Available RAM Seeming Low

Discussion in 'macOS' started by ender land, May 2, 2011.

  1. ender land macrumors 6502a

    Oct 26, 2010

    I recently updated to 8GB of RAM. I have noticed a really annoying phenomenon with my 2010 13" MBP -

    After extensively using my computer with memory intensive programs (virtual machines, compiling code in X-code, lots of apps open, etc) and then quitting them (only have Chrome, finder, and Activity Monitor open) I now am only seeing 4.35gb of RAM free (out of 8). Activity Monitor is telling me I have the following:

    935mb wired
    1.06 active
    1.68 inactive
    3.72 used

    It seems that something is not releasing memory correctly? If I restart my computer the free RAM goes up significantly. Is there a good way to understand this?

    I've read through a lot of stuff on this but cannot really understand how things are working. But it seems my computer is utilizing RAM no more effectively with 8GB than 4GB because the percentage of "free to used" seems identical before and after installing the new RAM.

    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
  2. parapup macrumors 65816


    Oct 31, 2006
    Wired+Active+Inactive = Used. Wired is the memory that is, well - wired - it can't be thrown away. Active is actively used by programs and then inactive is cache which can be thrown away when you run low on memory.

    So you are actually using only around 2Gb which is not very bad - the inactive is as good as not used - if other programs need, it will go down.

    FWIW - I have 8G in my 17" too and my numbers look very close to yours. Only worry if you see Wired and Active occupy most of the 8Gb.
  3. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Those numbers don't look bad, I have 6gb and my numbers aren't terribly off from what you show.

    As the old adage goes, free ram is wasted ram. I'd not worry about your free ram, unless you start seeing page outs or performance problems.
  4. ender land thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 26, 2010
    Hm, I have 86k page outs... I guess that is over a fairly long period of somewhat intense use.

    If I understand it, wired memory is system memory which cannot be used elsewhere, and active is, well, active. But should Chrome/finder/Activity Monitor really take up 1GB of RAM? That seems.... excessive, especially since I didn't have many tabs open.

    I guess I'll restart and see what happens.
  5. Miss Terri macrumors 6502

    Nov 11, 2010
    US East Coast
    I've had the same issue, more or less... but worse.

    With 4 gigs of RAM, I'll be trundling along (with only one or two programs open) and get down to something ridiculous like this:

    Free: 35mb (yes, mb)
    Wired: 800mb
    Active: 1.8GB
    Inactive 1.4 GB

    At this point, things will become laggy. Even if the last program I closed was ages ago, and even if my system is acting RAM starved, the inactive RAM will stay huge and the free will stay super tiny. Page outs and swap will become immense.

    The one thing I've found that will "fix" it for a while (well, short of shutting down and re-starting, but that seems silly when I've been able to go months without shutting down all my previous Macs which were far less capable and powerful) is to close Firefox and then re-open it. Apparently FF is not very clever in its memory usage?

    I have 8GB of RAM just waiting to go into this computer, but I put it off for a while while I figured this RAM thing out. Now I'll probably install it next time it's convenient to shut down.


Share This Page