You’ve probably been facing some issues with your system, and after some experimenting, you concluded that your PC is using more or less half of the RAM you’ve installed.
This situation can be a frustrating issue caused by a fault in the software, hardware, or BIOS, but fortunately, it has some solutions.
Read on and do the troubleshooting methods, one after the other, to solve the RAM problem you’re facing and learn when it’s time to upgrade your RAM.
Understanding The Concept Of RAM
Random Access Memory or RAM is a volatile storage device used in phones, computers, and laptops.
It stores data temporarily while you’re using the computer.
Simply put, it’s the short-term memory of the computer brain.
Its purpose is to allow the CPU to access relevant data quickly without delving into slower, long-term storage, leading to a very slow system.
RAM’s presence in the PC is essential for efficient multitasking, like keeping various applications and processes running at once or playing games smoothly by storing all the relevant assets it needs to access quickly.
The system continuously overwrites and refreshes the RAM, and it resets every time the system restarts.
Desktop and laptop RAMs are made up of one or more sticks that plug directly into the motherboard.
The simple RAMs look like a printed circuit board with memory chips attached to them.
Now that you know the importance of RAM and its capacity, let’s get to solving the issue.
Why Is Only Half My RAM Usable? (Causes, Fixes)
Before we start troubleshooting, let’s make sure you know the exact amount of RAM is installed and how much Windows is using.
- Right-click on the My Computer or This PC icon and choose Properties from the drop-down menu.
- Under System or Device Specifications, you should see the Installed RAM heading with the amount of installed RAM next to it.
Some versions of Windows will also indicate the amount of usable RAM next to this value.
Note: The amount of usable memory is the total installed memory minus the hardware reserved memory.
- Next, right-click on the Windows logo and select Task Manager from the menu.
- Head to the Performance app and click on the Memory section.
- Here you can see all the RAM specifications, including the amount of RAM in use, the available capacity, the number of slots used, and so on.
1. Windows Installation
This is more of a reminder for those who may not know much about operating systems and their relations with RAM capacity.
The fact is, 32-bit Windows operating systems can only use 4GB of RAM, no matter how much physical memory you’ve installed.
Meaning, even if you have 32GB of RAM installed on a 32-bit system, it’ll only access 4GB of it.
The only way to solve this issue is by changing your Windows to a 64-bit installation.
If you don’t know which type of operating system your PC is running, here’s how you can find out:
Type “System Information” in the Windows dialog box and open the app that comes up.
You can see the name and version of your OS in the first lines, and the System Type heading will give you the answer to the question.
You can also access the info by right-clicking on This PC and choosing properties.
It’ll open the “About” window with a System type section.
This article has provided the steps you should go through to update your OS from 32-bit to 64-bit.
2. Memory Limitation
There’s an option in Windows settings that, if turned on, allows Windows to permanently reserve a significantly large amount of the RAM capacity to the boot process when the system is turning on.
It’s an unnecessary setup, and here’s how you can turn it off:
- Search “System Configuration” in the Windows dialog bar and then open the application.
- Head to the Boot tab and click on Advanced Options.
- You’ll see a Maximum Memory heading with a check box next to it.
- If it’s ticked, clear the box and click OK.
- Restart your computer so your system can freely use all the memory it has at the moment.
3. Registry Editor
- Type “Registry Editor” in the Windows dialog box and open the app.
- Navigate to the following location from the left menu: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > Systems > CurrentControlSet > Control > Session Manager.
- Once you’ve reached the Session Manager, find the Memory Management folder under it.
- Locate the ClearPageFileAtShutdown section from the right-hand table in the Memory Management folder.
- Open it up to see the value name, value data, and base options.
- If the value data is 0, change it to 1.
If it reads “1” already, don’t do anything.
- Save your changes, and restart the PC.
Note: When dealing with the Registry Editor, it’s safer to back it up beforehand so that you can restore the settings if you accidentally edit or delete other essential files.
4. Outdated BIOS
If you own an old computer, your system might be unable to access all the installed memory capacity because of the BIOS.
An outdated BIOS version can cause a memory bug that stops the OS from accessing the entire RAM.
You’ll have to update the BIOS, and the process varies for different manufacturers and models.
You will need to visit the official website of your computer manufacturer or motherboard manufacturer and search for the latest BIOS updates.
Download and install them using the instructions that the manufacturer has provided.
Moreover, most motherboard manufacturers have their own applications dedicated to updating the BIOS.
Search for yours and download it from their official website.
5. Outdated Windows And Drivers
If you haven’t updated Windows for a long time, and you’ve turned automatic updates off as well, your system might have gotten a bug causing it to not access all the installed RAM capacity.
Update Windows to its latest version by opening Settings and going to the Update and Security section.
Hit the Check for Updates button and install it after Windows finds the latest update.
You’ll have to restart your PC for the changes to take place.
Next, make sure the Windows drivers are updated to their latest version.
You can use one of the driver updater tools that automatically detect the outdated system drivers and install their latest versions easily.
Driver Easy is one of the best apps around, and here’s how to use it:
- Download, install and open Driver Easy.
- Hit the Scan Now button.
- Once the list of all outdated or corrupt drivers comes up, hit the Update button next to each one for the app to update them.
If you get the Pro version of the app, you’ll be able to update all your problematic drivers by hitting the Update All button.
Driver Easy is another app that you can use just as easily:
- Download and open the Bit Driver Updater app.
- Click on the Scan Drivers button.
- Hit the Update Now button next to all the drivers that came up in the list.
- If you’d like to update all your outdated or missing drivers, hit the Update All button.
- Reboot your system after the installation is complete.
6. BIOS Settings
Some BIOS settings might be preventing Windows from accessing all the RAM capacity for use.
To change them, you’ll have to enter the BIOS/UEFI setup.
Restart your computer and during the boot process, tap the specific BIOS key.
The key differs depending on your system model, and it can be one of the following keys: F1, F2, F12, Del, or Esc.
To find out which key it is, refer to the system manual or search your system’s model online.
Now that you’ve successfully entered the BIOS, follow the mentioned steps:
This feature is for those of you with a separate dedicated video card installed.
The iGPU settings are used in case there is no external video card, and if there is, this feature will force Windows to reserve unnecessary memory.
In the BIOS environment, you’ll have to search for one of the iGPU, Internal Graphics or Onboard Graphics titles.
You’ll have to search for the name and location of the settings because it can vary depending on your system’s manufacturer.
Once you’ve found it, turn it Off or Disable it.
Save the changes, exit the BIOS, and restart your PC.
Memory Map Feature
The memory ramping feature is a setting that some systems support.
It gives Windows access to more memory, so you have to ensure it’s enabled.
The memory remapping feature name may be different from one system to another.
It could have memory remapping, memory extension, or similar titles.
Search for it in the BIOS and ensure that it is Enabled or turned On.
Save the settings and reboot the system.
7. BIOS Restore
If your BIOS is wrongly configured, it may impact memory usage.
Restoring the BIOS defaults seem to have helped many users solve their issue:
First, enter the BIOS.
- From there, hit the F9 or F5 key depending on your system to bring up the Load Default Options section.
- A window must appear at the bottom of the screen, asking you “Load Optimal Defaults?” and you should answer Yes.
- Suppose you don’t see the option here; head to the Security tab and find an option for resetting the BIOS there.
Different motherboards might have different settings.
- Save before you exit.
- If you don’t have any of the mentioned options, click on the Exit link.
- The system will display various options, including load defaults, discard and restart, save settings and restart, and so on.
- Choose the Load Defaults option or a similar title to reset the BIOS.
8. RAM Hardware Issues
Lastly, you need to check if the RAM sticks and their slots are in good physical shape because a defect in one of the sticks or slots or disconnection can be causing Windows not to recognize all the RAM capacity.
For this, you’ll have to open up your PC, so be sure to put this step at the end of the list and try all the software-related issues first.
Unplug the PC’s power cord from the wall outlet and open up the case’s side panel.
For a laptop, you’ll have to open up the back of it.
Next to the CPU’s heatsink fan, there will be two or four RAM slots on the motherboard.
The slots have clips at the side of them.
You’ll have to toggle the clips to get the RAM sticks out.
Once you have all the sticks out, inspect the slots for any built-up dust or dirt.
Use a brush or compressed air to get rid of the residue.
Before starting, make sure the memory arrangement is correct by referring to the PC’s user guide or motherboard’s manual.
Some systems require filling some of the RAM slots first if you’re not using all slots.
For instance, if the motherboard has four slots and you’re only using two sticks, you might have to fill the first and third slot first.
Attach one RAM at a time and boot up the computer.
As explained in the previous sections, open up Task Manager and head to the Performance tab to check the RAM capacity and usage.
Do this for all memory modules to make sure they’re healthy.
If one of them turns out to be defective, you’ll have to replace it.
Once you’ve found a working RAM stick, insert it into different slots one after the other to ensure none of the slots is faulty.
If you’re using a memory standoff card to hold multiple RAM sticks, your system may require specific configurations for the situation.
After making sure everything’s okay or finding the fault, place all RAM sticks in their modules and properly lock them in.
Signs That You Might Need To Upgrade Your RAM
Running out of RAM can be a frustrating issue, and it gets worse over time.
Before you face a recurring problem, let’s introduce you to some of the signs for low RAM capacity.
1. Performance Issues
Diminishing performance is one of the leading causes of low RAM capacity, meaning your computer works fine when you first boot it but the more you use it, the slower it becomes.
If you’re not sure about this situation, you can try using heavy apps or games.
If you notice a sudden decrease in performance, your RAM is at fault.
Moreover, your system might have gotten generally slow.
You may be unable to run multiple apps simultaneously.
The boot-up time might take longer than usual.
Files may take more than a couple of seconds to open.
Parts of the screen may even go missing because web pages and programs can only partially load.
All of these are signs telling you to upgrade your RAM.
2. Frequent Lags And Crashes
Apps and programs randomly crashing is a sign of faulty RAM.
If you’re experiencing lags in typing or the videos you play are choppy and stuttering, the RAM capacity is low.
3. Corrupted Files
If you’ve noticed the data files you use frequently getting corrupted, your RAM is at fault.
The memory is causing your hard drive’s structure to degenerate.
That is an accelerating problem that will only get worse over time and might result in your computer not booting at all.
4. System Freezing Or Rebooting
Your apps and programs may have become unresponsive, and they may stop responding all of a sudden and freeze.
Your system might shut off and restart randomly without any warning.
Another sign is the computer crashing and automatically restarting the minute the desktop boots up.
5. High Memory Usage
Receiving low memory warnings and error messages like “Out of Memory,” “Insufficient Memory,” or “Insufficient System Resources” are signs that you need a memory upgrade.
6. Blue Screen Of Death
Several factors can trigger the Blue Screen of Death, and low RAM is one of them.
It happens when Windows displays a blue screen all of a sudden with a code in white text.