Android How-To: Find & Fix Memory Draining Apps

RAM is a precious resource nowadays.  If you've got a more recent smartphone, dating back to about this time last year with the Nexus 6's release, your phone probably has 3 gigabytes of RAM to utilize.  Still-popular devices like the Nexus 5, which recently received the go-ahead to update to Marshmallow, Android 6.0, only has 2, and so does the new Nexus 5X.  RAM has been a tricky affair to manage and keep track of, especially if you have a RAM-pant app running in the background and it is causing your device problems.  Here's how to, utilizing a new feature found in Marshmallow, to find and manage an app that's draining your device's memory.

First, obviously you'll need your device to be running Android 6.0 Marshmallow.  And since it's currently only available to Nexus users, and hardware OEMs tend to customize Android to pieces, the process might differ on other devices once Marshmallow reaches Samsung's Galaxy lineup and HTC's One family of devices.  Visuals will be included in a gallery at the bottom for those that prefer to look and follow along rather than read.  Let's begin.

To begin, you'll probably notice your device slowing down when opening or switching apps, and even possibly reloading an app you had in the background.  When you feel this slowdown occurring, it's time to hunt down the RAM hog.  Go into Settings, and scroll down to the Device section, and tap on Memory.  This screen shows you how much of the system's memory your device's software is utilizing.  The default view is 3 hours prior to now, but you can tap the arrow next to '3 hours', or the text itself, to open a dropdown that offers the past 6 hours, as well as the past half and full day.  So, especially if you installed an app in the past 24 hours and noticed the device slowing down, you can see a spike in memory usage.

This is typically enough, to know if you've installed a new app and it's wreaking RAM-based havoc.  But, if you're just using the device normally, or have recently installed a bunch of new apps, or want to track the first day of your new OS version, then tap on 'Memory used by apps', and the fun begins.

On this screen, which features every app and some system processes, you can see the amount used, from most to least, at a glance.  If you find the app at the top isn't your launcher, the Google app, Google Play Services, Android OS, System UI, or Android System, then the app that sits among those is likely the culprit for your device's mismanagement of memory.  So, if you find the problem app, or are just curious about some more information about a particular process, then tap on it, and enjoy.

If the app is using enough RAM to visibly slow the device's performance, then tap on the three-dot menu at the top-right, and tap force stop.  This kills the app or process.  It's greyed out or not available on certain system functions, like Android OS or Google Play Services, since they need to be running all the time.  If the app's stoppage lets your device run smoothly again, then you're good, and might want to let the developer know about the excessive RAM consumption so they can work towards a fix for it.  If the app is one you forgot you had and can live without, go ahead and tap the little 'i' in the circle, then select uninstall so it won't cause you or your device any more problems.  

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About the Author

Phil Bourget

Staff Writer
Using Android since 2012 and the Galaxy S III, I'm now running a Nexus 5 paired to a Moto 360 to keep updated on the Internet of stuff. Usually found on Google+ or in class.