How to Free up Memory (RAM) on Mac

free up memory mac

In case your Mac’s performance is reduced by some noticeable extent, the chances are that its RAM is overloaded. Most Mac users face this problem as they cannot download or save new content on their Mac. In such situations, it is important to find out some trusted methods to reduce memory usage to improve Mac performance.

If your Mac is running extremely slowly or the applications are hanging, again and again, a warning message saying “Your system has run out of application memory” appears time and again on the screen. These are the common signs that you have utilized maximum RAM usage on your Mac. This article can help you learn useful tips to check and optimize your Mac memory.

What is RAM?

RAM is an abbreviation for Random Access Memory. It is responsible for providing storage space for all ongoing processes and tasks. One of the prime differences between RAM and the remaining storage space on macOS is that the former one is faster. Hence, when macOS needs something to speed up itself, it gets help from RAM.

In general, most Mac systems come with 8GB RAM these days. Only a few models, like MacBook Air, Mac mini, etc., are designed with 4GB capacity. Some users find it enough, especially when they are not using any gaming application or memory-consuming software. However, the chances are that users may suffer some trouble while opening badly designed apps and web pages. When your RAM is overloaded, it may show these signs:

  • Crashing applications.
  • Taking more time to load.
  • A message saying, “Your system has run out of application memory”.
  • Spinning beach ball.

You might be aware of the fact that it is difficult to upgrade RAM in Mac systems. One of the best solutions to deal with memory overloading is to free up memory usage on Mac.

How to Check Memory on Mac using Activity Monitor?

Before we start discussing the steps to free up some memory space on Mac, it is important to monitor memory consumption. It can be done with the help of an Activity Monitor. This app comes pre-installed with Mac systems. Users can search this app in utilities or simply start typing Activity Monitor into the Spotlight, using “command + Space” to reach the Spotlight Search window.

The Activity Monitor can help you determine how much RAM is being used. At the same time, it will also indicate how much memory usage is being consumed by which app. After this analysis, users will find it easier to free up memory by just removing the unnecessary parts. There are so many columns on the Activity Monitor window, and each one of them displays important info. The list includes Cached Files, Memory Used, Physical Memory, Memory Pressure, Swap Used, Wired Memory, App Memory, and Compressed as well.

Here are a few simple steps to check memory usage with the help of Activity Monitor:

Step 1: First of all, open the Activity Monitor.

Step 2: Now click on the memory tab.

Step 3: It is time to go to the memory column and sort processes by memory usage. It will help you in the easy identification of apps and processes that are overloading RAM.

Step 4: Once you have identified such apps, select them and check the information through the menu. You will find details about what is actually happening on the back end and how much memory is being utilized.

Step 5: If you find some unnecessary apps, select them and click X to force stop.

How to Check CPU Usage?

When we talk about suspect apps on Mac, it is not always necessary that memory hogging is happening due to their operation only. In a few cases, the app might be making use of huge processing power, and it can further slow down things on your Mac.

Here are a few steps to check CPU usage on Mac:

Step 1: Go to the Activity Monitor and open the CPU tab.

Step 2: Sort the processes by %CPU; it can be done by simply clicking on the column header.

Step 3: Identify the abnormal changes; observe the apps that are using a higher percentage of CPU power.

Step 4: In order to quit that particular processor app; simply hit X on the menu.

Ways to Free up Memory on Mac

In case you are in trouble due to a RAM overloading issue, it is important to find some trusted methods to reduce RAM usage on your Mac. Below we have highlighted useful tips to free up memory on Mac.

Tidy up Your Desktop

If the Desktop of a Mac is overly cluttered with screenshots, images, and documents, it is better to clean it. You can also try dragging these things into a stuffed folder to ease the organization. It is important to note that for Mac, every icon on the desktop works like an individual active window. Hence, more icons on the screen will naturally consume more space, even when you are not using them actively. The easiest way to fix the RAM overloading issue on Mac is to keep your desktop clean and well organized.

Remove Login Items to Lower Mac Memory Usage

Login items, preference panes, and browser extensions keep on consuming huge memory in macOS. Most people keep on installing multiple of these even when they are not in use more frequently. It ultimately reduces the overall performance of the system. To solve this problem, go to System Preferences and then:

  • Choose the Users & Groups section and move to the Login Items Tab.
  • Delete things that are consuming more space on your system.

Note that, you may find that some login items cannot be removed in this method. In general, those login items are required by the apps installed on the system, and they can be removed only after uninstalling that particular app on the Mac.

Disable Dashboard Widgets

People love to use desktop widgets as they provide easy shortcuts to essential apps. But it is high time to understand that they consume lots of space in your RAM and can slow down the overall performance of Mac instantly. In order to close them permanently, go to mission control and then switch off the dashboard.

Reduce Memory Usage in Finder

Another common culprit for decaying Mac system performance is Finder. This file manager software may take up hundreds of MBs of RAM on Mac, and the consumption can be easily checked on Activity Monitor. The easiest solution to treat this trouble is to change the default display to the new Finder window; simply set it to “All My Files.” All that you need to do is:

  1. Go to the Finder icon available on the Dock and then open the Finder menu.
  2. Select Preferences and then go to General.
  3. Choose “New Finder Window Show”; move to the dropdown menu and then select any of the available options except All My Files.
  4. It is time to move to the Preferences, hit the Alt-Control button, and then go to the Finder icon available in the Dock.
  5. Hit the Relaunch option, and now Finder will open only those options that you have selected in Step 3.

Shut Web Browser Tabs

Very few of you might be aware of the fact that the number of tabs opened in the browser also impacts the performance of the Mac. Actually, a large number of apps consume more RAM on your Mac and hence cause an additional burden on the performance. In order to solve it, it is better to open limited tabs on Safari, Chrome, and Firefox browsers while surfing the internet.

Close or Merge Finder Windows

Here is another solution for Finder-related troubles that can help in reducing RAM on Mac. Users are advised to close all the Finder windows that are not in use, or one can simply merge them together to reduce the burden on RAM. It can be done by simply going to the Window and then choosing the option “Merge All Windows.” It will instantly free up a considerable amount of memory space in your macOS.

Remove Browser Extensions

Browsers that you use frequently keep on generating so many pop-ups and extensions during active usage. They consume lots of space in the RAM. They are of no use to the Mac and in order to delete them, you can either follow the manual process or use a Mac utility tool such as Mac Cleaner.

In case you are using a Chrome browser for surfing the Internet, it demands a few additional steps to delete extensions from Chrome on Mac. When you locate extensions that are consuming too much RAM space on your Mac, simply launch Chrome and then click on the Window menu. Further, go to Extensions and then scan the entire list. Select the unwanted extensions and move them to the trash folder.

Delete Cache Files

It is also possible to free up some memory space by deleting the unwanted cache files on Mac. But this method is not suitable for beginners as they often make a mistake in the selection of unwanted files and end up harming performance by removing desired ones. In order to delete cache files on Mac, Mac users can use these simple steps:

  1. Go to the Finder and then choose Go.
  2. Now select Go to Folder option.
  3. It is time to Type ~/Library/Caches/ into the available space.
  4. Soon you will be able to find all those files that can be deleted. But make sure you do not end up removing things that your system is going to need in the future.

Restart Your Mac

If none of the above methods are able to serve your needs and the memory overloading problem continues, you can try restarting your Mac. This simple method can help you regain system performance in very little time. Soon you will be able to use CPU power and RAM to the maximum limits.


Most people are in trouble due to the slow performance of the Mac. In general, it happens when users end up installing so many apps and files on their devices. But there are a few other data organization mistakes as well that can cause trouble for the entire system’s performance. In such situations, it is better to schedule a time-to-time cleaning of your Mac so that the entire storage space can be used more creatively. The methods described above for freeing up some memory space on Mac are really reliable and easy to use. Anyone can get started with them to manage the entire RAM space.

There is no doubt to say that CPU usage also has a considerable impact on the Mac system. With overloaded processing power, it not just slows down the processes rather at the same time, it can start overheating as well. Hence, these problems must be identified before any major failures or critical stages. It is better to make efforts to keep your Mac healthy and clean all the time. Spare some time to check desktop icons, widgets, and browser extensions and observe the performance of the entire system on the Activity Monitor. It can help you make a quick decision about which process and app must be eliminated to enhance memory usage and overall performance as well. Once you start caring for your Mac, it can naturally serve you with higher efficiency.

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