Lion + 2GB of RAM, performance?

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Lion (10.7)' started by iWonderwhy, Jul 10, 2011.

  1. iWonderwhy macrumors 6502


    Apr 3, 2010
    Not sure if there was a thread that adressed this directly, but here it goes.

    I know the system requirements for Lion require at least 2 GB of RAM, but for anyone out there that has a machine with 2GB and is running Lion, how would you rate its performance?

    I have late 2010 (current model) Macbook Air (11.6") with 2 GB RAM (Core 2 Duo, 1.4 GHz), and a late 2008 iMac with 2 GB of RAM (Core 2 Duo, 2.66 GHz).

    Yes, I know I am quite behind in the RAM world nowadays, but honestly, this has been quite sufficient for the basic computing tasks I do, I have never even once had a sluggish experience, that is, with Snow Leopard.

    Which brings me back to my question, is 2 GB of RAM enough to run Lion at performance equal to, or close to, that of Snow Leopard?

    Again, I am looking for input from anyone running a computer with 2 GB of RAM and Lion, but of course any suggestions/input is welcome.
  2. stefan1975 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 15, 2010
    Here lion GM ran just so so on my 4gb ram so i upgraded to 8gb for €68, which helped a lot. 2gb seems like cutting it. Of course it mainly depends on your needs, for merely safari and such it would be fine. Heavy duty photoshop might be another thing.
  3. tgt macrumors newbie

    Apr 18, 2011
    I'm using an '07 MacBook Pro 17". 2.4GHz C2D with 2GB DDR2 RAM.

    I haven't found a performance difference between Lion and Snow Leopard, a few things are certainly faster. I have several applications open at the moment and am using around 1.6GB of RAM. I believe Mac OS X allocates more RAM to applications than they initially need and so computers with 4GB of RAM will use more than those with 2GB for identical tasks.

    It depends entirely upon what you intend to do with your computers, if Snow Leopard has been working fine and your needs are unlikely to change I wouldn't expect to have any performance issues. YMMV as people seem to have very different experiences with Lion from what I've read.
  4. damnyooneek macrumors 6502

    Aug 14, 2005
    i have the newest model mba 13" with 2gb ram. the gm lion has been running on it for about a week and everything works just like it did on snow leopard for me.
  5. theturtle macrumors 6502a

    Aug 3, 2009
    when i had my 1.83 (or was it 1.86) 2010 macbook air, lion (it was d3 though) ran perfectly fine on it.
  6. iWonderwhy thread starter macrumors 6502


    Apr 3, 2010

    Awesome news, thanks guys. Yeah, my computing activities pretty much remain unchanged, no video-editing/gaming or anything like that. Just web browsing, word processing, Skype, Outlook, just square boring stuff like that.

    I was initially holding back on downloading because I've heard mixed messages on RAM usage, but for what I'm doing, it seems just fine. I'll be installing it for sure as your own experiences with Lion have been encouraging. Once again, thanks for the heads-up.
  7. seong macrumors 65816


    Feb 11, 2010
  8. cocacolakid macrumors 65816


    Dec 18, 2010
    I find it fascinating that people with similar or the same spec machines appear to have such different experiences with Lion. I'm curious what the mainstream press reviews of Lion will be like if reporters are actually upgrading an older Mac and not using a brand new model that was only released with Lion.
  9. Mr.C macrumors 601

    Apr 3, 2011
    London, UK.
    I suspect it's not just the specifications of the computer that matter but how the computer is used. For light use like web surfing, email, word processing etc. 2GB may be just fine. For someone who is doing more heavy duty work like using various multimedia applications such as Photosho may well find that 2GB and even 4GB may not be enough.

    My personal use is pretty light as in internet, email, word processing, listening to music, viewing videos/movies etc. I don't have Lion yet and I plan to get it for my Mac Mini that has 4GB of RAM. A may also get it for my MacBook Air which has 2GB of RAM but as it doesn't really get used much anymore by me I may not bother with that. I could upgrade the RAM to 4GB on the Air but I'm not so sure it is worth it.
  10. Novecento macrumors member


    Jul 6, 2011
    I have lion running on my 2007 MB with C2D 2GHz and 2 GB.
    It has only happened once that I felt 2GB were not enough, when I ran InDesign and Photoshop at the same time, both with huge files loaded. Free RAM was like 12MB at that time :) Luckily I don't have to use these two apps frequently so I don't see a problem running GM with only 2GB (at least for me).
  11. maclaptop macrumors 65816


    Apr 8, 2011
    Western Hemisphere
    I too purchased a late MBA in both 13 & 11" sizes for my various requirements. However I placed my order via Apple .com BTO to include 4GB.

    Those who failed to have the patience to wait, claimed that 4GB was excessive and gave a litany of "reasons".

    Now, if you go to Apples site and read the requirements and "suggestions" the between the lines insinuation is clear. Anything less than 4GB will run, but ever so SLOWLY!

    I've been a computer professional for far too long to believe any Mac in the year 2011 will run well with a measly 2GB.

    All the fanbois that suck up to Apple & swear they know best, are finding out the hard way that Apple doesn't give a flip about them.

    There's only one reason the 2010 MBA's came with 2GB STD, soldered in place with no hope for a user to upgrade.

    That reason summed up? Apples' Obscene Greed.
  12. nfl46 macrumors 604

    Oct 5, 2008
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 5_0 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.0.2 Mobile/9A5248d Safari/6533.18.5)

    I remember when everyone was saying the Late 2010 MBA with 2GB of ram won't be able to run Lion successfully, well they were wrong. It runs fine!
  13. blaizefm macrumors newbie


    Dec 11, 2009
    Calm down dear - I'm running Lion on my 2Gb MBair and it runs absolutely fine.
  14. stewacide macrumors regular

    Jan 6, 2002
    - Turn off Dashboard(!)
    - A memory-hogging screen-saver (e.g. iTunes artwork) can bump stuff out of real memory, leaving the system sluggish after exiting the 'saver
    - Get rid of Launchpad if you don't use it to free a bit of memory
    - Defragment: it will improve disk performance generally, but most crucially for the virtual memory
    - Be wary of Safari and Firefox add-ons, many are buggy and slow things down immensely
    - Check your startup items (under User settings) for useless/old stuff
    - I always remove unused languages and architectures from OSX (can save several gigs of disk space), but I'm not sure that stuff is ever loaded into memory if not needed (google: 'monolingual')
    - You can speed Spotlight by removing categories you never use under its preferences
  15. ArchieCrisis macrumors newbie

    Mar 8, 2009
    In short, yes but with noticeable performance issues

    The long answer to this question is that it mostly depends on what exactly it is you want to do with your machine, but the short answer is no, 2GB of RAM isn't really enough to run Lion well. Note that I said "run Lion well". It will still run, but it will be far easier to cause things to slow down and get the beach ball.

    Consider this for a moment - I run activity monitor almost constantly because I like to see how the system is performing. Ever since Lion, I've had the dock icon be the pie graph of RAM usage, because I've noticed significant issues with the amount of RAM Lion will gobble up.

    My system stats are as follows:

    2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo iMac (Early 2009 model) with 2 GB 1067 MHz DDR3 Ram

    What I've noticed is that typically the operating system along will use around 1 to 1.25GB of RAM. This is with absolutely no applications open other than Activity Monitor. So right there, if you only have 2GB of RAM you're using half of it just running Lion.

    What is more, and this has been covered all over the internet ad nauseum, is that Safari is a ridiculous RAM hog. Now I've tried using Firefox and Chrome with a moderate degree of success, but they both still use a significant amount of RAM too, especially if you have other applications like iCal and Mail and iTunes running simultaneously.

    In my experience, when they say 2GB is the minimum they really DO mean minimum. Anything less and it won't run at all, and even at 2GB you're REALLY pushing the machine often.

    I'm going to end up upgrading to 4GB of RAM and hopefully that will solve things.
  16. szolr macrumors 6502

    Jul 27, 2011
    London, UK
    Also, the newest Macbook Air has an i5 processor and solid state drive. Together those 2 factors mean the Air will trounce a Core 2 Duo processor with 2GB RAM and a HDD.
  17. alexreich macrumors 6502a


    Jan 26, 2011
    Why not just max out your RAM and not worry about it? That's what I did with my Mac Mini over the summer. Paid $110 for 8GB at OWC, unfortunately for me the prices are about half that now, but good for you. You can get 8GB for around $50 now at Just go ahead and max out your RAM. Then you won't have to worry about RAM until your Mac becomes irrelevant and you need a new one.
  18. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    Lion is more ram hungry than Snow Leopard. 2GB of ram is the minimum supported under Lion. It's pretty simple to tell if you could in fact make use of more ram. If you're seeing page outs in any significant volume, ram would make it more responsive when this happens. 2GB is pretty slim for anything beyond web browsing and word processing on an OS like Lion. With the macbook air it mitigates performance loss by leaning on the speed of the SSD meaning if your drive has sufficient space the lag wouldn't be as bad as you would experience with a mechanical drive.
  19. WeegieMac Guest


    Jan 29, 2008
    Glasgow, UK
    My Macintosh is a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo with 4GB DDR2 800MHz RAM, and Lion simply isn't matching Snow Leopard for performance.

    I appreciate that my integrated video chipset is only a 128mb ATI Radeon 2400 HD, so it's not the best, but animations in Lion once the system has been on and used for an hour or so, are simply unbearable. Launchpad doesn't "glide" on screen once RAM usage is up, it stutters on. Opening folders can be painful viewing, but oddly enough once you open a folder, it smoothly opens and closes fine afterwards (as long as you stay in Launchpad). It's as if loading it into the memory helps, but once you leave Launchpad it reverts back.

    The same goes for going in/out of full screen mode. A cold, just booted system animates the transition perfectly, but once the system has been on and used for an hour or so, the transition animations are woeful.

    I've always kept a small partition (100GB) on a WD external drive with Snow Leopard installed, but even running from a USB drive, Snow Leopard smokes Lion on my system. It could, and probably is, just a sign that my system reached optimisation with Snow Leopard, but then again Lion's RAM usage and management is utter crap.

    I'm on Snow Leopard now, and the system has been running for some three or four hours of solid use, and the current RAM read out is 2.50GB free, 772MB active, 385MB wired, and 372MB inactive. On Lion, within 30 minutes of use, that 2.50GB would be inactive even if all I've done is use iTunes, Safari, and Quicktime to watch a movie. And yes, I've heard the arguments about Free vs Inactive, but as far as I'm aware and concerned, RAM has to be used by something first to become inactive (ie: a program is run, then quit, but it's allocated RAM becomes inactive), but with Lion you can use nowhere near enough resources to use 2.50GB of RAM, yet it switches the whole lot to Inactive?

    At this rate, Lion will be relegated to the external and Snow Leopard can come on home to the internal, where it belongs. The only downside to Snow Leopard is the lack of iCloud, which means I'd lose the ability to access my iCloud email on the account I now have. I tried to set it up on Mail for Snow Leopard, but it doesn't seem to recognise it.

    Anyway, just my thoughts. I have no doubt this will be marked down by the Lion diehards who, for one reason or another, will think I'm belittling the latest and greatest, but for those without the latest and greatest Macs (although some with have also voiced concerns), Lion isn't as slick a user experience as Snow Leopard. Although, in my opinion, it's no coincidence that Snow Leopard sings beautifully since it was the final one Bertrand Serlet worked on before he sadly left the company.
  20. timotay89 macrumors regular

    Jul 20, 2011
    Didn't go well for me.

    I have an early 2008 MBP that came with 2GB of RAM. Once I installed Lion it started to really slow down. It might be because I was constantly switching between mathematica, finder, word, pages, mathtype, calander, mail, safari, and more, but for me it was much slower than Snow Leopard. Mission control and launchpad would take a second to load, and my computer would constantly stop responding for a second while doing a lot of stuff.

    I've since upgraded to 6GB of RAM and the performance has been completely different. It works faster for me than snow leopard did and I can have everything running at once. I usually am using about 4GB of RAM at any time, so having a little left over to work with is nice too. On the rare occasion that I use all 6GB of RAM I get the same slow response time that I had with the 2GB of it.
  21. bruleke macrumors 6502


    Jun 26, 2009
    maybe because not everybody can spend money buying ram memmory. Maybe there are other priorities for these people.
  22. netdog macrumors 603


    Feb 6, 2006
    My 2010 Mini with 2GB slows to a crawl suddenly and unexpectedly. My 4Gb 2010 MBA never bogs down.
  23. johnhurley macrumors 6502a


    Aug 29, 2011
    How old of a machine is that exactly? New to the macbook air but a core 2 duo and that speed of ddr2 ram makes me think that the machine might be time to think about an upgrade.
  24. WeegieMac, Nov 20, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2011

    WeegieMac Guest


    Jan 29, 2008
    Glasgow, UK
    It's model name is "iMac 8,1" and was bought in March 2009, so it's a mid 2008 model I believe. Still, the difference between what Snow Leopard does and what Lion does is minimal. Lion is eye candy; Mission Control, Launchpad (although Snow Leopard has it's own eye candy in Spaces, Expose, etc).

    Snow Leopard screams on this machine, I'm back using Snow Leopard now, but there isn't enough going on in Lion to justify the performance gap, and anyone who denies there is a RAM management issue is, quite frankly, a fool.

    I'm a huge Apple user and have been labelled a fanboy by many, but Lion is a dogs dinner of an OS. Snow Leopard brought refinements to Leopard and enhanced it, but Lion is not (some features aside, especially iCloud support and the aforementioned mutilation of Spaces and Expose called Mission Control) a fundamentally huge leap in terms of what OS X can do.

    Snow Leopard is 64-bit, as is Lion. Check on Activity Monitor, Snow Leopard runs 99% of it's processes in 64-bit, although I did laugh at Apple keeping iTunes in 64-bit on Lion only (yet more ********).

    As for upgrading, well I'm not a power user although Lion shouldn't be a power application/OS. Sure, I'll put the cars MOT on hold and break the law this month, drive around without an MOT, and to hell with fixing the boiler that's acting up bang in time for winter, I'll just take your advice and go and upgrade my perfectly fine Mac because Apple have done a shoddy (and yes, it IS shoddy) job with Lion. Again, the RAM management is a piece of piss and the fact Bertrand is gone says volumes.

    There is not enough going on in Lion to tax a system that screams in Snow Leopard, to the extent that animations stutter like a bitch when returning from sleep. I can return from sleep on Snow Leopard, highlight a movie file, press space and get Quick Look, beautifully animated, first time, perfectly.

    Safari scrolls smooth, the whole system is just simply quicker. Lion is great for the first 45 minutes you use it, and then it goes straight to hell in a handcart. I'll just finish by reiterating that there is NOTHING in Lion that Snow Leopard doesn't do, that makes machines of my spec lag after little under an hours use. And the fact iFreeMem and manual purging of the memory fixes the issues proves, to me, that RAM management is an issue.

    If Lion was some uber update to Snow Leopard with phenomenal new features, fair enough. But it's not.
  25. WeegieMac, Nov 20, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2011

    WeegieMac Guest


    Jan 29, 2008
    Glasgow, UK
    And another little thing, just to further back up my point.

    Entering Time Machine, same animation sequence, on Lion stutters (again, fine in the first 30/45 minutes of the machine being on) but on Snow Leopard it's fluid. Every, single time.

    Edit: Got to love being marked down for telling the truth eh!? Fact, on my machine entering Time Machine results in a stuttering animation. Snow Leopard, same animation doesn't.

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