How to clear computer’s RAM in Ubuntu and Linux Mint

By default settings, Linux has a very efficient way of managing the computer’s RAM to get the best performance out of the available resources. Although this approach is excellent, it might be confusing to users as the memory looks entirely occupied all the time in spite of closing all applications.

Linux works this way. It utilizes available memory to cache the apps from the hard disk drive, in a goal to perform faster.

The same advantage becomes a frustrating ordeal, especially for system administrators who are troubleshooting a PC. The changes applied to the system files in the hard disk may not be read because Linux is loading it from the RAM.

Therefore, during the troubleshooting process when one is in the process of confirming a fix to a problem, it is a good idea to clear the memory immediately to check result. A reboot will work too, but that’s a lot of time wastage and includes killing the current session. Instead, how about wiping the RAM in the same session to save time? Let’s take a look.

Clearing RAM in Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and derivatives

Launch Terminal and enter the following command.

sudo sync; echo 3 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches

The command ‘sync’ is flushing the file system buffer. Command ‘echo’ is doing the job of writing to file and additionally, drop_cache is deleting the cache without killing any application/service. You should immediately see RAM getting freed-up.

Tip: Automate Freeing up RAM by Cron Job

Now that you know how to free up memory on your computer, you may want to automate the clearing memory process at a particular frequency. It can quickly be done by applying a cron process. Note that I strongly advise NOT to apply a cron job on server machines! It could corrupt the server data. It is to be used only on desktop and laptop PCs.

STEP 1: To get started, launch terminal and enter the following command to install vim. It is a preferred text editor to create sh files.

sudo apt-get install vim

Pay attention to the terminal and enter the root password and ‘Y’ when requested.

STEP 2: Now let’s create a sh file named clearram.sh where we will be adding the script.

vim clearram.sh

STEP 3: In the vim editor, you need to press ‘esc’ key and then press ‘i’ to enter into INSERT mode. Then add the following script to it. The first line below is the Shebang, and then the command which we used to clear RAM.

#!/bin/bash
echo "echo 3 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches"

Save the sh file and exit out of the vim text editor. To do that type :wq and press enter. Vim will save the sh file and exit out to the terminal.

STEP 4: Now enter the following command in the terminal to give read/write permissions.

sudo chmod 755 clearram.sh

STEP 5: Time now to call the crontab command:

sudo crontab -e

STEP 6: Let’s assume that we want to clear the RAM every day at 1 PM.

0 13 * * * /clearram.sh

By default, the new sh file will be created at the top level home directory. You can move it to another place, but do remember the path you give in the above command.

That’s it!

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