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ashleykaryl

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 22, 2011
473
212
UK
I have a 2018 intel i7 mini running Sonoma 14.4.1 with 32 gigs of ram that I purchased 4 years ago when they had the 2020 refresh. It always ran smoothly enough until a few months ago when it started to struggle with seemingly simple workloads. This has slowed down my productivity significantly, so I plan on buying a silicon Mac before long, however I would like to understand what is going on here; not least to ensure it doesn't happen again.

In a nutshell, if I do something like playing a Youtube video it isn't long before the fans pick up and the temperatures rise. If I then try to do something at the same time, like editing a Jpeg in Affinity Photo with a healing brush, it will all but drag to a crawl with lots of spinning ball.

After a couple of hours like this I can see 10 gigs of swap ram in the activity monitor. Restarting the computer fixes things temporarily and removes the swap ram, but then it kicks in again whenever I try to work normally.

This is all using Sonoma and it ran fine with Ventura. I did move from a 2K to a 4K display just before Christmas and that might be adding some graphic strain, but it really shouldn't. I've done all the normal stuff like resetting the NVRAM and SMC multiple times, reinstalled the OS, but all to no avail. The ram is Apple fitted and 32 gigs should be more than enough to handle two or three basic tasks at the same time.

When I look at the CPU there is never anything unusual going on but the ram usage seems to climb very quickly these days and the performance is just not there. Before long I get a lot of spinning ball and fans running hard. I did read a while back about a memory leak in Safari that was also affecting silicon users, so I'm hoping somebody has an idea of what is happening a potential fix.
 

djc6

macrumors 6502a
Aug 11, 2007
874
464
Cleveland, OH
When is the last time you took it apart to remove dust? Is it just being thermally throttled because of poor ventilation?

I have a google calendar recurring reminder every 6 months to slide the logic board out and give it a good dusting. Surprising how much dust gets sucked in. I take apart and dust my OWC ThunderBay 4 external HDD enclosure at the same time.

If you don't want to take the board out, at least take off the bottom cover and blow out as much dust as you can. And blow out the dust in the fan assembly. The mac mini sucks in air through the bottom of the machine and out the back.

I use an XPOWER "A-2" Airrow Pro electric duster:


Teardown instructions:


I don't know where all the dust comes from - I have a giant 31x28x4 MERV 13 media filter in my HVAC system. I change that at half the interval recommended by manufacturer (Aprilaire). I blame the switch to work from home :)
 
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ashleykaryl

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 22, 2011
473
212
UK
I've tried that a couple times since this started and most recently about a month ago. It's a good thought but it made no difference in my case. Actually it was pretty clean.
 

leifp

macrumors 6502
Feb 8, 2008
371
359
Canada
You may actually have failing hardware. Probably RAM or the SSD. On the plus side (ok, all failure sucks) the RAM is user replaceable. It’s been many a blue moon since I last did anything of the kind but software exists that can give you a heads up on the state of RAM and SSD to see if they are indeed wearing out… if it’s the SSD, well… looks like that’s the generation Apple decided to be a bit dickish and make it non-user replaceable…

Feel free to reinstall your entire setup (format, reinstall macOS, rebuild from backup). It’s odd how that can work. Even nowadays, although it’s exceedingly rare anymore.

My in-laws had their iMac SSD fail. Happily that occurred when I formatted it to sell… but it started behaving very slowly on the way out beforehand. Symptoms similar to your own. Fingers crossed it’s not SSD.
 
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djc6

macrumors 6502a
Aug 11, 2007
874
464
Cleveland, OH
What about your YouTube test while booted in Safe Mode? Might help figure out if its software or hardware.


When I got a 4K display I noticed the integrated GPU was really struggling - especially if you do any scaling in the display settings to increase text size. If you go System Preferences -> Accessibility -> Display you can "Reduce Motion" to help with this. And "Reduce Transparency" also helps performance - I noticed the UI was much more fluid after that.

I wouldn't be too concerned about swap - modern memory management tries to cache everything in RAM so your RAM should often we full.

Scaling (if you are doing it) even says it will affect performance:

1713531572217.png
 
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ashleykaryl

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 22, 2011
473
212
UK
I actually tried a demo of DriveDX a couple weeks ago that did discover one of the external SSD drives was close to failure, so that was replaced, but the main drive and the others were OK. It may be failing hardware, but if that was the case I would imagine the warning would be fairly short lived and this has gone on for months.

Some time ago I seem to recall trying a hardware diagnostic have trouble to get it working but I'll have another go later.

I am using scaling, because frankly I wouldn't be able to see much otherwise on a 4K display with the way everything becomes tiny. If this mini is really that gutless on the graphic side it's a bit of a lost cause. I've just enabled those two suggested options in accessibility and I'll see if that helps at all.

I shall keep playing with this to see if anything else happens, but I presume there are not large numbers with these problems or it would be all over the various forums. Either that or I am the last one stuck on intel. I did just wonder if Apple is simply not bothering about intel machines now with the updates.

It also has a problem now with 5GHz wifi running at a crawl since installing Sonoma, which forced me to use power lines instead.
 

djc6

macrumors 6502a
Aug 11, 2007
874
464
Cleveland, OH
I shall keep playing with this to see if anything else happens, but I presume there are not large numbers with these problems or it would be all over the various forums. Either that or I am the last one stuck on intel. I did just wonder if Apple is simply not bothering about intel machines now with the updates.

It was all over the forum - years ago :) I learned about those accessibility settings back then trying to speed up my mac mini once I got 4K display. Lots of people went external GPU route. I remember this thread in particular:


There is a comment that using 2x scaling is less taxing on the GPU. But then you have 1080p real estate. Maybe a good troubleshooting step. This is the "larger text" option - the biggest text. You'll see the performance warning message also disappears.

Beware if you go to m2 mac mini, there are plenty of threads about 5Ghz not working on some routers (since you mentioned 5Ghz issues on your intel mac mini)
 
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Ben J.

macrumors 6502a
Aug 29, 2019
694
373
Oslo
One simple thing to try: a different browser.

I've seen browsers (actually specific web sites) filling up ram into the red, swapping and slowing down.

Have Activity Monitor showing the Memory page. If it's one specific tab/window w/streaming causing it, you can easily quit the process for that tab only.
 

ashleykaryl

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 22, 2011
473
212
UK
Yes I've tried that. Indeed I usually have Edge open as well. Just looking at the activity monitor now and I have single pages in Youtube eating up 630mb of ram without even playing a video. The Amazon home page is consuming 1.3 gigs.

The ram consumption in Edge does tend to be lower, but not massively so. I wonder how much ram is being consumed just battling all the trackers on these websites, but if that was the problem everybody would be in trouble.

Right now I have nearly 5 gigs of swap with just a couple browsers open and Mail. These days I find myself running around closing apps far more frequently than I used to and have to restart every few hours. All of this is with 32 gigs of ram, yet I see some apparently happy running silicon minis on 8 gigs of ram with a dozen apps open.
 

AlmightyKang

macrumors 6502
Nov 20, 2023
483
1,477
I had one of those back in the day. But i3 and 32Gb of RAM. On a 4K display. Seemed ok. I have a similar workload now on an 8Gb M2 and Studio Display and it's absolutely fine with anything I throw at it. I can't seem to break it.

If it's the original install I'd just trash the whole machine and reinstall it from scratch (only restore data from backups) and see if that fixes it. I get about 18-24 months out of macOS before something conks out. This is better than Windows which was about 6 months.

The 5GHz router issue reported might be down to the band being shared with radar / ATC. WiFi is only secondary user status and radar is primary user status so if it detects interference it has to drop into listen mode and check for other signals which will cause it to crap out periodically or do weird things. Absolutely no one seems to know this. I run cabled ethernet to mine as it's 2m from the router and I'm under Heathrow airport approach window.
 

TechnoMonk

macrumors 68000
Oct 15, 2022
1,890
2,700
Yes I've tried that. Indeed I usually have Edge open as well. Just looking at the activity monitor now and I have single pages in Youtube eating up 630mb of ram without even playing a video. The Amazon home page is consuming 1.3 gigs.

The ram consumption in Edge does tend to be lower, but not massively so. I wonder how much ram is being consumed just battling all the trackers on these websites, but if that was the problem everybody would be in trouble.

Right now I have nearly 5 gigs of swap with just a couple browsers open and Mail. These days I find myself running around closing apps far more frequently than I used to and have to restart every few hours. All of this is with 32 gigs of ram, yet I see some apparently happy running silicon minis on 8 gigs of ram with a dozen apps open.
Swap is cleared after reboot. Swap of 5 gigs doesn’t necessarily mean active swap. Worry about it if you see red memory pressure. I have 64 GB RAM on my M1 Max, it uses swap to offload unused or not so frequently used open tabs/apps etc.
 
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bzgnyc2

macrumors regular
Dec 8, 2023
120
146
I have a 2018 intel i7 mini running Sonoma 14.4.1 with 32 gigs of ram that I purchased 4 years ago when they had the 2020 refresh. It always ran smoothly enough until a few months ago when it started to struggle with seemingly simple workloads. This has slowed down my productivity significantly, so I plan on buying a silicon Mac before long, however I would like to understand what is going on here; not least to ensure it doesn't happen again.

In a nutshell, if I do something like playing a Youtube video it isn't long before the fans pick up and the temperatures rise. If I then try to do something at the same time, like editing a Jpeg in Affinity Photo with a healing brush, it will all but drag to a crawl with lots of spinning ball.

After a couple of hours like this I can see 10 gigs of swap ram in the activity monitor. Restarting the computer fixes things temporarily and removes the swap ram, but then it kicks in again whenever I try to work normally.

This is all using Sonoma and it ran fine with Ventura. I did move from a 2K to a 4K display just before Christmas and that might be adding some graphic strain, but it really shouldn't. I've done all the normal stuff like resetting the NVRAM and SMC multiple times, reinstalled the OS, but all to no avail. The ram is Apple fitted and 32 gigs should be more than enough to handle two or three basic tasks at the same time.

When I look at the CPU there is never anything unusual going on but the ram usage seems to climb very quickly these days and the performance is just not there. Before long I get a lot of spinning ball and fans running hard. I did read a while back about a memory leak in Safari that was also affecting silicon users, so I'm hoping somebody has an idea of what is happening a potential fix.

Two things:
1. Can you still test run the system under Ventura or earlier?
2. Can you share screenshots of Activity Monitor after a fresh boot with everything running nicely and while it's slogging?

I have a 2018 i3 Mac Mini with 8GB of RAM that remains buttery smooth under Mojave. It's builtin Safari is mostly useless now but I routinely run iTunes, Mail, Calendar, Notes, Safari/Netflix, MS Office, Tableau Public, and command-ilne Xcode while experimenting with SQL Server 2022 running under Docker. I run most of those simltaneously though the last version of Docker for Mojave with SQL Server 2022 demands more RAM than my 2020 configuration with SQL Server 2019 so I tend to run only run a few of those applications while I have Docker/SQL running. Music playback in iTunes never skips beat while all that is going on. In any case, I typically drive the system like that going 1+ months between reboots. Usually after I install XProtect, etc updates.

I am not suggesting you go back to Mojave but rather highlighting that your hardware should be more than capable. If there's not a hardware fault, we should be able to narrow down a software issue.

Speaking of, the one thing that seems to consume RAM more than anything on all my systems are the web browsers. I've come to routinely close and restart my browser restoring all previous windows. I've found Orion better than Safari for this (and it let's older OS reasonably browse the web) but modern websites seem to be conspiring to drive all systems into the ground for no good reason.
 
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Boyd01

Moderator
Staff member
Feb 21, 2012
7,721
4,604
New Jersey Pine Barrens
After reading those old threads, I got a 32" QHD screen for my 2018 Mini just so it could run at native resolution without scaling. This has worked out very well for me for 4 years now.

But as far as performance, mine has been very consistent and surprisingly robust. I have 64gb (original Apple RAM) and do very heavy processing of geodata (making maps) in a Windows 10 VM with Parallels. I am working with files as large as 300gb in Windows while simultaneously doing lots of processing in MacOS. Not unusual to only have 5 or 6gb of free RAM in MacOS (according the the Parallels memory monitor). I run like this 24/7 for weeks sometimes, processing terabytes of data. Surprised how well it's held up with this kind of load, still running Monterey however.

Have seen another thread or two where it appeared third party RAM became a problem over time. No idea how common or rare that might be. Will say that mine runs quite hot though. No doubt it's full of hair. 🤣

computer_kitties.jpg
 

ashleykaryl

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 22, 2011
473
212
UK
It's kind of late here and well passed midnight, so I'll test this more tomorrow, but so far it seems that reducing motion and transparency inside the display accessibility settings has helped significantly. Yes I'm still seeing a lot of swap and a little spinning ball, but so far the computer is running without immediately crawling to a halt just because I am running two basic tasks at the same time.

Most of the swap here appeared suddenly after opening a dozen files in Affinity Photo, however it's not hammering the performance like before. I'll test some more in the morning though.
Screenshot 2024-04-19 at 23.38.16.png
 

Teletypewriter

macrumors member
Apr 30, 2021
30
19
Make sure all your apps are updated. I had this same problem two years ago, and solved it by turning off all “Energy Saver” settings.
Prevent automatic sleeping when the display is off = Enabled
Enable Power Nap = Disabled
Put hard disks to sleep when possible = Disabled

I also found turning the Mac Mini on its side helped with cooling, for some strange reason.
 

ashleykaryl

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 22, 2011
473
212
UK
Any idea why Finder is using 11.5GB?
Over here, it's like 3-400MB.
Absolutely none at all. It's still using the same amount even after putting the computer to sleep for 7 hours. Affinity Photo is using almost 6 gigs of ram without having a single image open.
 
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ashleykaryl

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 22, 2011
473
212
UK
Make sure all your apps are updated. I had this same problem two years ago, and solved it by turning off all “Energy Saver” settings.
Prevent automatic sleeping when the display is off = Enabled
Enable Power Nap = Disabled
Put hard disks to sleep when possible = Disabled

I also found turning the Mac Mini on its side helped with cooling, for some strange reason.
I previously had it set like the screenshot below. I've now followed your suggestions, however wake for network access is still enabled, since you didn't mention that.

Screenshot 2024-04-20 at 08.21.47.png
 

ashleykaryl

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 22, 2011
473
212
UK
I've just restarted the computer and the finder is now using just 200mb of ram. I'll be curious to see what happens there and whether I can pinpoint a cause if it rises significantly.

Screenshot 2024-04-20 at 08.41.23.png
 

ashleykaryl

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 22, 2011
473
212
UK
I have it turned off as well now. That was the previous setting, which I figured was only enabled as an option to collect mail etc when the computer was asleep.
 

bzgnyc2

macrumors regular
Dec 8, 2023
120
146
Absolutely none at all. It's still using the same amount even after putting the computer to sleep for 7 hours. Affinity Photo is using almost 6 gigs of ram without having a single image open.

Well, there's your problem. While modern Macs with SSD are so fast that swapping isn't the killer it used to be, active swapping still typically reduces a system to a fraction of its best self. So if Finder+1 application are grabbing all your memory, the system is going to feel slow (regardless of the CPU, GPU, etc).

If your normal workflow with Affinity Photos needs 25+ GB of RAM, I'd say time to upgrade to 64GB (I'd estimate <$300 if you pay someone else to do it). However, given that it doesn't seem to be driven by actual need, I'd say you're better off addressing the software/etc issues. In my experience, runaway processes/applications just grab more hardware if you give them more hardware (and just put that much more pressure on the rest of the system -- use more disk space, etc).

For now the next time the system gets slow, check Activity Monitor and if you see Finder using more than 300 MB of RAM, you can Force Quit/Relaunch it. That should at least get you back to 200MB (which still seems bloated to me but...progress...)


However, that's very bandaid and depending on the root cause this problem could even follow you to your next Mac if you copy/migrate over your home folder. For this situation I'd focus on the Finder issue first as it is the more obviously broken of the two.

The next two things I would try:
1) The filesystem/disk holding your home/data folders may have become corrupted (you mentioned you had a failng disk previously). Did you run a Disk Utility/Repair on each disk/partition after that was addressed?
2) Deleting your Finder preferences and rebooting (or at least relaunching or logging in/out):
~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.finder.plist​

If the problem still comes back after that, how hard would it be for you to work under another user account for a while? That is create a new (separate/clean) user account while leaving all your files where they are. Then see if the problem returns after working in that account. If the problem doesn't come back under a new/clean account/profile, we can isolate the issue to something in your Preferences/etc.
 

bzgnyc2

macrumors regular
Dec 8, 2023
120
146
I've just restarted the computer and the finder is now using just 200mb of ram. I'll be curious to see what happens there and whether I can pinpoint a cause if it rises significantly.

View attachment 2370132

I'd also be curious what you're Memory Used/App Memory looks like right after you login before you start Edge and Safari or any other application. It should be close to 1-2 GB (Mojave was like 1GB while more recent OS are getting closer to 2...) which with the above implies that your Edge + Safari are grabbing 14GB of RAM. Which seems high given that I currently have Orion open with 19 windows and 53 tabs and it's using about 5-6GB of RAM.


Or do you have 'Reopen windows when logging back in' checked and/or have 'Ask to keep changes when closing documents' and/or 'Close windows when quiting an app' (System Preferences/Settings) unchecked?
 
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