Do Memory Optimizers Speed Up Your PC?

Category: Memory

An AskBob reader says “My computer is getting bogged down lately, especially when I have more than one program open. And the other day I got a 'low 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?” Read on for my take on memory boosters and optimizers, and why a shortage of available RAM memory might be a GOOD thing...

Are Memory Optimizers Useful?

I just did a Google search for for "Windows memory optimizer" and got over 15 million hits. So-called "memory optimizers" have been around for over 25 years. These programs are also called memory boosters, memory cleaners, and other names. They claim to make your computer run faster with fewer crashes by "optimizing" your system's RAM memory. 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 programs and data that you are actively 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 it from RAM. The result is a significant performance hit. Suppose 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. It's true that some poorly written programs may not free up all the RAM memory they were using when they terminate, but your operating system occasionally runs a "garbage collection" routine that finds this memory and marks it as available.

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 article Add Memory to Speed Up Your Computer for help with those topics.

In my opinion, memory optimizers don't do anything useful. In fact, they usually make your system run slower! Modern operating systems have sophisticated memory management systems, and in their attempt to free up RAM, these memory optimizers can interfere with the operating system's memory management processes, potentially leading to system instability and performance issues.

And since memory optimizers aren't magic, they must consume system resources (CPU and memory) to constantly run in the background. So you may see a verifiable boost in available RAM, but with increased system overhead that's slowing down your computer. If I may mix my metaphors, adding the baby to the bath water doesn't improve the water.

I'll also add that some sketchy memory optimizers come bundled with unwanted or malicious software, posing privacy or security risks.

You'll find people on the Web that swear by certain memory optimizer programs. Feel free to try them if you like, but make sure the "reviewer" isn't the owner or an employee of the software vendor, and check the reputation of the program in other places, especially if it's not a freebie.

In the context of third-party memory optimizers, it can actually be a bad thing to have lots of free RAM memory. RAM can speed up the loading of programs, web pages, and data that's likely to be needed again soon. It's much faster to load a cached item from RAM than reading it from a hard drive. So if your computer reports that RAM is full, or nearly so, it may just be an indication that your operating system is doing a good job of keeping frequently needed items available for quick access.

If, however, your RAM is maxed out, and you notice significant lag when loading programs or switching from one to another, you need more physical RAM, not an optimizer.

Here's my bottom line... memory optimizers do nothing useful and can 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. My advice: 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 Memory Optimizers Speed Up Your PC?"

Posted by:

24 Jul 2023

if you only have 8gb's of memory, add more!!!

Posted by:

Tom W Van Dam
24 Jul 2023

One item I think was missed is to reboot the computer. Especially if he has several programs running at once. When a program closes, does it really release ALL of the ram. Rebooting the computer will help, for awhile. I find that Chrome uses a lot of memory also. The user should tell Chrome to shut of extension off if it isn't being used.

Posted by:

C. Woodell
24 Jul 2023

Also might I suggest that the problem may be solved by bringing up the task manager and checking what is being opened at startup. All too many programs default to enabled at Windows startup. Many of them don't need to be enabled until they are used. Just disable those you know you don't need at startup. It can free up a tremendous amount of memory with no loss of functionality.

Posted by:

24 Jul 2023

Why doesn't this this article address using these optimizers in conjunction with SSD's? Seems like they may actually provide some relief to those who have upgraded from HDD but are limited to how much RAM their board will support.

Posted by:

C. Woodell
24 Jul 2023

Re: Kenduro
These optimizers only optimize RAM they do nothing for HDDs or SSDs.

Posted by:

Rien s
24 Jul 2023

I try to comment but getting some domain error or whatever. What gives????

Posted by:

Ernest N. Wilcox Jr. (Oldster)
24 Jul 2023

I tried out a few memory 'optimizers' back in my Win-95 days. I noted the exact symptoms Bob relates. The system reported more free RAM but app load-up and switching speed was noticeably slower. I eradicated them from my system and never looked back. The available amount of RAM on your computer is a direct function of how much physical RAM you have installed. Unless you know that you have an insufficient amount of physical RAM installed (e.g.: 8GB on a Win-10/11 machine is a good example from this article), look elsewhere to find out why your computer is running sluggishly.

Since every computer has some fixed amount of physical RAM installed (modern operating systems do a very good job of managing it because good performance is essential to any OS so it's a priority), third-party 'RAM optimizers' can only do a form of "bait and switch" with memory allocation. Your OS and any running programs each consume the amount of memory needed to store their data and code in memory so they can do their jobs. The amount of RAM in use is a function of which OS you're running and the requirements of each active program. No memory 'optimizer' can change that. The only thing they can do is rearrange how memory is allocated (bait-and switch). When your operating system and active programs require more memory than you have installed on your computer, your operating system creates/uses "swap space", a file on your hard drive that acts as virtual memory, and 'swaps' inactive programs and resources that are not currently in use to 'virtual memory' (swap space) as needed so active programs have enough memory to do their jobs. Modern operating systems do a good job of managing this swap space and keeping the computer running as efficiently as possible. When you use a RAM 'optimizer', all it usually does is move the cache and any inactive programs to swap space. This makes switching between program windows and often loading new programs noticeably slower even though the system reports more free memory. That's why I call 'memory optimizers' bait-and-switch apps. As Bob says, and in my long experience, these programs usually do little to improve system performance. Any perceived improvement is usually psychological (the power of suggestion) and very short lived. Their real effect is usually detrimental and often destabilizing to the system (making system crashes more likely).

As a final word, and as I stated above, if your computer is running sluggishly and you have more than 8GB of physical RAM installed (for Windows 10/11 I recommend 16GB if your computer can support it), look elsewhere to find out why. There are several reasons for system sluggishness, including malware. You can do a search on the Internet asking "Why is my computer running slowly?" to get started.

I hope this helps someone,

Ernie (Oldster)

Posted by:

26 Jul 2023

RE: C. Woodell
But the article states the problem arises when the content of RAM is swapped to the Main Drive, which, with a HDD is slower. What about with SSD? Get it?

Posted by:

Ernest N. Wilcox Jr. (Oldster)
27 Jul 2023


An SSD drive is certainly much faster than a mechanical hard drive, but it is also significantly slower than your system RAM, so swapping to or from disk will still have a very noticeable impact on system performance albeit much less than if you were using a mechanical drive. I hope this answers your question,


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