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ashleykaryl

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 22, 2011
473
212
UK
The computer has been running significantly better since I reduced motion and transparency in the display accessibility settings. After that the finder ram usage dropped quite a bit, though I noticed it would climb to 500mb if I opened a folder with a few thousand images on an external drive as the previews are offered up.

I just booted into safe mode and ran disk utility from there with no problems uncovered. The finder was only using 50mb of ram and it's the same now after restarting and working normally as I type this. To me it still looks like Safari is a bit of a ram hog on certain sites like Youtube, however it's no longer grinding everything to a halt like before if I simply opened a Jpg in Affinity Photo to make some modest adjustments.

I had run disk utility on every partition recently from recovery mode and the drives are all good. I can certainly try deleting the finder preferences as well, but the difference between now and two days ago is already like day and night.

Previously these performance hits have seemed to frequently coincide with heavy use of Safari, particularly with Youtube and also with a web design app I use that relied on webkit for the previews. I'll try pushing both now for a while and see how that works.

There was one bit of fun earlier today before booting into safe mode when I decided to try and open a big number of 16 bit tiffs in Pixelmator Pro. Eventually Pixelmator became unresponsive, but not before the swap ram hit nearly 40 gigs... I was actually reassured though that the rest of the computer didn't go into meltdown during that exercise, because it has regularly been unusable in recent months with even light working once the swap hit 10 gigs.
Screenshot 2024-04-20 at 19.07.17.png


Screenshot 2024-04-20 at 11.33.11.png
 

ashleykaryl

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 22, 2011
473
212
UK
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?

I did generally have Safari and Edge reopen automatically at restarts, but I can certainly try it without having them open. Actually restarts have been painfully slow in recent months.

Seeing the way swap can work these days is a bit of a revelation. For years I had the old Mac Pro with 32 gigs of ram and never saw swap being used, but I am guessing this is more about changes in the OS. Come to think of it I never saw much swap with the mini until a few months ago, even when pushed quite hard. Something has definitely been wrong.
 

bzgnyc2

macrumors regular
Dec 8, 2023
138
162
I did generally have Safari and Edge reopen automatically at restarts, but I can certainly try it without having them open. Actually restarts have been painfully slow in recent months.

Seeing the way swap can work these days is a bit of a revelation. For years I had the old Mac Pro with 32 gigs of ram and never saw swap being used, but I am guessing this is more about changes in the OS. Come to think of it I never saw much swap with the mini until a few months ago, even when pushed quite hard. Something has definitely been wrong.

I just mention because it appears these programs have accumulated some baggage that isn't being cleared out on reboot/relogin/etc so that everytime you restart you end up with the same overhead. Depending you might try keeping them turned on but first give yourself fresh sessions by turning those features off, relaunching/rebooting/etc, and turning back on.

It also sounds like (at least the current version of) Finder is not dealing well with folders with thousands of image files and you might have to split those folders if it doesn't destroy your filing system.

That all said it sounds like you got everything working and there's something to be said for not sinking any more time into tweaking the system to work faster and actually getting back to working. So says the person who may have just spent two weeks tweaking something to work faster rather than working on the actual work...

Anyway, all great news and thanks for sharing the conclusion. Hopefully all this a guide for others in the future.
 
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ashleykaryl

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 22, 2011
473
212
UK
It's me who needs to thank everybody here for all the insight and suggestions. The causes here may be multiple, but I suspect it mainly hinges around the intel mini struggling to manage a 4K display with scaling enabled in Sonoma, while also managing other tasks. As a test I may try re-enabling display motion and transparency to see if that kicks it off again.

I have also changed those energy settings as suggested. My one concern with that option is whether it would age the drives prematurely by always being on, rather than being allowed to sleep when not needed.

If I think about the jump in finder ram while viewing a folder with a few thousand images, including some heavy tiff files that also points to a possible lack of GPU guts. Incidentally, I tried FCP a while back and it was choking with the simplest of changes on 4K video from my iPhone.

A few days ago I had to throw up a relatively simple holding page with some text and images on a new domain to try and get it indexed. That is something that should normally have taken no more than an hour at most, but it took me the best part of six hours, due to all the slowdowns and general glitchy behaviour. I'm now wondering of these issues have also been making the software less stable, though I'll need more time to verify that.

I am still inclined to go for a silicon Mac in the near future, but now feel less pressured about it. My dilemma is that I planned to go for an M3 Mac Studio, but from what I'm hearing the M4 processors will be the ones primed for AI, so I may just grab a basic silicon mini and run it for a year, then jump on something M4. I am already using AI quite a lot and I only see that increasing.

I shall keep testing and report back anything significant.
 

TechnoMonk

macrumors 68020
Oct 15, 2022
2,014
2,874
The computer has been running significantly better since I reduced motion and transparency in the display accessibility settings. After that the finder ram usage dropped quite a bit, though I noticed it would climb to 500mb if I opened a folder with a few thousand images on an external drive as the previews are offered up.

I just booted into safe mode and ran disk utility from there with no problems uncovered. The finder was only using 50mb of ram and it's the same now after restarting and working normally as I type this. To me it still looks like Safari is a bit of a ram hog on certain sites like Youtube, however it's no longer grinding everything to a halt like before if I simply opened a Jpg in Affinity Photo to make some modest adjustments.

I had run disk utility on every partition recently from recovery mode and the drives are all good. I can certainly try deleting the finder preferences as well, but the difference between now and two days ago is already like day and night.

Previously these performance hits have seemed to frequently coincide with heavy use of Safari, particularly with Youtube and also with a web design app I use that relied on webkit for the previews. I'll try pushing both now for a while and see how that works.

There was one bit of fun earlier today before booting into safe mode when I decided to try and open a big number of 16 bit tiffs in Pixelmator Pro. Eventually Pixelmator became unresponsive, but not before the swap ram hit nearly 40 gigs... I was actually reassured though that the rest of the computer didn't go into meltdown during that exercise, because it has regularly been unusable in recent months with even light working once the swap hit 10 gigs.
View attachment 2370297

View attachment 2370303
If you are going to load more than available physical memory, it will swap heavily. Either open less files or upgrade RAM. The difference between active swap for lack of memory is going to put memory pressure in yellow or red. If the swap is just to offload unused memory pages, it should still be green. Focus more on active memory usage of Apps and memory pressure.
 

weaztek

macrumors 6502
Aug 28, 2009
416
225
Madison
The causes here may be multiple, but I suspect it mainly hinges around the intel mini struggling to manage a 4K display with scaling enabled in Sonoma, while also managing other tasks. As a test I may try re-enabling display motion and transparency to see if that kicks it off again.
I run a 2018 Mini and I run Geekbench on it (and keep a record of the benchmarks) every few months. That way I know how the performance of my machine has changed over time and can compare it with the average numbers of other similar machines.

What I learned going down that rabbithole was that my Metal and OpenCL [graphics] benchmarks were getting absolutely crushed by some similar Minis. Upon further inspection, they were all running external graphics cards (eGPUs). So I dug through craigslist and FB marketplace until I found a cheap, working eGPU that was compatible with my i5. It made an immediate, massive improvement to my performance and I can't recommend this enough. You have plenty of RAM.
 

ashleykaryl

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 22, 2011
473
212
UK
If you are going to load more than available physical memory, it will swap heavily. Either open less files or upgrade RAM. The difference between active swap for lack of memory is going to put memory pressure in yellow or red. If the swap is just to offload unused memory pages, it should still be green. Focus more on active memory usage of Apps and memory pressure.
That was really just a test when I opened that big number of tiff files to see how the computer would manage it.
 

ashleykaryl

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 22, 2011
473
212
UK
Something I learned way back when I was struggling to retouch images with my first G3 iMac was that a computer is only as good as the weakest link. I am pretty sure I have enough ram in this one for what I generally do. The problem seems to be that many tasks nowadays are more dependent on the GPU.

I sort of knew going in with this machine that the GPU was the weak spot, but it wasn't a huge drag on productivity while I was using a 2K display. I also remember considering an eGPU a few years ago, but the cost was high when I looked on eBay or Amazon and it seemed better putting the money towards a silicon machine.

Definitely curtailing the graphic demand by reducing motion and transparency is helping I terms of usability and I guess the OS is not focussed on these machines now, even if his model was still on sale until very recently.

Another point I can see is that this machine is clearly using more swap than it used to when it was newer. A couple years ago it never seemed to touch the swap, much like on my old Mac Pro that also had 32 gigs of ram. I don't know if this is down to Sonoma, using a 4K display or a combination of both.
 

canadianreader

macrumors 65816
Sep 24, 2014
1,150
3,184
You could try this app it's been around for years and very effective at lowering the temperature https://crystalidea.com/macs-fan-control

For the disk you could invest in an external thunderbolt NVME to boot from and for graphics there isn't much you can do unless you add an AMD eGPU. At this point it's maybe better to buy an M1 or an M2.
 
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0339327

Cancelled
Jun 14, 2007
634
1,931
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.
Try this

 

FreakinEurekan

macrumors 603
Sep 8, 2011
5,857
2,852
There’s certainly a software cause… dust, etc won’t cause Finder to use 14GB 🙄

Post Activity Monitor screenshots from when it’s at its worst. The shots you posted show high browser & finder memory loads, but memory pressure is still Green. Also post CPU screens.

If you create a new user & duplicate your behavior there, any different?
 

weaztek

macrumors 6502
Aug 28, 2009
416
225
Madison
Something I learned way back when I was struggling to retouch images with my first G3 iMac was that a computer is only as good as the weakest link. I am pretty sure I have enough ram in this one for what I generally do. The problem seems to be that many tasks nowadays are more dependent on the GPU.

I sort of knew going in with this machine that the GPU was the weak spot, but it wasn't a huge drag on productivity while I was using a 2K display. I also remember considering an eGPU a few years ago, but the cost was high when I looked on eBay or Amazon and it seemed better putting the money towards a silicon machine.
I tried to make two points in my previous post. Ever since a hard drive swap (disaster) which throttled my Mac, I've liked to know exactly how fast my Mac is running: compared to itself historically and compared to other average Macs with the same specs. So I've used GeekBench to scientifically keep track of that.

I'm seeing Sonnet eGPU Breakaway Pucks on eBay starting at $220. If the bottleneck in your system truly is the graphics specs, this would make a massive difference. And when you replace the Mac, you'd just sell the eGpu for a similar price you paid for it.
 
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Fishrrman

macrumors Penryn
Feb 20, 2009
28,583
12,692
What follows is my opinion only, based upon decades of Mac usage, and others will disagree.

- Have enough installed RAM
- TURN OFF virtual memory disk swapping... COMPLETELY
- LIMIT the number of open applications.
- Shut down nightly and reboot in the morning (for a true "fresh start").

As I said, my opinion only.
YMMV...
 
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weaztek

macrumors 6502
Aug 28, 2009
416
225
Madison
He has 32 GB which should definitely be enough for watching YouTube vids without issues. Even with 30 apps open.
 

djc6

macrumors 6502a
Aug 11, 2007
874
464
Cleveland, OH
I am still inclined to go for a silicon Mac in the near future, but now feel less pressured about it. My dilemma is that I planned to go for an M3 Mac Studio, but from what I'm hearing the M4 processors will be the ones primed for AI, so I may just grab a basic silicon mini and run it for a year, then jump on something M4. I am already using AI quite a lot and I only see that increasing.

Consider a refurbished mac studio, I've bought several refurbished apple products over the years and they are indistinguishable from new. The refurb M2 studios pop in/out of inventory so sometimes when I want a refurb mac product I make it my home page so I'm checking often:

 

ashleykaryl

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 22, 2011
473
212
UK
I have considered refurbished, and I hear this suggested frequently. In theory it sounds great and I know many are happy, but I'm a little hesitant because I bought one years ago that never seemed right and died completely after about three years.

Right now I think I'd like to wait and see what is announced at WWDC, which is not that far away.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Penryn
Feb 20, 2009
28,583
12,692
I doubt there will be any "announcements" regarding the Mini product line at WWDC...
 

ashleykaryl

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 22, 2011
473
212
UK
I am not expecting any new mini announcement at WWDC, but hoping for some insight into changes with AI and maybe something about M4 processors. As you probably read, Apple may well skip M3 for minis. https://www.macrumors.com/2024/04/21/apple-likely-planning-to-skip-m3-mac-mini/

Last time around I was encouraged to buy this mini, rather than wait for silicon. I ended up paying a lot more money for a lot less performance, so this time I'll wait to see what is coming.
 

The_Interloper

macrumors 6502a
Oct 28, 2016
686
1,412
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 also had a 2018 mini and found the integrated graphics to be utterly anemic. I have an LG 32" 4K monitor and even OS animations would stutter and lag all over the place. It's definitely a weak point, good for Quicksync but not much else.

Even my old 2013 trashcan Mac Pro was buttery smooth in the OS on the same monitor due to the discrete graphics. On paper the mini should thrash it, but that wasn't the case in day-to-day use at all.
 
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ashleykaryl

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 22, 2011
473
212
UK
Same story here with a 32" 4K LG display. I was aware going in that the graphics was the weak link on this mini when moving from old Mac Pro 2010 with a dedicated 4 gig graphics card. Generally speaking the mini was twice as fast as the Mac Pro, but adding a 4K display pretty much crippled it.

Thankfully these tweaks in the accessibility settings have helped in the short term, but it looks increasingly like I'll have to make the move to silicon in the near future.
 

bzgnyc2

macrumors regular
Dec 8, 2023
138
162
Same story here with a 32" 4K LG display. I was aware going in that the graphics was the weak link on this mini when moving from old Mac Pro 2010 with a dedicated 4 gig graphics card. Generally speaking the mini was twice as fast as the Mac Pro, but adding a 4K display pretty much crippled it.

Thankfully these tweaks in the accessibility settings have helped in the short term, but it looks increasingly like I'll have to make the move to silicon in the near future.

Are you sure its the 4K? Have you tested back and forth at the same time this OS/etc configuration with a 2K/1080p monitor?

General reports have been that a Mac Mini 2018 can drive two 4K monitors well as long as non-scaled resolutions are used (Looks Like 1080p is also supposed to work) and the system has at least 16GB of RAM.

I can't give you a direct reference point since mine is connected to a 1080p plasma (which I like very much but plasmas never made it to 4K so I live in a 1080p world on that system). It is very smooth and would just be surprised the dropoff is so much for non-rendering/modeling type work.

Then my MacBook Air with Iris Plus graphics (which I believe is ~ the same as the UHD 630 in the Mac Mini 2018) has little trouble at the laptop's ~ 75% of 4K resolution and I don't remember any issues when I've connected it to a 4K monitor while traveling.

I was going to mention that a family member has an old MacBook Pro 2016 driving 2x4K monitors and it runs great despite a much older CPU/etc but I see now that its Radeon graphics is actually 3x faster than my Mac Mini so not a great comparison...
 

ashleykaryl

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 22, 2011
473
212
UK
I still have the previous 2K monitor, so I could give that a go. It wasn't a problem with that display, but the key point you raised was scaling and without it the interface on this 4K display is tiny. Scaling didn't even appear as an option on the previous display from what I recall.

A 17 year old with perfect vision might not stress too much without scaling enabled, but for anybody middle aged I suspect it would be mission impossible.

I'm surprised Apple don't have this working in a more convenient way, after all many of us have a 4K TV and nobody advises against buying one because everything would be too small, unless they enable scaling. Is it also like this on a modern iMac? I would be surprised if it was.
 

ignatius345

macrumors 604
Aug 20, 2015
7,078
11,655
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.
Try creating a brand new user account, rebooting and logging into only that account. If you see the same problems, it's something system-wide or hardware. If you don't, it's something in your own user account.
 
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bzgnyc2

macrumors regular
Dec 8, 2023
138
162
I still have the previous 2K monitor, so I could give that a go. It wasn't a problem with that display, but the key point you raised was scaling and without it the interface on this 4K display is tiny. Scaling didn't even appear as an option on the previous display from what I recall.

A 17 year old with perfect vision might not stress too much without scaling enabled, but for anybody middle aged I suspect it would be mission impossible.

I'm surprised Apple don't have this working in a more convenient way, after all many of us have a 4K TV and nobody advises against buying one because everything would be too small, unless they enable scaling. Is it also like this on a modern iMac? I would be surprised if it was.

Apple's support for any resolution/DPI appears more limited than one would expect given OS design and primary markets. From what I've gathered if your hardware is similar to an Apple configuration you should be good but outside of that it varies. I've heard a lot of people want 5K monitors because larger monitors at 4K lose retina rendering. That is 4K at 24" is sharp and 5K at 27" is sharp but 4K at 27" is blurrier in a non-linear way. I haven't dealt with this directly so others in the forums can explain this better.

Which is a long way of saying I understand why you might need scaling in your configuration. Unfortunately it may be killing performance using that hardware.

This would be somewhat of an academic exercise (emphasis on exercise), but you could try testing these configurations back-to-back to isolate:
-2K, no scaling
-4K, no scaling
-4K, scaling

If performance is good in all but the last configuration, it's the Intel 630 graphics / scaling combination that's killing you. The best solution is then an eGPU or going to Apple Silicon.

I am occassionally tempted by moving to Apple Silicon when I am waiting for something on which I know a Mac Mini M2 Pro would be 5x faster (or 10x with the Studio Ultra...). Most of the time I am the bottleneck though and I don't like that memory isn't expandable on Apple Silicon systems.

More generally I think you've got 4 seperate issues that are all conspiring against you:
-Finder excessive memory use
-Browser excessive memory use
-Affinity Photo potentially excessive memory use
-4K scaling with Intel 630 graphics

Apple Silicon will address the last one but unlikely the first 3 and may actually make them worse. While its true that MacOS manages memory well, active swapping is always slower than not and a faster CPU or GPU won't help. And whatever is chewing up your memory may just do it that much faster.

Similar with more RAM holding all else being equal. If your 32GB system is actively swapping 8GB in and out while my 8GB system is only actively swapping 2GB, mine might actually feel better because the system drive (where the OS normally swaps) has fairly fixed performance. So mine might swap 2GB in 1/2 second while yours is swapping 8GB in 2 seconds.

I am not saying more memory is bad -- it's better like a faster car is better. Except faster cars aren't better when you hit a wall. In the context of a memory leak, more memory actually makes things messier and at best a faster processor (e.g. Apple Silicon) will just help you hit that wall faster.

That Finder memory usage was very odd. I do however see similar Finder memory use patterns at a smaller scale going back to Mojave and Catalina systems (and I bet earlier MacOS as well). Even on those systems when I open a folder with lots of files, it's memory use jumps and only drops somewhat when I close the window. Never back the original. And when I open more Finder windows of large folders, it continues to rachet up the memory use. I don't normally suffer from this because I don't have any personal folders with thousands of files in them and my files aren't full resolution TIFF either. For now I'd Relaunch Finder (or log out/in/etc) everytime it's memory use gets excessive (beyond 200MB seems unnecessary) and look at reorganizing those giant folders into smaller subfolders. The MacOS kernel and filesystems deal well with larger folders but I guess Finder does not and it seems like it hasn't for a while...

Similarly anytime the sum total of browser windows goes beyond 5-6GB, restart the browser. If they are still consuming that kind of memory after a fresh start, I'd look at resetting them. Even today's bloated OS and browser run well within 16GB of RAM. Meaning you should always have 16GB RAM free (not counting cache) just running MacOS X + Finder + browsers.

I can't speak to Affinity Photo but I don't see why it would use 6GB of memory before opening one picture as you noted. After addressing the above, I'd check with other users of that program on what might be wrong.

At that point just leaves the 4K/scaling issue. I would isolate first with the testing as above and then proceed accordingly. It may come down to a migration to M2 Pro/Max/Ultra now versus getting an eGPU for now + M4 Pro/Max/Ultra later. For CPU bound work, an M2 Pro+ will be quite a jump but I wouldn't want to bring the memory issues with me to a new platform.
 
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