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Applications and processing on your Mac require physical random-access memory RAM. The more applications you open or the larger the files those applications work upon, the more RAM is consumed. This includes dynamic paging: maximizing available RAM by moving data from RAM to swap files on the startup disk and back. The less RAM you have, the more CPU cycles and free space on your startup disk are devoted to paging and swap files, respectively.

Troubleshooting with Activity Monitor

Watch the pie chart. By default, Free RAM is shown in green; the larger this section of the pie, the better. If the Free section is reduced to a sliver during your day, one of the following conditions exists:.


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The left side of the System Memory pane shows memory use in different categories. To see the definition of a category , hover the mouse pointer over the label, e. Free, and a help tag will appear. Of these categories, Free and Page Outs are the most important. If the green section is a sliver, more RAM is recommended. To do this, perform one of the following tasks:. To remove all doubts about the adequacy of the RAM installed in your Mac, you can use Terminal to check an important RAM statistic that is omitted from the System Memory pane: page-ins and page-outs per second.

This will further rule out slow performance due to thrashing , a condition where Free RAM is so low that paging monopolizes CPU activity. See "Checking disk activity" later in this FAQ. You can never have too much RAM.

Tip # 1. Remove Login Items to lower Mac memory usage

Inactive memory lives in a twilight zone between Free and Active memory. Whether memory is Active or Inactive depends on how recently it was accessed, where recently is defined by undisclosed parameters of the VM system itself. Memory allocated to applications that you have opened, but not accessed recently, may be included in Inactive memory.

If you switch to an application whose memory is Inactive, that memory becomes Active. If you switch to an application whose allocated memory has been paged-out to a swap file, Active memory must be allocated for a page-in , where the contents of that application's memory on the swap file are copied back to RAM. Depending on the amount of Free memory, a page-in may first require more page-outs from Inactive memory to swap files.

For ideal performance, your Mac should have enough RAM that paging is unnecessary. When paging becomes excessive due to insufficient Free memory, thrashing can result. Therefore, while available RAM is the sum of Free and Inactive memory, the amount of Inactive memory is always in a state of flux.

Having a sizable amount of Free memory at all times is a good proxy for gauging whether or not you have enough RAM for your daily workload. Readers who are interested in additional details should review the following Apple Developer documents:. Free space on your startup disk is important if your Mac has less RAM than your work demands. Free space is required for the swap files used in managing VM and for the scratch or temporary files often employed by multimedia editing applications.

A lack of free space, especially when combined with insufficient RAM, can lead to poor performance due to thrashing , as well as host of other problems. If the startup disk has insufficient free space, attempt to free up space by following the advice in our "Freeing space on your Mac OS X startup disk" FAQ. As a rule of thumb, 10 GB is the minimum amount of free disk space, but far more is better.

Otherwise, you will need to upgrade the startup disk in your Mac to a larger hard disk drive. If free startup disk space is visibly and significantly disappearing during your work day that cannot be explained by normal activity, such as new files you are creating or downloading, then an errant process may be writing incessantly to Console logs.

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See "Checking disk activity" later in this FAQ for details. Problems of thrashing or mysteriously disappearing free space on your startup disk may be confirmed by checking the Disk Activity pane in Activity Monitor:.

How to use the Activity Monitor in Mac® OS X™

High values in the per-second fields, combined with a very busy graph, can be indicative of the following problems:. From a troubleshooting standpoint, the Network pane of Activity Monitor may at first seem to be the least useful. Nevertheless, the Network pane can be useful in determining if unexpected network activity is occurring. Unexpected network activity can be due to anti-piracy features in applications as well as unauthorized transmissions from malware or spyware. Watch the graph. If you are seeing periods of very high network activity, then some application or background process is using the network.

Some activity can be ignored:. Errant processes are those that interminably monopolize the CPU. By consuming CPU resources, they deprive other processes of their share, slowing performance and often resulting in frequent, protracted appearances of the SBBOD in all applications. Processes can become errant when they are frozen or hung, either due to programming bugs or system-related problems, such as directory corruption.

In an application's Dock menu, the phrase Application Not Responding will appear if the application is frozen or hung. Processes can also become errant due to unsupported system modifications, such as installing third-party hacks, interface modifications, or menu extras. Errant processes can also result from improperly uninstalling third-party applications.

For example, if a third-party application installed a Startup or Login Item and you deleted all of the application's other files except that one, that leftover may still be opened when you start up your Mac or log in to your account, becoming an errant process that hogs CPU cycles.

A Web browser may show high CPU usage while rendering or displaying multimedia content. If a process is using considerable CPU, but its name does not appear in red text, it may simply be busy; patience is a virtue.

Understanding Compressed Memory on the Mac

The processes consuming the most CPU will now be at the top of the list. Only terminate processes you recognize and whose User is listed as a user account on your Mac. Other processes, such as those whose User is root , are system processes. Terminating system processes or those running in user accounts other than your own requires Admin authority. Terminating a system process may stop your Mac from functioning, necessitating a hard restart via the power button.

Troubleshooting an errant system process requires an understanding of its function. To determine the function of an errant system process:. Advanced users can also terminate an errant process by using its Process ID or Process Name in the kill or killall Terminal commands, respectively. If an application frequently becomes unresponsive, freezes, or hangs you can take a sample of it while it is in this state.

A sample is essentially a snapshot of the code running in the process at the time the sample was taken. The sample can then be saved and sent to the developer for further analysis. It includes the following topics: Activity Monitor basics. Checking CPU usage. Checking RAM usage. How can we tell if this worked? Snow Leopard This will unload the dynamic pager from the Mac OS […].

Anytime you can avoid using virtual memory your Mac will perform faster since it does not need to […]. How does OS X keep track of the location of information in the swapfiles? Any help out there? Mac OS X and virtual memory. Thus there is no way to explicitly — and also no need to — increase the amount of VRAM. If you find you are in need of serious amounts of swap the best option for you will be to increase your amount of physical RAM. Or take a serious look at how many programs you have running. You can improve the performance in several ways: 1 dedicate a partition on your HardDisk 2 dedicate a whole HardDisk — the faster the better.

Very interesting post. As the harddrive gets full, the sluggishness becomes more and more noticeable. Or there is a way to format it for swap? Will a symbolic or hard link suffice? Size of physical memory in bytes plus swap files?

Basics of Activity Monitor

Thanks for the article. Can anyone tell me if we can delete previous swapfiles? It will barely make a difference on the life of your SSD, and Mac OS does much better when you allow it to use swap space as it wishes. Name required. Mail will not be published required. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited. August 10, at pm. John R says:. May 14, at pm. Vencil says:. June 13, at am. March 23, at pm. January 12, at pm. December 14, at am.

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    Simple Ways to Reduce Memory Usage on Mac (MacBook Pro, Air, iMac)

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