How to fix Windows Explorer high memory usage?

Issue: Hello. I noticed that my Windows PC was getting very slow and saw in Task Manager that Windows Explorer is using a lot of RAM. What is causing this? Is there a way to solve this issue?

Solved Answer

The file management tool in the Windows operating system, Windows Explorer, enables users to see and manage their storage devices, search through their files and directories, and carry out several other file-related operations. It is an essential component of the Windows user experience and offers a graphical user interface for file system interaction.

High memory[1] use is one major problem that users may have with Windows Explorer. This happens when system memory is used up by the Explorer.exe process, which can cause system instability and reduced performance. Through the Task Manager, users can track how much RAM Windows Explorer is using. This allows users to see how much resource each active process is requiring.

Windows Explorer users may experience several negative effects from high memory usage. First and foremost, it may lead to slow system performance, which might hinder file operations, navigation, and other file management-related activities. A machine with less memory available may exhibit this slowness more noticeably, making the user experience less responsive and unpleasant.

Furthermore, Windows Explorer's high memory utilization may affect the system's general stability. In severe circumstances, it may result in system freezes or crashes, interfering with the user's workflow and perhaps leading to data loss if there is unsaved work. This is especially worrisome for users who depend on their computers for important work or projects with tight deadlines.

Resolving the Windows Explorer high RAM usage is essential for maintaining a smooth and efficient computing experience. In this guide, you will find 6 steps that should help you fix the issue. You can also try running a maintenance tool like FortectMac Washing Machine X9 that can fix most system errors, BSODs,[2] corrupted files, and registry[3] issues. Otherwise, follow the step-by-step instructions below.

How to fix Windows Explorer high memory usage

Solution 1. Fix Corrupted System Files

Use Command Prompt commands to repair system file corruption:

  • Open Command Prompt as administrator
  • Use the following command and press Enter:
    sfc /scannow

Fix Corrupted System Files

  • Reboot your system
  • If SFC returned an error, then use the following command lines, pressing Enter after each:
    DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /CheckHealth
    DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /ScanHealth
    DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth

Solution 2. Run Disk Cleanup

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  • Open the Run dialog box by pressing the Windows key + R.
  • Type cleanmgr and press Enter to access Disk Cleanup.
  • In the Disk Cleanup pop-up window, expand the drive menu.
  • Choose the preferred drive for cleanup and click OK.

Run Disk Cleanup

  • Another wizard will appear; select the files you want to delete.
  • Click OK to initiate the cleanup.
  • For a more comprehensive cleanup, click Clean up system files, choose a drive, and select the files to delete. Click OK.
  • To free up more space, consider removing older restore points.
  • In the More Options tab, click Clean up… in the System Restore and Shadow Copies section.
  • Follow the provided guide to remove unnecessary restore points, ensuring to keep the most recent one set before the issue occurred.

Solution 3. Scan for Malware

A malware infection may be the cause of Windows Explorer high memory usage. It is important to run a comprehensive security scan to rule out this possibility and ensure that the computer is not infected. This can help to prevent further issues with the Windows operating system and ensure that it is functioning properly.

If you have access to a security scanner, or if your organization pays for one, you can use it to scan your entire system to check for a virus infection. Otherwise, you can use Windows Defender to scan your system:

  • Click on the Windows Start menu or press the Windows key on your keyboard.
  • Type Microsoft Defender in the search bar and click on Microsoft Defender Antivirus to open the application.
  • Click on the Virus & threat protection option in the left-hand menu.
  • Click on the Quick scan or Full scan option, depending on your preference.

Scan for Malware

  • If you choose Quick scan, Microsoft Defender Antivirus will scan the most vulnerable and commonly infected areas of your computer.
  • If you choose Full scan, Microsoft Defender Antivirus will scan your entire computer, including all files, folders, and programs.
  • Click on the Scan now button to start the selected scan type and wait for the scan to complete.
  • The time it takes will depend on the size of your hard drive and the number of files being scanned.
  • Once the scan is complete, you will be informed of any detected threats, and you can choose to quarantine or remove them.
  • If no threats are found, Microsoft Defender Antivirus will inform you that your device is secure.

Solution 3. Uninstall Recent Windows Updates

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  • Click on Start and select Settings.
  • Select the menu Windows Update.
  • From the right, click on Update history.

Uninstall Recent Windows Updates

  • Scroll down to the bottom part and select Uninstall updates.
  • Locate the recently installed update and click on Uninstall. Confirm the popup.
  • Finally, the update will be removed after a couple of restarts.

Solution 4. Try Clean Boot

  • Open the Search menu, type in system configuration, and press Enter.
  • Under the Services tab, tick the Hide all Microsoft services box.
  • Click on Disable all button.

Try Clean Boot

  • Head over to the Startup tab and click on Open Task Manager.
  • Select a third-party program and click on Disable at the top.
  • Repeat this step to disable all third-party apps and programs.
  • Restart your PC to enter the clean boot state and see if the issue persists.
  • If the issue disappeared in the clean boot state, then you can be certain that a third-party app is causing it.
  • Go through all recently installed apps or programs and remove them one by one.

Solution 5. Use System Restore

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System Restore is a feature in Microsoft Windows that allows users to revert their computer's state to a previous point in time. This can be helpful if you have made changes to your system that are causing problems.

  • Press the Windows key + R on your keyboard to open the Run box.
  • Type SystemPropertiesProtection and press Enter.
  • Go to the System Protection tab.

Use System Restore

  • You will see the System Restore… button. Click it to run System Restore.
  • Follow the prompts until you can select a restore point.
  • Select the one you want (ideally before the issue started occurring) and go ahead with the process.

Solution 6. Repair Install Windows

  • Visit the official Microsoft website to download Windows 11 or Windows 10 Installation Media
  • Run the Media Creation Tool and select Create Installation Media for another PC.
  • Select your USB drive.
  • Let the Process complete of writing the Installation files to the USB drive.
  • Click Finish.

Repair Install Windows

  • On the PC you wish to upgrade, Press Windows + E to open the File Explorer.
  • Open the Removable drive and click Setup.exe.
  • Accept the license terms on the next screen.
  • Confirm the Upgrade options – Files, apps and Settings are kept.
  • Click Install, and the upgrade should start.

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About the author
Gabriel E. Hall
Gabriel E. Hall - Passionate computer expert

Gabriel E. Hall is an expert troubleshooter who has been working in the information technology industry for years.

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