How to Monitor Your MacBook RAM Usage

Your MacBook’s performance heavily relies on its memory usage and volume. The more memory your Mac has, the more actions you can perform without necessarily slowing it down.

If your Mac’s RAM usage is well optimized, the macOS won’t be forced to turn to virtual memory, which consumes much of the hard drive, slowing down the device. 

Remember that your Mac will slow down considerably if any app you open on your system runs out of memory.

So, what is RAM, and how can you monitor it to ensure optimal device performance? In this article, we take you through what RAM entails, how to check Mac RAM usage, and tips to free up RAM to fix your slow Mac.

Let’s get into it!

What is RAM?

RAM, short form for random access memory, refers to your Mac storage where everything currently running on the device is kept. This covers every app, piece of information, and other essential operating system components. 

It’s among the most crucial parts of your Mac since it affects both the user experience and overall performance. When you turn on your Mac and start performing a task, all the data and apps you open are momentarily stored in this short-term, volatile memory.

RAM is found inside your device’s memory modules. However, this doesn’t mean you can upgrade RAM on every Mac as with other computers. Most Mac models don’t have upgradeable RAM, and this is because RAM is built directly into the chip.

How RAM works on your Mac

When you open an app on your Mac, the data that the CPU needs for those apps is loaded into the RAM. The CPU uses this memory to carry out the intricate operations needed to provide the experience you want—whether playing a game or streaming something from the internet.

For better performance, RAM must be quicker than the long-term storage on the disk drive. The speed of your RAM determines the rate at which data enters and exits your CPU. As such, if your RAM is operating too slowly, you’ll experience a notably slow Mac.

RAM functions similarly to your short-term memory. Its primary function is to help with instant data storage. Think about this—it’ll be tough to remember information longer if you lose your short-term memory. 

However, the capacity for more short-term memory would enable you to recall anything faster and perform multiple things simultaneously, even when they’re more complex.

RAM usage on Mac varies according to the apps you use. All that counts is that you have enough RAM to launch and run any software you require. Your Mac can access and store more data if it has more RAM, which results in faster and smoother operation. 

Why is RAM important for your Mac?

RAM is crucial for your Mac for a number of reasons, including:

Speed & performance

RAM has a major role in how quickly your Mac can access and store data, which is why it’s so important. Your Mac can access and store more data with more RAM, which results in faster and smoother operation. 

This implies that you won’t experience any lags or crashes when simultaneously using many apps and completing multiple tasks.

Multitasking

RAM enables your Mac to manage numerous activities concurrently, including running multiple programs, surfing the internet, and playing music. Your Mac can manage more tasks at once with additional RAM, which lowers the chance of slowdowns and crashes. 

Longer battery life

A Mac with more RAM uses less power because it doesn’t constantly contact the hard drive to get data. Your Mac can access data more quickly and efficiently with additional RAM, extending its battery life. 

This is extremely crucial for Mac users who need their computer to survive as long as possible and are always on the go.

Improved user experience

You’ll get a more efficient & pleasurable user experience with enhanced performance and multitasking abilities. Thanks to your Mac’s increased speed and responsiveness, you’ll be able to do jobs more quickly and effectively. 

As a result, working with computers will be more fun and productive.

Why is my RAM usage so high and how do I monitor it?

The number one reason your RAM usage on Mac might be high is because you have too many apps or processes running in the background. Another reason your RAM usage might be high is that your Mac is swapping unused files to and from your startup disk. 

This happens when your Mac runs out of free memory and needs to free up some space for active apps. Below are a few steps you can take to check if your Mac needs more RAM through the Activity Monitor

Monitor your RAM Usage on Mac

The Memory pane shows you how much RAM your Mac is currently using, how frequently it switches between RAM and your starting disk, how much memory is allocated to each app, and how much of that memory is compressed.

The presence of free or unused memory only sometimes translates into better computer performance. macOS uses all of your computer’s memory wisely to maximize speed. To keep an eye on Mac RAM usage:

  1. Open your Mac’s Activity Monitor.
  1. Press the Memory button (or the Touch Bar).

This is where the Memory Pressure graph shows how well your machine is using memory. If the memory pressure indicator is green, your computer uses all its RAM effectively. However, the Yellow memory pressure indicates that your Mac may eventually need extra RAM.

On the other hand, red memory pressure indicates that your Mac urgently needs extra RAM. Additionally, you can observe whether an app is increasing memory strain by eating up RAM. You should close the application if you are done with it.

To ensure your Mac is using RAM efficiently, you need to monitor its memory pressure properly by looking at the amount of free memory available, the swap rate, and the quantity of wired and file-cached memory.

How much RAM does your Mac need?

RAM on your Mac is measured in GB, and most computers have 8GB or 16GB RAM. The amount of RAM you need on your device is relative to the tasks you want it to perform. If you’re resource-intensive apps, you’ll need more RAM to prevent your Mac from slowing down.

In most cases, always get the maximum amount of RAM you can afford when you buy a new Mac. However, it’s worth noting that if your Mac is using most of the RAM available, then you may experience problems such as:

  1. Performance issues
  2. Pop-up messages reminding you ‘your system has run out of application memory’ message
  3. MacBook keeps freezing or apps become unresponsive
  4. Taking ages to load apps or web pages
  5. Typing still works, but before anything appears on the screen, there’s a delay.

If these are issues you are encountering, you might need more RAM on your Mac. But first, get to know how much RAM is currently installed on your Mac by following these simple steps:

  1. Click on the Apple symbol. It’s located in the top left corner of your screen.
  1. Go ahead and select About This Mac from the menu that appears.

The box will appear, showing various details, such as the installed version of macOS, your Mac model name, and the amount of memory or RAM used on your Mac. 

How to free up RAM on your Mac

If you’re experiencing issues with RAM on your Mac, chances are it’s too depleted, and you need to find ways to free some space. Considering purchasing additional RAM is not an option, there are a few measures you can take to clear out RAM and resolve memory issues with your Mac.

Let’s take a look.

1. Restart your Mac

Arguably the most straightforward technique, restarting your Mac gives it an additional boost in performance. Given RAM is a temporary memory that only works for currently running apps, restarting your device will help clear your RAM. 

Your Mac will clear its RAM and any disk caches when it restarts, so everything should function more smoothly afterward. Besides, some applications may be running in the background, and restarting your device stops them, giving your RAM the desired break.

2. Turn to the Activity Monitor

The Activity Monitor is your number-one go-to solution when your Mac lags or if an app starts misbehaving. It helps you locate the troublesome app or processes and force it to quit. 

If you suspect your RAM has developed issues by chance, turning to the Activity Monitor will give you an idea of what you need to deal with.

You can search for Activity Monitor on your Mac in Utilities or open Spotlight (Command + Space) by typing its name. The Activity Monitor will help you determine whether a specific app consumes excessive amounts of RAM by displaying how much of each is used. 

Each process and application’s specifics, like memory use and thread count, will be displayed. You can then identify the process or application using up all the RAM and quit.

3. Remove Login items

Programs known as “Login Items” load automatically when a Mac starts. However, it doesn’t help that most, if not all, secretly put themselves on the list, eating into your RAM. Login items are among the first things you should remove to free up RAM. 

Here are steps you should follow to get rid of Login Items and simultaneously reduce your Mac’s memory usage.

  1. Go to Launchpad.
  1. Choose System Preferences.
  1. Select Users & Groups.
  1. Select Login Items.
  2. Select the apps you don’t wish to load when your Mac boots up.
  3. Press the “–” icon below them.

4. Delete cache files 

Cleaning up the cache on a Mac is an additional method of freeing up RAM. Although clearing the cache regularly won’t save you gigabytes of space, it will make your Mac operate faster and prevent system problems.

Follow these steps to delete the cache on your Mac:

  1. Launch the Finder.
  2. Choose Go to Folder from the Go menu.
  1. Type ~/Library/Caches in the field, then hit Return.

Your cache files are all visible to you in the window that opens. To select all files or remove each one individually, use Command-A and confirm the deletion by entering your password and username. 

Final thoughts

Your computer relies on RAM for day-to-day tasks you perform, such as streaming a movie or creating a spreadsheet. That’s why monitoring this memory and ensuring your device operates at its peak is always advisable.

To effectively monitor RAM usage on your Mac, find out what app uses so much of your memory. These apps are all listed in the Activity Monitor, under the Memory tab, alongside other processes running on your device.

Make it a habit always to check the Activity Monitor, identify all the apps running, and free some of the application memory to reduce Mac memory usage.

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