We’ve all heard it: “have you tried turning it off and back on again?” It’s the first step when troubleshooting any tech problem—it even makes your phone perform better when nothing is wrong. But why?

It’s All About the RAM

When it comes to solving performance issues (or just making your phone feel faster), it really boils down to one thing: RAM usage. With most modern operating systems, as you use apps, they fill up the RAM. The more apps you open, the more they use up RAM. It’s just how it works.

But as you close apps—or they’re manually removed from memory—they’re not completely closed out. In fact, remnants of apps stick around, keeping RAM needlessly full, leaving less and less room for new apps. Now, the OS will still move things around to make room for new apps to be loaded into RAM, but that’s where things may start to slow down a little bit—not only does it have to load the app, but things have to be shuffled around in RAM to make room for the new applications to load.

RELATED: Why Android Phones Slow Down Over Time, and How to Speed Them Up

You may have heard the phrase “free RAM is wasted RAM” before, and for the most part, it’s true. All Unix-based operating systems—like Android, for example, are pretty much fine with full RAM. Windows on the desktop works better when there’s a bit of RAM free, but you really don’t have to worry about it. RAM can basically stay full all the time without a lot of issues.

Where you start to run into slowdowns, however, is with RAM “organization.” As things are moved in and out of RAM, they get sort of scattered—pieces of code from the same software can be found all throughout RAM. The good news is that RAM read/write speeds are insanely fast, so the search and collection doesn’t take long.

Cool, So How Does Restarting Help?

A look at Android’s memory management screen.

It’s actually really simple: when you restart your phone, everything that’s in RAM is cleared out. All the fragments of previously running apps are purged, and all currently open apps are killed. When the phone reboots, RAM is basically “cleaned,” so you’re starting with a fresh slate.

And with that, things are snappier. Apps load and launch quicker. You can switch between running apps quicker. And it will stay this for a while—days, maybe even weeks. I don’t know anyone who restarts their phone that often, so it’s not something that has to be done. Some operating systems are better at managing memory than others, so that’s just something to note. You won’t always notice a massive performance improvement once you restart.

But this doesn’t just boost OS performance—it also fixes common app issues for the same reasons. So, if you’re having issues with one specific app, and you close/reopen it without fixing the problem, a restart may be the solution.

Why? Because even when you swipe an app away, parts of it are still left in RAM. Restarting purges those parts, so it starts clean the next time. This won’t always fix the issue, but sometimes it will. And it’s always worth a shot.

Of course, restarting isn’t a fix-all solution. If a problem persists after a reboot, there’s clearly a bigger issue at hand that will warrant further research. Similarly, if you find yourself having to restart your phone often—say, daily—in order for it to stay usable, you likely have a bigger problem to work out.

Profile Photo for Cameron Summerson Cameron Summerson
Cameron Summerson is ex-Editor-in-Chief of Review Geek and served as an Editorial Advisor for How-To Geek and LifeSavvy. He covered technology for a decade and wrote over 4,000 articles and hundreds of product reviews in that time. He’s been published in print magazines and quoted as a smartphone expert in the New York Times.
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