How do you clear inactive ram?

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by lisbakke, Aug 8, 2005.

  1. lisbakke macrumors newbie

    Jul 29, 2005
    When I had 512 mb ram on my PB, nearly half or more was always dedicated to inactive memory. I bought 2 gigs of ram, and right now, I'm using 1.9/2 gigs... but 1.2 gigs of it is inactive.

    When I used to use PC's I would use cacheman (or something like that) to free up inactive ram. How do I do this on 10.4.2?
  2. alex_ant macrumors 68020


    Feb 5, 2002
    All up in your bidness
    You don't

    Mac OS X is optimizing your ram, it's supposed to be that way... blah blah blah
  3. lisbakke thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 29, 2005
    I don't want to have 1.2 gigs of inactive ram and 40 megs of free ram... plus, sysstat and stickies widgets end up taking 250 megs of ram each after a while and i think that this is too much. Isn't there any remedy?
  4. Applespider macrumors G4


    Jan 20, 2004
    looking through rose-tinted spectacles...
    Honestly, you don't need to worry about the inactive RAM. OS X handles memory much better than Windows. When you open a new app that requires memory, OS X will switch out the inactive RAM in the background. Unless you have oodles of RAM and very few applications open, you'll generally find you have less than 100MB free. OS X will use as much as it can whenever possible but since it's good at the inactive stuff, you shouldn't notice too much.

    Those widgets are taking up quite a bit of RAM but that's probably more to do with the way in which they're coded. You could close them if it bothers you and reopen them.
  5. lisbakke thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 29, 2005
    I understand what you guys are saying, but the reason I got 2 gigs of ram was so that I would have no pages stored in virtual memory on disk. Even with 2 gigs of ram, I have page outs because osx is keeping all of the inactive stuff loaded. Wouldn't it be more optimum to prevent writing to disk (rather than ram) rather than just let everything stay in ram?
  6. risc macrumors 68030


    Jul 23, 2004
    Melbourne, Australia
  7. chucknorris macrumors 6502a


    Jun 28, 2005
    Moscow, ID (No Kremlin here!)
    I don't think this can be stressed enough. It is SUPPOSED to be that way. OS X does a very good job of managing memory to optimize performance. If you are not actively using a lot of ram, then it will cache things in inactive memory for quicker loading. If you are actively using a lot of ram, then it will decrease the amount of inactive memory AUTOMATICALLY. It wouldn't make any sense for OS X to waste your memory, and force you to use virtual memory. Would it? You don't think Apple would be that stupid, do you?
  8. lisbakke thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 29, 2005
    Is this how it works?

    You load programs, they take up ram, while they're idle, their inactive code stays in ram, so that when they are used, these sections don't have to be reloaded, allowing faster access speeds.

    If you load a program, and don't have enough free memory for the new program, then it clears out some of the inactive memory to make space for the new incoming init data/code?
  9. alex_ant macrumors 68020


    Feb 5, 2002
    All up in your bidness
  10. whydoyouwork macrumors newbie

    Aug 16, 2007
    I have 4gb of ram in the latest (August 16th, 2007) MacBook Pro...

    The memory management is actually quite horrible. At times I have 2gb of inactive memory... Even after I close down evertyhing but adium I still cannot get the space back.

    So say I'm working rather quickly in Flash, Illustrator, and Dreamweaver while testing in Firefox and I need to start Parallels to load my bootcamp Partition of Windows with 512mb ram to test something in I.E... I have to restart, even if I close all the apps, it doesn't clear nearly enough memory...

    This is my first time running OSX more than Windows in a development/design atmosphere... It manages memory worse than Windows when it comes to something like that. When 4gb and a 200gb hd aren't enough for proper multi tasking that I do on my windows machine at home without a hitch isn't enough... You're memory management is made for bloggers and students.

    If anyone is wondering Vista flies on the MacBook Pro 17'. OSX is sluggish in comparison.

    To clear memory, look up Dust on

    To answer someone's question, "Do you think Apple would be that stupid?" Yes.
  11. WildCowboy Administrator/Editor


    Staff Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    2 GB of inactive memory is's all there at your fingertips for when the app needs it. You shouldn't be able to get it back by closing down's still holding the data in case you reopen those apps. That's the whole point of inactive memory.

    If you need that RAM for something new, it will happily give it up and let you use it. Memory management on OS X just works.

    And if the app you're talking about is MacDust, I haven't used it myself, but I see nothing in its feature list that indicates that it would free up inactive memory.
  12. Aea macrumors 6502a


    May 23, 2007
    Denver, Colorado
    This really just doesn't justify a response, but let's go over this again. This is by DESIGN, unused memory (cleared / closed program) is left in your RAM and effectively the same of free RAM, it can be freely used by any program and incurs no speed hit (in fact it improves speed since when you relaunch something which already exists in inactive, there's not as much load incurred).

    The reason that parallels is slow is because it's a piece of crap.
  13. Cromulent macrumors 603


    Oct 2, 2006
    The Land of Hope and Glory
    How many times do people have to post the answer to this.

    Inactive RAM is Mac OS X storing information from applications that you have opened in the past in case you open them again. This speeds up launch of said applications.

    If you open a different application, Mac OS X will overwrite what it has stored in the inactive RAM and load the application. This is not using the hard drive at all. The only part that you need to worry about is swap which is hard drive space that Mac OS X uses when it runs out of real RAM.

    Your just wasting your time restarting your computer to clear inactive RAM and probably doing it harm by constantly restarting.

  14. iBookG4user macrumors 604


    Jun 27, 2006
    Seattle, WA
    If you really want to free up memory, even though you don't have to then google an app called ifreemem.
  15. whydoyouwork macrumors newbie

    Aug 16, 2007
    Never said Parallels was slow. It's actually quite responsive... I don't restart constantly, I end up testing on another machine... I haver closed the old programs and have started new ones and it doesn't free the ram all the time. Parallels, Illustrator, and multiple other programs have trouble.

    Yeah, I know you guys are telling me how it "just works" but I'm telling you how it doesn't. Notice how one is in quotes because it's from sort of commercial and the other is from real world experience.

    Parallels won't start because it can't allocate the memory that mac has stored as inactive. To be clear, if I WIPE the inactive memory so it is FREE memory, I can start Parallels.

    I've been working with computers since I was 9, I'm now 24... I have worked with OSX since it came out. It needs to grow up. BUT this is NOT an OSX versus windows debate by any means. It has ONLY to do with the fact that everyone responds as if memory in OSX is always perfect 100% of the time and if it doesn't work it's user error.

    Funny, since there's programs like Dust and IFreeMem...

    *hint hint* Don't bust someone's chops repeating something they've read 4 times in the same post if they still say it doesn't work... Credit the user, not the wonder that is OSX. No wonder Apple is slow to patch open source vulnerabilities and have issues like this, the response to problems is drone in quality.
  16. iPhil macrumors 68040



    Here's a simple Mac OS X Ram explanation page on  site: Mac Ram simple info site

    Oh yeah checked my iStatPro widget on Ram .. i got 1.25GB of Ram Free**..
  17. Cromulent macrumors 603


    Oct 2, 2006
    The Land of Hope and Glory
    You have obviously allocated Parrelels too much RAM then. You should only really allocate 50% of your total RAM to Parellels (so in your case 2GBs). This is because you are running two operating systems at the same time and thus have to keep much more information in RAM at the same time.

    It is a shame then that your massive experience is blinding you to the way computers actually work then isn't it?

    As I said above all the RAM listed as inactive is still available to applications if they need it. It is swap that you need to be on the look out for.

    Saying something does not work, and something actually not working are two completely different things.

    From the iFreeMem website

    Funny how the very application you keep harping on about ¨proving¨ your point that OS X is bad at memory management says that you should have more inactive RAM than free RAM eh?
  18. whydoyouwork macrumors newbie

    Aug 16, 2007

    1: I specified 512mb to Parallels... "Obviously" - Who even says something like that after I specified 512 in Parallels... Whats dedicated in the Parallels setup is 1gb, 512mb for the VM.
    2: Explain Flash, Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Final Cut, etc, etc as far as not having enough memory goes...
    3: I'm not saying if inactive is better than free, only that apps have proven to need Free ram when starting up, not inactive ram (which has been specific in this thread as allocated ram) which is where the bottleneck comes up... A bottleneck is a bottleneck, no matter what techincal docs say, no matter what Apple says, but only the fact that applications can't start when practically NOTHING is open.

    Seriously, wow. You guys will get cocky, repeating exactly what others say, and go to lengths to say things like "obviously" and "blinding" when you don't even know me and all I'm doing is saying exactly what's happening to my machine... Still drone like responses only a personal jab, just like the commercials.

    Oh the hilarity I'm finding in this thread... Leave it up to the guy that "believes in himself" to go beyond a stated fact and assume. This thread is getting out of control due to the fact that none of you guys simply can't say "nothing is perfect" or "odd behavior, it normally doesn't do that" but only "YOU'RE WRONG". This is just fun at this point. Someone quoting, insulting, all in the defense of something they had nothing to do with. Zealots around? And yes, this is me just toying with the situation.
  19. Cromulent macrumors 603


    Oct 2, 2006
    The Land of Hope and Glory
    I see where you are coming from, but you have to understand when someone comes into a thread and claims (and I quote)
    you would understand why I'm quite keen to show that it is not.

    One thing you fail to understand is that the memory management of OS X is handled by the Unix core, an operating system that has been in development for over 30 years and is used in a lot of mission critical environments. I would have thought that in all that time someone would have noticed poor memory management wouldn't you?

    Now, you are obviously having a problem with your machine and I'll be happy to help resolve that problem if you explain exactly what the problem is.

    Which versions of these applications are you running? If you are running the CS2 versions (or earlier) of Photoshop, Flash and Illustrator and 5.0.4 (or earlier) of Final Cut Pro I can tell you exactly what your problem is. If not then I'll need more information.

    Can you provide any extra information about the exact problems (error messages etc)? Console log file when you try and open the application in question would be good too.
  20. whydoyouwork macrumors newbie

    Aug 16, 2007

    I'd be happy to pull logs. ON my day to day schedule i don't have time but when I get some free time on the MBP I def will. :D

    I do understand the lineage of the memory management, but 30 years and nobody noticing a problem when it comes to the heaviest of hitting programs being multi tasked is not the same as a server scenario where Unix shines... It's just very very different. Again, I understand the lineage, the logic, etc. If anything, simply put, OSX doesn't dump the stuff it's allocated quickly enough in my experience (which is much more intense on the computer than the average user). In my day to day heavy use of computers I have seen that Windows (dare i say the word) does handle memory in a fashion that has yet to hold me back. I've never had the issue I have in OSX in Windows with the same amount of ram. In fact even less on a 32bit with 3.25gb of ram Windows install as well as 4gb in a 64bit install of Windows.

    We can talk about how old Unix is (which makes me think if anything it never imagined the type of memory we have today when it was being created) and I DO respect it by all means. OSX is a good os, but as far as heavy multi tasking, I've never knew a fellow user that has gotten so defensive in light of something like memory management.

    If my computer is messed up, alright, even that is bullocks considering I haven't done anything advanced and Apple controls both hardware and software at this basic level... But at least that is an answer, not an insult as other's have offered past repeating what they read somewhere else, showing little original logic.
  21. swiftaw macrumors 603


    Jan 31, 2005
    Omaha, NE, USA
    I have had many apps running and never had a problem launching parallels on top of that. I would be leaning towards there being something wrong with your particular machine rather than a fundamental error in OSX's memory management
  22. whydoyouwork macrumors newbie

    Aug 16, 2007
    Except software and restart fixing the issue... Otherwise, I'd rule it out as well.

    Also keep in mind the memory requirements of the programs I am talking about... It's not the number of apps, it's how intense they are...

    And really, is it that hard to believe there is a flaw in the management? Or am I just delusional and should assume perfection?
  23. m1ti macrumors newbie

    Sep 2, 2004
    I think you are delusional. I run Photoshop and Illustrator CS3 on the same machine as you with 4GB ram and have no problems (except of course I would like 8GB to make it even faster).

    I am not sure why you are complaining. Even if there is a memory problem, CS3 on Mac is faster than on PC; even the PC-centric CNET/ZDNet sites are saying it is.,1000001069,39286887,00.htm
  24. whydoyouwork macrumors newbie

    Aug 16, 2007
    Did I say it ran slower? I said OSX runs sluggish. Again, wow, words in my mouth, off topic, and using a generic term like "PC" that doesn't really mean anything these days. And operating system doesn't classify a mac as not a 'pc', it's still a personal computer, esp when it runs the same OS as the "pc".

    The fact that people are just chiming in here, without any regard for the technical detail I posted thus far half the time... I don't really care if you run Photoshop and Illustrator CS3. Because I do, and I also run a bunch of other apps that I run on Windows and have no problem going back and forth...

    Why do mac people always have this 'well it's good enough for me, it must be you' attitude like M1t1? And the reference to ZNET was NOT a good test. Running one app, on a different hardware setup than what we're discussing here, with nothing else major open... Hardly something to call someone delusional over. Except at this point delusional might stick because this has been a fun argument for me thus far.

    So off topic at this point but still amusing. But I am done now. It must be my machine, osx is perfect for everyone, no matter what work load and never compared to any other operating systems. Sorry for even suggesting.
  25. CanadaRAM macrumors G5


    Oct 11, 2004
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    OK, we have 2 distinct camps here:

    1) is the party who has multitasked OSX programs heavily for years and has never had an application force a restart for reason of not being able to reclaim Inactive memory to launch with. This party claims that OSX memory management is infallible, and anyone who claims they have a memory management problem with Inactive memory is on drugs.

    2) is the party who experiences repeatable and serious memory problems with one specific program, declares that OSX memory management is flawed, and everyone who thinks it's OK just because they can use OSX programs flawlessly is living in a pipedream and should be very afraid.

    Isn't it more likely that

    1) Parallels, in one or more specific configurations, has a serious issue with OSX memory management, and
    2) Virtually every other OSX program does not?

    If we leave aside the merits of OSX memory management, and focus on the instance where there is failure, I would be curious to know why and how Parallels is behaving this way, and whether this is specific to this one machine, or a widespread problem. I have certainly never heard of another report similar to this with Parallels or any other program (although I have not done any searching, yet)

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