrag Your RAM With Snake Oil

Memory optimizers make other claims, like the ability to "defragment" RAM. Defragmenting hard disk space improves performance by minimizing read/write head movement. But no moving parts are used to read or write in RAM, so defragmentation does not matter at all. Optimizers also claim to shut down unused DLLs that are "stealing" RAM. But DLLs are usually shut down by Windows when the programs that use them are terminated. If a DLL remains in RAM, it is in the cache because Windows anticipates that another program will need it soon.

If you computer bogs down when multiple programs are open, or you're seeing the "low virtual memory" warning, you probably need to add some physical RAM memory to your computer to make it run better. See my related articles Low Virtual Memory and Memory Upgrade for help with those topics.

In my opinion, memory optimizers don't do anything useful. In fact, they usually make your system run slower! You'll find people on the Web that swear by programs such as CleanMem, RAMBooster and others. Feel free to try them if you like, but make sure the "reviewer" isn't a paid shill for the software vendor, and check the reputation of the program in other places, especially if it's not a freebie.

Here's my bottom line... memory optimizers do nothing useful and actually interfere with Windows' memory management. If there was some super secret to freeing up more RAM in Windows, it would long ago have been built into the operating system. There is no reason to user a memory optimizer. Just let Windows manage memory for you, and install additional RAM if you really need it.

Do you have something to say about memory optimizers? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Do I Need a Memory Optimizer?"

Posted by:

15 Aug 2011

Nice article. Very use full and informative!

Posted by:

Tom Van Dam
15 Aug 2011

I always understood about the defragging memory but was very surprised to learn about the sending data to cache. Thanks for the update. I personally viewed memory optimizers, boosters, etc. to do something entirely different. I understood that when a program launches it takes a certain amount of memory, let's say 100 units. When the program closes, it only gives you back 95 units. Over time after you open and close programs, you gradually loose ram because it isn't being totally freed. Am I wrong in this thought? Thanks

EDITOR'S NOTE: You are correct, but the operating system occasionally runs a "garbage collection" routine that finds this memory and marks it as available.

Posted by:

Gloria Huffman
15 Aug 2011

Great article. Thanks for a clear and to-the-point explanation of the topic.

Posted by:

Bob Greene
15 Aug 2011

A typo on your article on "Memory Optimizers" (August 15, 2011)--

"But now the contents of the system cache are in the page file. When you need that content, Windows >>> much

Most readers will not bother with stuff like this, but your article lives forever in archives everywhere, and on the web.

Posted by:

15 Aug 2011

Couldn't agree more, Bob!

Lack of sufficient RAM is the commonest cause of a slow Windows XP machine. When XP came out in 2001, 256MB of RAM was regarded as plenty (and it was). Nowadays, RAM is relatively cheap and XP flies with 2GB of RAM.

The question is, why do we need more RAM?

Is it that all the service packs and security patches have increased the RAM used by Windows or is it the demands of AV programs?

Posted by:

15 Aug 2011

"Memory Optimizers", "Speed Up Your PC" and the like, are nothing more than old fashioned "Snake Oil", from the Old West days. Plus, more times than not, these programs are full of Malware!!!

The best method to improve your memory is to add more memory!!! If, you only have 1GB of RAM Memory, and have a lot of programs running, you will get a "low memory" notice. Find out just how much memory can be used on your motherboard, the older ones frequently only allow up to 2GB. Newer motherboards, especially those that run Windows 7, allow up to 8GB and above.

The second best thing you can do, to look for the 'resource hogs'. Open Task Manager, click on the Processes tag, in there you will have a list of programs usage of memory. Some programs use a LOT of resources, to run their programs and many times, just uninstalling those programs, will help.

Norton Anti-Virus programs is a well-known "resource hog", as is the AVG Anti-Virus program. Anti-Virus programs run ALL the time, in the background. This is necessary, to protect your PC, but if, you don't have enough memory to help run these programs, you have a serious problem, trying to do your computer work.

Another thing, check for Malware programs and remove them, that can use up most of your memory, just to run them. Defragging the Hard Drive may help, as well. Empty out all of the Temp Files, including the Temporary Internet Files, you would be surprised by doing that, how much your memory will be 'freed up'.

Bottom line, when you do routine Maintenance on your PC, you will have less problems with memory, as well as your PC overall. Your PC is just like your car, you must check the oil routinely or you could run out of oil and blow up your engine.

Posted by:

Hans Jaspers
16 Aug 2011

Thanks for your explanation.These boosters don`t do anything.I tried them and quickly removed them.Reading your comment,I am glad you agree.

Posted by:

Jack Mccurdy
16 Aug 2011

Bob is right, And you do need some ram. The best way to go for not too much money is, 2 matching two gig sticks for a total of 4 gigs of memory. And preferably with a 64 bit Operating system, so that it can recognize all 4 gigs.

Posted by:

16 Aug 2011

Thanks a lot Bob, your explanation was a real eye opener for me!!

Posted by:

17 Aug 2011

Not a paid shill. but some software are mem leakers.
They leave behind code in Ram. I close all my apps and run FreeRamXPpro and it does seem to release some ram,unless it is paging WindowsOS like you have said in your article

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