ram vs cpu usage, which is worse?

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by jkandell, Oct 27, 2005.

  1. jkandell macrumors member

    Sep 6, 2005
    Tucson AZ
    Forgive my naivite, but when I am confused about what I am supposed to be looking for when using Activity Monitor. For instance, I notice most widgets use 0 cpu when not being used (i.e. dashboard not brought up); but they still seem to use RAM. Does this mean they are slowing my machine even not activated? Some widgets (like voice-notes) uses some cpu even when not activated, is this worse? Are "inactive processes" causing no load to my system? Should I be looking at virtual memory too?

    Can someone explain how this memory stuff affects performance. What exactly should I be concerned about if I'm trying to gague system efficiency to keep processes from overloading and slowing down?
  2. Counterfit macrumors G3


    Aug 20, 2003
    sitting on your shoulder
    If you still have a good portion of free RAM (green by default in the pie chart,) then no, they won't be slowing your computer down by any noticeable amount.
  3. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus


    Jul 24, 2002
    You can always buy more RAM (well most of the time), but you can't upgrade the CPU in most Macs so background CPU usage is worse than background RAM usage.
  4. jkandell thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 6, 2005
    Tucson AZ
    thanks. can you explain then why programs which are not being used (like widgets) would still take up ram? wouldn't the ram go down to zero along with the cpu? also, why do some widgets occupy cpu even when not activated with f12?
  5. jsw Moderator emeritus


    Mar 16, 2004
    Andover, MA
    Some widgets run in the background (for example I have one which collects radar maps over time) - those will use CPU. Most don't.

    As far as RAM: OS X doesn't dump things from RAM until it has to because it's slow to load from disk and fast to dump from RAM, so it's an optimization in case things are reused again shortly. The widgets, however, are active applications that just - usually - aren't running when the Dashboard isn't on top. They are still loaded and in RAM. Otherwise, they'd have to be loaded and reinitialized every time you hit F12.
  6. James Philp macrumors 65816

    James Philp

    Mar 5, 2005
    It really depends if you want the widgets you have open to take 2-10 seconds to load or 0-2! Data rates from RAM are much higher than disks, and so stuff comes up quicker and goes faster.
    If you still have a chunk of green, don't worry, nothing is being slowed down, if it's a sliver then start to worry and close down apps.
    The problem will be (and always is) SWAPPING. This is when thing need to be swapped from the RAM to the HD (or visa versa) because the RAM is full. This takes up a lot of CPU power due to all the adressing of memory etc.
    If there's a sliver of green stuff on the pie chart and the "Page ins/outs" numbers are going up like the clappers, its time to:
    i) buy more RAM
    ii) close down apps that are using lots of RAM (and then probably log out/in to gat a speed bump of sorts)

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