My computer is like completely out of virtual memory. Granted I'm multitasking quite a bit, but I have 4gb of RAM which I just yesterday upgraded to from 2gb.

On the performance tab of task manager it says:

Total: 3327 Cached: 1411 Available: 1414 Free: 14

I'm running windows 32bit, which I know isn't made to handle 4gb of RAM, but can someone please explain where all my memory is going and how I can manage it better?

  • looking at memory usage fromm task manager is like measuring with elbow. – Lukasz Madon Dec 25 '11 at 1:10
  • How do you know you are running out of memory? What errors are you running into? Plus according to Task Manager, you have over 1 GB of RAM free. – surfasb Dec 25 '11 at 7:10

Your memory is going to hold information that the computer might need later. The computer has no pressing need for free memory right this second, so it holds onto information it might need later in the hopes that it can avoid a subsequent disk access. This both avoids the effort of making memory free that won't get used anyway and reduces disk accesses, a double performance win.

For example, suppose you run a program and it completes. The program is still in memory. Your computer has two choices:

It can make the memory free. This requires effort to make the memory free, which harms performance. When the memory is needed, effort will be required to make it in use again, which harms performance. And if the program is run again, it will have to be loaded from disk, which also harms performance.

It can leave the memory in use. This takes no effort, it's already in use. If the memory is needed for something else, the system can directly transition it from one use to another, saving the effort of making it free and then making it no longer free. And if the program is run again soon, it won't have to be loaded from disks. Wins all around.

The more memory your computer is using, the faster it runs. That's why we add memory to systems to make them faster, so they can use more. Your computer is being smart.

And, by the way, this is real physical memory (RAM) we're talking about, not virtual memory. The statistics you pasted are physical memory statistics. You're not out of physical memory because your computer will make memory free if it needs to and, more typically, directly transitions memory from one use to another without ever making it free.


To start out with, you only have 3.327GB of memory usable.
Of that, 1.4 GB is used used for the cache (data that will likely be needed in the near future).
1.4 GB is available, which means that it can be used. And 14 MB is in the cache but contains data that will be unused.

So you actually have 1.4 GB that could easily be used for VM left in your machine.

  • 1
    I suspect that further explanation of Cached and Free might be useful. – Synetech Dec 24 '11 at 23:47
  • Total = physical RAM installed and available to the OS for normal use. Free = physical RAM that does not contain useful information and wouldn't be read under any circumstances. Cache = physical RAM that is holding information that might be needed in the future. Available = physical RAM that is either free or can easily be made free without extraordinary measures such as writing the current contents of that memory to the disk or evicting active mappings. – David Schwartz Dec 25 '11 at 4:18

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