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I'm doing my bi-annual clean up right now, and one disconcerting thing I noticed was my task manager listing my RAM usage at about 67-70%.
I have 16GB of RAM (I do a lot of multi-tasking, a la game development), and there's nothing on God's green earth that should be taking up 12 gigs of RAM, let alone maybe running Maya and Unity simultaneously (which I've done just fine).

Is this just another instance of Windows withholding physical memory just for the sake of it, or could it be something else?

A tally of my processes only adds up to about a gig of working memory, and yes, I'm running a Windows 7 64-bit OS.

  • When did you last reboot? What does task manager actually show? Have you made sure you are showing tasks from all users and not just the current user? Screenshots might be helpful. Without knowing exactly where you are seeing this usage it is difficult to know whether what you are seeing is actually in use or merely used by the disk cache and ready to be freed when needed. – Mokubai Apr 24 '15 at 16:24
  • I rebooted about a week ago, and I am looking at all users. Is there any way for me to look at what the disc cache is using? Just to make sure nothing's wrong. – Milo Apr 24 '15 at 16:28
  • Could you let us know the OS as well, "64-bit" doesn't narrow it down and it varies between Win7, Win8, Linux or MacOS... – Mokubai Apr 24 '15 at 16:32
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    Probably it's caches. This is normal. Unused RAM is useless RAM. All moders OSes pre-load and cache stuff unless RAM needed for something else. – LogicDaemon Apr 24 '15 at 16:49
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    It's not that abnormal to use 12GB of RAM if your computer has been on for a while, Chrome can use that much on its own after you get a bunch of tabs open. – user438322 Apr 24 '15 at 17:03
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I answered a similar question about RAM usage in Mac OS X but the same overall concept can be applied to most any modern version of Windows or any other modern OS.

This all boils down to one thing: There is 100% nothing wrong with your system. You do not need to do anything. You do not need to purchase more RAM. What is happening is the OS is caching programs, processes and data in RAM as part of it’s normal day-to-day operations.

This is done to actually speed up your system if the system needs that data again for some reason. By caching the data the system has used, the system has quicker access to it if it’s needed in the near future. And since this is cached data, this is the kind of stuff that is easily released/freed/tossed/discarded when a more urgent process requires more RAM.

So—for example—let’s say you restarted your system now, logged in and just walked away for a few hours. RAM usage from reboot to the next time you sit down would seemingly inflate, but there is no memory leak happening; it’s just the system caching what little processes it’s paying attention to.

And this happens regardless of how much RAM you have installed. Double or triple your RAM, the caching process will still fill that space up to about the 60-75% mark to take advantage of the amount of RAM installed. As explained in this other answer; bold emphasis is mine:

However, note that most modern operating systems use more memory for caching. In particular, Vista and Windows 7 are really aggressive with this. This article does a good job of explaining how memory management in Vista works; basically, it tries to use up your free (idle) memory for its cache, and when needed by another program, that memory is released again.

So relax and don’t worry. Your system is not being slowed down by the RAM usage you are seeing. If anything it’s attempting to speed things up and make your life easier.

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This is perfectly normal. Your operating system has only two choices, use RAM or waste RAM. If you're thinking, "I want more RAM free now so I can use it later", forget it. Using less RAM now doesn't let you use more RAM later. You can't "save" RAM, so there's no painful tradeoff to make. Using RAM is free.

You're basically asking "Why isn't my operating system wasting more RAM?"

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