Apr 10


When your computer is running a bit slowly, how can you tell if getting more memory will help?

If you run out of free memory then your computer will be forced to use some of your hard disk as memory, which is VERY SLOW because hard drives are much slower to access than your computer’s RAM.  Here’s how to check that you have enough RAM to stop this happening on any Macintosh running OS X. 

It’s not just a matter of saying ‘8 Gigabytes’ is enough because the amount of RAM you need will vary according to your computer and the programs you use regularly. Here’s now to check if you don’t have enough RAM.

How to check your Memory on El Capitan

With El Capitan Apple have introduced a very simple graph based on colours to let you know if you have enough RAM or not. Do this during the middle of using your computer for what you normally use it for. Don’t do this as soon as you start your computer as this won’t give a good indication of your normal usage. Better still, check it at various times over a few days.

  1. Go to your Applications/Utilities folder. (Click on your desktop so that the finder is active then hold down Apple-Shift-U, this will open your ‘utilities folder.)
  2. Open ‘Activity Monitor’ – it will probably be the top-most application in the Utilities Folder.
  3. Press Apple-1 to make sure that the main window of Utility Monitor is open.
  4. Click on the ‘System Memory’ tab at the bottom of the window. This will display a little graph with the memory pressure. It will look something like this:


If there is any red in the memory pressure you need more RAM.  Red means your performance is taking a hit because your computer needs to use the disk drive for memory.

If the memory pressure is green you have enough memory (like the screenshot above).

If the memory pressure is yellow it may be worth monitoring over a few days to see if it goes into the red.


Checking your memory on older versions of Mac OS

On older versions of Mac OS the display looks more like this:

There are two important items to take note of ‘Free:’ and ‘Page outs:’

Free tells you how much free memory you currently have available to use –  the higher the better.  If you have no free memory you should get more RAM.

A Page out  means your computer has run out of memory and had to use some of the Hard Disk instead of RAM. (This is the equivalent of your brain being too full so you have to write your thoughts down on paper to free up some headspace) This DRAMATICALLY slows down your computer.

Tip: Page outs occur when your Mac has to write information from RAM to the hard drive (because RAM is full).  Adding more RAM may reduce page outs.


Some Examples:

Here’s a mac with plenty of RAM (12G) – lots of Free RAM (green) and zero Page outs.

Here’s a mac with just enough RAM (8G) – a relatively little Page out Count (339MB) and some free memory (green).

Here’s a Mac that needs more RAM (it only has 640M!) – note the High Page Out Count (1010524) even though it currently has some ‘free’ RAM.

This Mac definitely needs some more RAM! Practically no free memory  AND High Page-out Count. (1GB!)  Performance will be suffering badly. I would add at least another 4G Ram, maybe 8G more to bring it up to 12G.

In OSX Leopard rather than giving a ‘count’ of page in and page outs, it gives a size in GB  of the amount of RAM that has been paged in or out. The numbers are smaller but the same principals apply.

In OSX Lion there is a new entry called ‘Swap Used’. (See the last picture above). This  is a count of how much Disk Space your computer is using as RAM and it’s a good rough estimate of the minimum amount of  extra RAM you need. Eg If your Swap used is 4G then get AT LEAST 4G more RAM.


Where to buy more RAM.


Currently my favourite place to buy RAM is Crucial.com. My Mac mini has 16GB of Crucial RAM in it at the moment. Crucial have good prices and reliable RAM. I’m in Australia and it usually arrives in about a week.

They have a memory lookup tool for all computers where you choose your model and it shows you exactly what memory you need.  The memory chooser tool looks like this:

First choose ‘Apple’ where it says ‘Choose Manufacturer’

Secondly select your mac when it says ‘select product line’ (e.g. iMac or Macbook etc)

Finally select the exact model (e.g. Early 2011 i7 27″ iMac”)

It will then show you the options you can buy.


Another reliable source of good Mac RAM  is macsales.com. I have signed up to be an affiliate of Macsales.com so I get a commission if you purchase from them, but check the prices first because macsales can be more expensive.

Why RAM affects your computer’s speed.

RAM in your computer is like the paper sitting on your desk. The information is easy and fast to access. Your Hard Disk is more like a filing cabinet, it takes a bit longer to retrieve information.

When your desk gets too cluttered you need to spend some time moving things in and out of the filing cabinet, which slows things down.

You don’t need to be able to store everything in your computers memory, it’s good to have a hard disk, but if you don’t have enough memory then your computer will need to access your hard disk too much and this can slow things down.

To quote from Apple:

Moving data from physical memory to disk is called paging out (or swapping out); moving data from disk to physical memory is called paging in (or swapping in)… Extended periods of paging activity reduce performance significantly; such activity is sometimes called disk thrashing.

126 Responses to “Does my mac need more memory?”

  1. wayne says:

    I just received this by email,
    look at how high the page in/out count it!


    Time for memory upgrade!

    • HaWook says:

      My Page ins and Page outs are expressed in megabytes (960 and 325, respectively). How can I figure out the actual number?

      Please and thank you.

    • Andrew says:

      The blue section reads ‘Inactive’ for a reason. A program has claimed it, but is not using it. Your mac should page these out because it is essentially empty space. Windows does this as well, its called scrubbing.

      Want proof, go to the apple store and run Activity monitor on one of the showroom macs. There will be tons of page outs despite the fact these macs only have the programs that come with your mac (and your mac was designed to handle without slow downs).

      This is Apple marketing bull trying to make you pay $400 for overpriced RAM. Get iFreeMem and see what I mean, this will page out all inactive memory, essentially turning all your blue memory green and speeding up your Mac.

      • Anna says:

        Thank you Andrew. I’ve had a ‘start up disk almost full message’ for the last few days, and my laptop is very slow opening things. Yesterday it couldn’t start and showed a flashing question mark instead. I’ve got it started & running now (with help from the installation CD), but that was a great worry and wonder if the lack of space is stuffing up hard disk (=startup disk) somehow.

        I’ve got somewhere between 8 and 45 MB free memory on System Memory in Activity Monitor, fluctuating up and down. I’ve got about 233 MB inactive memory, and the pages out is slowly climbing up, currently about 420 MB. In disk usage I’ve got about 12 GB free and about 99 GB utilised.

        So I wonder if paging out the inactive memory can help, I’ll give iFreeMem a try.

        Ps. I can see that the Chrome browser appears to occupy a massive amount of working memory, does anyone else have that experience?
        It does also frequently crash, which could be because I am in the habit of having too many tabs open at once.

      • Anna says:

        Follow up: I downloaded and ran iFreeMem. It doesn’t make a difference and doesn’t tell me anything that Activity Monitor doesn’t already show. Also, it is just a 15 days trial of a paid product and whenever you start it up you have to select to ‘continue trialling’ – slightly annoying.

        Re. the inactive memory, I found below in another forum:

        “don’t worry about that “inactive” ram, that’s as good as “free”. it means that osx has at some point loaded something in the ram and later on decided that it is no longer needed. of course the ram could be “freed” (completely) but unix systems have made such a decision that the content is kept in the memory in case it is needed in the future. but because that memory is flagged as “inactive”, it can be deleted as soon as some other app needs to have that memory. so it is just one kind of an optimization- .” –
        ( JFreak in http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=73631 )

        Makes sense.

      • Rod says:

        Operating systems (not only Unix systems such as OS X) currently cannot return RAM to the system pool, where it can be used by an application, until the application is exited. I’m not sure of the reason for this, but it appears to be a technical one.

        When an app needs more RAM, it first looks in its own pool, that is, RAM it used and released. If it doesn’t find enough RAM, it takes more from the system pool.

        This means an app ties up the maximum amount of RAM it has needed since it last opened. If you’re running out RAM, exit and re-enter the app(s) that are using the most. It’s also wise to avoid opening too many documents in the same app. I have a friend who opens 20 or more tabs in Firefox and never closes one when he’s done with it.

  2. Patrick says:

    I was googling around to see what excessive paging was as I was worried my mac was on the high side. After 1 day my Page in/outs are at 1376201/486790. Time for a MacPro since I’m already at the 2GB limit on my CD iMac. *Yikes*

  3. Brent says:

    Well my page ins/outs count is also very high along with having only 18MB of free memory. I had running Finder, Firefox, Microsoft Word, Preview, Safari, and Activity Monitor. I tried closing Word, Preview, and Safari and now it is up to around 180MB free. Now my question is this…lately I’ve been having slow-downs alot and my computer will freeze for a few seconds and I get the beachball. This happens even after a reboot with only Firefox (and sometimes one more program open). Should I get more memory? If so, how do I know what kind to get. I’m a newbie to the MacBook and OSX.


  4. admin says:

    If it is slow straight after a reboot, and there are no page ins, and there is lots of free memory still, then the slow-down is probably not a memory problem, unless you have Leopard, it needs lots of memory, like 2 Gig at least.

  5. stuart says:


    I have also been noticing that my computer lately, slows down alot. Usually, I run Mail, iTunes, Safari, Newsfire, Adium and maybe sometimes transmission. I notice that my page in’s and out’s are quite high. Just yesterday it was the highest that I have ever seen. Today I rebooted and immediately after reboot my page ins were 45,023.

    I am at a loss on what to do. Alot of times my page outs exceed my page ins after a day of running.

    Please help

  6. stuart says:

    Hello again, I just wanted to give an update. I rebooted last night before I went to bed. Again right after start up I has an extreme amount of page in’s. Similar to my above comment. Now less the 16hrs later I now have this
    Swap 2.01GB(3.00GB)
    Page in: 157,558
    Page out: 273,764

    I really am having a hard time grasping what is actually wrong since I have not had this problem until just recently. My warranty is not yet finished for my iMac.

    Please help shed a light on this for me.

    Kind regards,


  7. Drew says:

    @ Stuart,
    If your mac is restarted & not running any apps and you are getting page ins/outs make sure there are no applications running in the background such as iTunes helper, iCal helper menu items dashboard widgets third party apps…
    They should be listed in the activity monitor window.

    It could just be the load that the OS places on your system. You may need more RAM, just keep an eye on the amount of paging and contact Applecare if it concerns you. You don’t say what version of Mac OS or the amount of RAM you have, but more should help. 2 – 4 GB should keep it running smoothly for basic tasks.

    PS the Leopard Activity Monitor specifies the paging in MB/GB units, Im unsure if the units are Kb, MB or GB in your comment.

    Nice article, it helps clarify what is going on with memory.

  8. admin says:

    how much RAM do you have?
    Have you recently upgraded to Leopard?


  9. George says:

    MacBook (Generation 3)
    1GB RAM

    Free: 11.52MB
    Page in: 1218997
    Page Out: 736528

    Page in/Page out are increasing when I went to a website on FireFox.

    Applications in use:

    Microsoft Word
    Activity Monitor

    I also use a lot of Photoshop, iMovie and iPhoto.

    For me, it always seems like FireFox that is creating the whole mess. But I need it because of it’s tools that Safari doesnt have.

    But my main question is obviously, Do I Need More RAM??

  10. sarah says:

    My computer is super slow! My page in/outs are: 74840/25909 and ‘ins’ keep going up. Also the Free is 80 MBs. I just rebooted too? Reboot again? I was just running word and excel and I’m soooo frustrated.

  11. Ben D. says:

    “Free tells you how much free memory you currently have, the higher the better”.

    Actually you should never expect “free” to be high. See this article from Apple for more information: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1342?viewlocale=en_US

  12. Dunwell says:

    recently, I deleted some file and my ibook G4 wouldnt boot. I rebooted it with “Leopard” (it was Tiger before). now it is so slow I have towait onit to open some firefox pages. It is even doing things I didnt comand it to do.
    I have 512ram 1.33 processor and 60G HD. what can I do?

  13. juelz says:

    I am confused because from your comments it seems as if my system isn’t doing what it is supposed to- my page in is 258.08 and increasing but my page outs is 0 and swap used is 0- is this good or bad? I have 1.04 memory used out of 2 GB but it seems as if an update im trying t o get for my microsoft office is not letting me download because of lack of memory. I am quite confused at this point

    • Athena says:

      Page ins SHOULD increase with every file you open – they occur when data is loaded into RAM.

      Page outs occur when you run out of RAM to be used.

      If your page outs are 0, that’s great! I’d say your download is failing for a reason other than RAM – perhaps hard drive space?

  14. bamakodaker says:

    I wonder if everyone is forgetting something very simple – what about HOW RAM is used? Is your desktop crowded with items using up that RAM? Keep everything IN your harddrive. ONLY have ALIAS’ on your desktop!~ Keep that RAM free.

  15. Aayush says:


    I have been noticing that my computer lately, slows down alot. Usually, I run Mail, iTunes, Safari/firefox (though safari makes it more slow), word and excel. I notice that my page in’s and out’s are quite high. Today I rebooted and immediately after reboot my page ins were 36,458.

    I am at a loss on what to do. Alot of times my page outs exceed my page ins after a day of running.

    I have a macbook 2.2Ghz core 2 duo with 1GB RAM and recently upgraded to snow leopard.

    I never faced this problem earlier, although i started having the problem in my leopard only thats why i upgraded to snow leopard.

    Please help

  16. Aayush says:

    will upgrade and try it out…………..thanks………….

  17. Eve says:

    Cheers for that, helped a lot.

  18. Zev says:

    my mac is slow i got 2 gigs of ram mostly use imovie ichat itunes and itenternet and windows,

  19. Nabeel Khan says:

    does anybody know what the conversion is for page ins & outs from Mb’s to just the large numbers you all have showing in your activity monitor?
    Mine shows the amount only in megabytes


  20. HaWook says:

    My Page ins and Page outs are expressed in megabytes (960 and 325, respectively). How can I figure out the actual number?

  21. Roman says:

    Thanks for sharing, guys. Now I’m sure I need to upgrade with no doubts!

  22. charlie says:

    I have a imac osx 10.4.11 (so about 5 years old i think) it has a 2GHz intel core duo and a 1GB 667 MHz.

    When i run the folllowing I have 70MB free and 87660 page in and 43569 page out. Things get slow.


    what im wondering is, is it worth me buying more memory or is my mac reaching the end of its life.i have been told by 2 people that they only have about 5 years in them.
    also if i move my iphoto library(and my lge amount of saved psd documents) onto an external then will this have any effect on the ram or is that totally seperate.
    any advice would be gteat.thankyou!!!

  23. Sanjay says:

    I liked the discussion here. My MAC is also 660 Mhz Intel dual core with 1 GB RAM. It has also gone very slow and I was thinking of upgrading to Snow leopard. It seems that is not the solution. My activity monitor shows just 7 GB free when just 4 programs are running (no video or iTunes) and also the page ins are 276 MB. Is this page on per session or year till date? One observation in activity monitor: pmtool and kernel_task (root) have sent more than a million messages (under messages sent). Anybody has any idea why?

  24. milo says:

    my g4 mac won’t even open the “activity monitor”! the icon pops up but disappears straight away. Doesn’t see the additional internal hard drive either ,not on the desktop. In the system profiler it appears ,but grey!

  25. can u explain step by step how i can find how much mmeory i have left i cant seem to get it.

  26. Lola says:

    My Page ins/outs is 104,797/0
    How do I fix this?
    It keeps saying my startup disk is full, fut I have 562.50 MB Free. my VM size is 11.40

  27. Christine says:

    My stats are similar to Lola’s, and I’m a novice as managing disk space/memory.

    Free: 534.94 MB
    Page ins/outs: 42,436/0

    Clearly, my HD is full, but what can I do to improve processing speed? Will adding RAM help at all? Do I need a whole new computer to solve the HD space problem?

    I have an iMac (Late 2006) with 2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor
    1 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM
    Running OS X 10.4.11

    Your advice would be MUCH appreciated. I want to upgrade to Snow Leopard, but I don’t want it to get any slower.

  28. admin says:

    Christine, this is not your hard drive space we are looking at but you computers RAM – the memory it uses to run programs and so on.

    If it says ‘your startup disk is full’ it’s talking about your Hard Disk – where it stores movies and music and pictures and so on.

    See this article: http://macintoshhowto.com/hardware/how-to-free-up-some-hard-disk-space.html

  29. Reuben says:

    thanks for the great information.
    Mine appears to be a no brainer with only 512MB 667 Mhz RAM. The readings are showing as follows;
    Free space between 8 and 12MB with page in/out reading of 973200/581084 the in number moved about 40 in 2 minutes.

    Where is the best place to buy reliable quality RAM that I can install myself. I understand this old iMAC desktop has an empty memory slot thus meaning I have the ability to add more RAM. What do you recommend and who should I purchase more from?
    should I
    1/ just increase the 512RAM in the current memory slot
    2/ add more RAM into the empty memory slot
    3/ remove the 512 and fill both memory slots with more RAM.

    you advise would be appreciated.



  30. Sean says:

    I’m totally perplexed. My 2010 mac pro 6-core has 16GB of ram and I’m paging out. Current apps are Adobe Lightroom (real mem 2.36GB) and Photoshop (real mem 3.3GB). There’s 4GB of inactive ram and usually more yet I’ve done 6GB of paging out in the past few days. Confused. VM is 235GB

  31. robert says:

    Sean, I’m in a similar boat, and I’m totally confused.

    I’ve got 12GB of RAM, and since my last reboot, I haven’t run anything but Mail, Safari, and a couple of other small items, with my free RAM never dropping below 9GB.

    But I’ve got about 1GB of page outs. Can anyone explain this?

  32. admin says:

    Sean and Robert… yes that is strange behaviour – Page outs with lots of free RMA. It seems that there could be a problem with Snow Leopard Memory use. Check out this thread: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=875202
    I say seems because I haven’t seen this myself – I only just googled it then.

    This may be fixed in the latest Snow Leoopard 10.6.5 so I can only suggest you update to 10.6.5 and see if that fixes it.

  33. fluke says:

    just added a ssd (flash drive) in place of my hd.
    my computer if flying now.

  34. al says:

    I upped from 2 to 4 on my macbook recently, but the green free stays small. I guess I now have a big blue inactive, but the machine doesn’t work any faster. Should i goto 6? or will it just give a bigger blue inactive?

  35. ben says:

    Before rushing out to upgrade your ram, use onyX (free from apple – do a google search) to fix permissions and run maintance. (you can also repair permissions through the dik utility first aid tool which is in the utility folde, which itsel is in the applications foder.). Fixing permission may appear to freeze for ages (an hour) – but let it finish, reboot and away you go.

    you should do this as often as everytime you intstall a third party app, as they can reek havok with your perissions, making your mac grind to a slow and painful death.

    after this your mac should run as quick as it did when you bought it.

    if not- upgrade ram… but iif you just go ahead and get better ram without sorting out the underlying issues with permissions you will neve get your machine as fast as it should and cold be.

    hope this helps

  36. Molly says:

    I don’t know if this is related to RAM, but I’ve been having this problem for a few weeks now and no other Mac users that I’ve asked have ever faced this. But whenever I try watching a video from the internet, it almost always freezes. BUT the audio still plays fine. It used to only be with Youtube videos, but now almost any internet video will freeze. Could it be because I need more RAM? Please help!! Thank you :)

  37. lolly says:

    I’ve got a MacBook 6,1
    I want to buy and install Photoshop but the system requirements are 2GB + extra during installation….
    My Mac only had 2GB to start with…I’ve just checked the System Memory and it says I only have 192.3MB free….
    Do I have to purchase more RAM before I buy Photoshop? I know it may sound dumb…but how do I add more RAM to it…does it have to be done by a Mac technician?

  38. Meto says:

    I have a problem with my mac pro. All my files and folders been transfered to an external memory but it still shows free memory only 1 gb and used 69gb. Please if any one can help.

    Thank you,

  39. Reem says:

    Hi, i’ve just purchased my first Mac and i mostly use my computer for school. So my university offers microsoft programs for free. but when i tried installing it, it stopped at a certain point and then it says theres zero kb available..
    what exactly does this mean i need to do?

  40. Very informative article. Thank you. However, it still does not explain the issue I am having and why I stumbled onto this post. For the past week I have been trying to update my OS from 10.6.6 to 10.6.7. I cannot get there through the standard route–using “Software update” in the Apple menu because I get an error message telling me there is not enough free space on my disk. When I check Activity monitor it shows I have 5.2 GB free and 0 page outs.

    I am (I think) able to circumvent this problem by downloading the update directly from Apple (it is downloading now) and I plan install it from my desktop. I do not understand why I am getting that message or what to do about it.

    Signed, Stumped at the end of the road in Costa Rica.

  41. karlina says:

    my mac says that i no memmory but i keep on deleting stuff…but it stills says”no memory”help if you can reply very soon!

    • admin says:

      Deleting files doesn’t free up more memory, it frees up more Hard Drive space.
      Quitting running programs or re-starting your computer frees up more memory.

      Files are like your filing cabinet, where you store information long term. Memory is like your desk space, where you work on things. Free memory is like free space on your desk. Pulling files out of your filing cabinet and putting them in the bin won’t give you more desk space. Getting a bigger desk (more memory) or putting away what’s on your desk (quitting programs) frees up desk space.

  42. Bruno says:

    I just put in an extra 8GB of Ram in my G5 Mac Pro. It previously only had 2 GB – so that should bring it up to 10 GB. When I oprn about this Mac – it tells me it only has 2GB of memory. Is there a way to find out exactly how much Ram my computer now has?

  43. my mac says that i no memmory but i keep on deleting stuff…but it stills says”no memory”help if you can reply very soon!

  44. Blackbird says:

    I have a 4gb Macbook Pro 2010 13″ 2.66 ghz. While I have no programs open, or nothing running in the background, is it normal to have the Used memory at 1.3gb? Seems kinda high to me! I’ve had computers with only 2gb and ran things just fine, but if my MBP is using 1.3 idle, thats not right. I’ve had issues with freezing too, which sounds like it might be a bad memory issue?

  45. Sheila says:

    My “System Memory” tab says I have 665MB of free space but when I go to disk usage it says I have completely full and have no free space. My computer won’t even let me save a file of homework. I dont know what to do!!!!!

  46. gh says:

    I came across this forum while searching to try and find why my Macbook runs hot and uses battery fast. This only occurs some of the time. From checking the Activity Monitor I noticed that Parallels (Windows emulator) is using 100% of my available memory. I assume that all other programs create pageouts. I see nobody has mentioned Parallels so it may not be the problem but I thought I’d throw it out. I don’t use Parallels a lot so I may uninstall it as I think it is loading on its own sometimes, depending on what work I’m doing.

  47. Mark says:

    I doubled my RAM to avoid creating lots of swap files. It helped, but I still create swapfiles even though I have 8BG of RAM and I never use more than 6GB. Shutting off the Apple Dynamic Pager did stop the computer from creating swap files in OS 10.6, but the Wired Memory displayed in Activity Monitor gradually grew to sizes I have never seen before. Using iFreeMem did nothing to convert Inactive Memory or the increased Wired Memory back into Free Memory. So far my best solution for avoiding slowdowns from swapping is to just restart the computer every week or so.

  48. Luke says:

    Hey thanks for this, this is a wonderful article and just saved me TOOOOONS of money, your awesome man!

  49. Greg says:

    Upgraded my ram in my MacBook pro to 8gb from the standard 4…. No noticeable difference in performance… Upgraded the Hd to an SSD…. And now it flies ;)

  50. Dee says:

    I need some help. I am not much of a computer person. My desktop is a about 3 years old and is now telling me that the start up disk is full. I followed the instructions at the top checking the utilities folder and the circle graph shows very little memory. Also I cannot save any documents in Word. I would like to delete some stuff if I can rather than adding more RAM. Can I do this and how?
    tks alot

  51. Jeet says:

    On the Disk Usage part of my activity monitor, it shows in green (free space) that I have 148.73 GB of unused space. The mac I have is OS X version 10.4.11. It has always caused me problems…. I hope you can help me. First of all I can’t download or save anything from documents to emails. Safari quits unexpectedly whenever I go on to youtube or even google. (When this happens it says: Safari quit unexpectedly. Reopen, Quit, or Report to mac). Some of the games I’ve downloaded through a CD quit as well. (When this happens it says: safari could not download the file because there is not enough free disk space. Try deleting documents or downloading to another file.) But how can I not have enough free space when the disk usage shows that I have 148.73 GB of free space!!! Please help as I have had this problem for more than 2 years. Thanks.

    • admin says:

      I’d post this question to the Apple Support Forums, or ring Apple as it sounds like a specific problem that might take a bit of troubleshooting.

      Try ‘repair permissions’ from Disk Utility. That’s the first step for most problems.

      Go to your ‘downloads’ folder in your documents folder in your home directory, do ‘Get Info’ and check your user (Me) has read and write permissions.

  52. betsy says:

    This was extremely helpful, exactly the information I needed. Thank you for posting.

  53. Katy says:

    i just got my macbook pro today, it said that there was 500 GB of space, but now my system memory looks like the last screenshot above. Is this a problem?

  54. Arthur G says:

    My page outs is high 2.02GB and swap used is also 2.02GB but i have 1.15GB free out of my 3.75GB. What does this mean? Why is my page outs so high if i have a lot more free space than shown in the examples? Is there a way to clear out the page outs?
    P.S. page ins:13.93GB not sure what this means

  55. Bruce A says:

    I just purchased 16GM for an iMac 2011 2.7Ghz from Crucial. $126CDN incl.customs/tax.
    Works like a charm. Bit of overkill but for this price it is worth it. Highly recommend Crucial.

  56. Ki says:

    I came across this article. Its clearly explained the differences, but it doesn’t show the reader how to determine when page out is too much,…Here is my situation, macbook pro mid 2010. stock RAM installed 4GB. OS.
    Free: 1.33GB
    Wired: 852.3MB
    Active: 1.34GB
    Inactive: 500MB
    Used: 2.66GB
    VM size: 215GB
    Page ins: 1.31GB
    Page outs: 905 MB
    Swap used: 543.0 MB
    HD: 250GB. Used: 167/ Free: 81GB

    I’ve noticed my mb pro decline in performance. I don’t run heavy apps, mac is mostly used for web browsing and 1 game (Startcraft II). I seldom use final cut pro and aperture. What can i do to increase performance ?


    • James Mauro says:

      The article did tell you in later operating systems you look at “SWAP USED”. I would suggest hooking up a secound screen or using the extend desktop option, placing the activity meter in that screen or open it open in another page in your mac as you play starcraft. With the current information you need to have at least an extra 543mb. Which sense you have 2 slots that means you need a pair of 4gb sticks. remmber also that its not just the Mhz of the ram (your computer can only put so much power) but also the latency (CAS) the lower the CAS number on the ram, the less number of computer clock scles before it preforms again. Ideal the ram would be at CAS 1, but typically depending on your MHZ of your ram your lucky to see 7 most versions will have a CAS of 9-9-9-28 I suggest that you get this version with the maximum MHZ your computer can hold for ram. Also you said your computer is slow, I suggest buying an external drive, placing any file/video you do not need constantly on it, (speeds of my 4TB WD USB 3.0 external is around 130mbs (several times faster than most non 4k video require) Than what you need to do after transferring all that data is to delete the data/files that where transferred to the external from your 2010 mac. Now your computer works like new, if you did this before you bought the ram, now you may not need to buy the ram, but it would be nice to do it anyway. The only reason you should ever have to upgrade a MAC is because you want to do something it could never do, not because the computer is old. They are very reliable systems, which is why i always suggest them. Your Drives should never be completely full, that slows down any drives performance on an old or a new computer, figure leaving at least 25% of free space especially on an Operating system drive. Although the performance on a Movie drive may drop from 135mbs to lets say 100 mbs (maybe more maybe less) when completely full, if the video file is less than 5mbs you could never tell the speed decrease.

  57. Brian says:

    Thank you for this article!!!! SO informative and insightful. It answered all my questions and MORE. I am definitely bookmarking this and sending to friends or whoever has questions regarding RAM/memory in the future. I’ll be referring back to this in the future as well. Kudos!

  58. Don says:

    Hi, I had already added RAM to my 2 GHz Intel Core Duo, taking it to the maximum it can hold – 2GB. However, the Activity Monitor shows Free 60MB with 1.9 GB Used and Page Outs of 5GB.

    Is there a way that I can reduce the Used/Page Outs count and therefore increase the Free count?


    • Wayne says:

      Yes, close some apps or open less apps. Make sure you don’t have too many dashboard widgets open. Use Activity Monitor to see what’s using up your RAM.

  59. Dave says:

    If your running Lion I can sympathise. I have recently installed Lion on my late 2006 iMac which max ram is 3GB (even tho you can fit two 2GB chips it only recognises 3).
    What you can do as I have found out from trawling the Apple support pages is to run some of your RAM hungry apps in 32 bit mode e.g. Mail, Safari. Info is on Apple https://discussions.apple.com/thread/3238726?start=0&tstart=0.
    Also you can stop your Mac remembering its App settings and automatically opening everything when you start up and taking all your RAM. This keeps the Apps in 32 bit mode and you don’t have to keep shutting them down top reopen in 32bit(tip from ‘MIssing manualMac OS X Lion’. Can’t post copyright material).

    Finally I have found a free App in the App store “Memory Freer” which uses Activity monitor and tells you when your RAM is dropping and also will free up RAM that Apps are holding onto, but not using.

    Using these I have got my page outs with 10 big apps open down to very low numbers or normally 0 during light normal usage.

    I myself am not a Techie, but a long term Mac user. Also I have found out that I cannot upgrade my Mac any further as Mountain Lion won’t run on my Mac or Macbook Pro. Guess it maybe new computer time soon.

    Hope this may help. D

  60. Josh says:

    I have a question? I just upgraded the ram in my imac (2011) with memory I purchased from OWC 16GB (4x4GB). I opened the activity monitor and it says that 13 GB of ram are currently wired. That seems a bit high. I don’t have many applications running right now and its not running that slow but I don’t know why 13 GB of RAM would be wired at this point. It says I only have 267 MB free.

  61. Jon says:

    I’m using Adobe Flash player, and I’m getting an icon (grey circle with an ! in the middle) that states I need more memory to run a specific application — I’m using Safari. Yet I have 2.89 GB of free space. What is an ideal amount of free space for a system to safely run applications? Do I have enough?

  62. Mark says:

    My imac keeps freezing whenever I run iTunes. At first the computer will freeze every 40 seconds and over time freeze every sec. I’ve called Apple and they can’t find anything wrong with it. If I reset the PRAM it helps for a bit but then it happens again. Any advice? I have a 2.5ghz intel core i5, 4gb ram. Do I need more ram? Any help is greatly appreciated.

  63. jul says:

    Macbook pro just bought not long time ago
    Free:1.03 Gb
    Wired: 890MB
    Inactive:509.2 MB
    VM size:179.79GB
    Page ins: 23.54 GB
    Page outs: 28.21 GB
    Swap used: 2.24 GB

    Can you help me to find out do i have problems with my mac. Thank you for help i just start using Mac, so i does’t know mac really good.

  64. jonathan says:

    V helpful article. Was starting to see the spinning wheel more and more on my early 2011 macbook pro, particularly after upgrading to lion. Came with 4gb ram but i have lots of apps open at the same time including VM running windows and was starting to think mac just not up to it. Read this, checked that memory was low and relying on hard drive, bought 16gb ram upgrade kit from Crucial for peanuts…..wham! I have my rocket back, everything sharp as a razor, haven’t seen hideous spinning wheel since.

  65. sam says:

    My swap used is 59GB! Page Outs: 47GB, Page Ins: 74GB

    Can i even install that much ram? I have a 2011 MBP with a 256GB SSD and currently only 4GB of ram. I’m a graphic designer so I run adobe suite most of the time which i understand is quite a heavy load. Could that 59GB figure be accurate? Seems outrageously high…

  66. David says:

    Hi there, have a mac mini 2,3 GHz duo core i5 (Lion OS – Mid 2011).
    I’ ve installed Windows 7 professional ( for project courseworks) and mainly for gaming. I have 2 Gb of RAM and wanted to know whether a RAM upgrade to say, 8GB will improve gaming experience in terms of graphics, and smooth running? Thanks.

  67. Diko says:

    Please help. At the Activity Monitor of my MacBook Pro, under System Memory it says my free memory is 2.77 G (green). I am currently saving/importing songs to my iTunes from my CDs for later transfer to my iPod. Will my MBP’s memory be affected to the point of slowing it down?

    The capacity of my iPod is 32G. How do I fill it up with songs from my MBP iTunes if I can only save 2.77 G worth of songs in my MBP iTunes?

    Under Disk Usage (at the activity Monitor), however, it says there is still 250 G? Is this what my MBP will use up for my songs or the System Memory?

    Pardon my ignorance. I am a newbie on these things. Thanks.

    • Lee Dale says:

      Hi Diko.

      As you’ve discovered, to the right of ‘System Memory’ in your Activity Monitor is a tab called ‘Disk Usage’. Songs will be stored on your HD which is shown under this Disk Usage tab. As long as you’ve got space there, you’ll be golden.

      In other words, understanding the difference between RAM (temporary, and for applications to run) and hard disc space (where your files are stored), you’ll know that opening iTunes and asking it to import your songs from a CD to the HD will use RAM to perform those tasks, but the actual files are stored on the HD and will not impact RAM once the import task completes.

      Hope that helps.

  68. Molly says:

    Thank you very much for these instructions. I just placed my memory upgrade order with Crucial. BTW, I had 20.3 MB free, and swap was 1.40 GB. No wonder my laptop was soooooooo slow!

  69. […] decision: Based on my MacBook’s symptoms and checking a few statistics in the Disk Utility tool, I decided I would upgrade my computer’s memory, aka RAM (random […]

  70. […] decision: Based on my MacBook’s symptoms and checking a few statistics in the Disk Utility tool, I decided I would upgrade my computer’s memory, aka RAM (random […]

  71. John says:

    Thank you! very helpful and clear. Plus the crucial recommendation is spot on, same thing that I have been told by everyone including Apple.
    thanks again.

  72. Scott says:

    Thanks for the article, useful for confirming.

  73. Brandon says:

    Hi All- I would love some help…I went to the Apple store and the genius determined that my ram was not strong enough…I doubled the ram and installed the new, but everything is still running slow…

    Free: 35MB
    Wired: 533MB
    Active: 768MB
    Inactive 2.68 GB
    Used 3.95 GB
    VM sie: 118GB
    Page ins 1 GB
    Page outs: 651 MB
    Swap used: 9.6 MB

    Any suggestions on what the issue could still be?


  74. Wow, thanks for this. I was sitting on Amazon wondering whether to press the button and buy more RAM (Crucial, as it happens) and thought I would just check if I really needed it. Your article answered that question very well (yes I do — sitting on a Swap used of 5.36GB).

    I really appreciate the care and attention you have put into this article (I teach Journalism at a university in the UK).

    Best of luck to you, Wayne.

  75. R00bot says:

    Mine is a 4gig RAM macbook pro (year old now) and it says page outs: 6.47 gigabytes.
    Is this bad? What do I do?

  76. Dave says:

    Hey thanks for this article. I had a question and you actually had basically an exact screenshot of my system! More RAM it is!

    • Rob says:

      Me too, almost an exact screen grab from my Mac! – I thought it might of been some sort of scam at first as it was uncanny :-)

      Thanks for the article, been very helpful and I’ll use your link when I order my memory after Christmas!

  77. C Winkler says:

    I’m so glad I found your Mac site! Thank you, Brother! Your post helped me so much! I’ll be a frequent visitor from now on. God bless you!

  78. Thank you! EXCELLENT explanation of what to look for and what it means. I need a memory upgrade…going to your affiliate link now!

  79. kate says:

    I am not good at computers. Went through your tutorial and it says I have 587 MB of free space. My page outs are 100.00 KB. The graph shows a decent hunk of green and at the bottom it says 2 GB. Is more memory needed? The other day I tried to open excel and it said it couldn’t open it because I didn’t have enough memory so that seems to suggest I do, but yet going through your exercise made me think I had enough. Help!

  80. Chrish says:

    I’ve just upgraded my iMac from 4GB to 12GB of memory. Do I now need to do anything to optimize it at all, or is it OK to just leave as is?

  81. Tim says:

    Haha I was wondering why my mac was so slow. I got my 17″ pro for a year and a half now and was really unpleased that the performance was so bad already.
    Turns out that I got 30GB page outs at the moment. Thanks for this article, I immediately ordered in 16G in stead of the 4GB I use now.

  82. JoJoHants says:

    Hi, used this help the other day which really did highlight a lot of page outs, so installed Grand Perspective to clean out some old stuff and used an app to tidy up loads of duplicate files (result form shifting over from a windows pc about 18 months ago).

    So went back into my Utilities folder today to see if it had helped and did I still need to get an external hard drive, but the thing doesn’t look the say any more??

    There is no graph, no tab at the bottom?? There are tabs at the top identified as CPU / Memory / Energy / Disk / Network

    So I assumed they had just removed the word ‘system’ from the memory tab.
    The info looks pretty similar, but in a different format, but there is no FREE info & no PAGEIN/OUTS info.

    Can anyone help please??? I dont want to buy something I may not need, but would like to understand this new format. Wish I could add a screen print for you.

    Thanks from one un-technical female!

  83. Geertje says:

    Thanks! Been searching for info to be able to decide whether I could safely install Maverick. I definitely need more memory, and gonna check if my mac can handle more RAM (my mac gets overheated pretty quick), before I even start to think of upgrading to Maverick.

    I own a mac book 10.6.8, from 2006,
    processor: 2GHz core 2 Duo,
    memory: 2 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM

    System memory
    – free ca 23 MB
    – page outs: 65,6 MB to 93 MB

    Gonna check my activity monitor more often from now on, to see which (useless) programs/plugins are open / taking away too much memory space.

  84. Stephan Keen says:

    A nice detailed article on whether you need a Mac RAM upgrade. Thanks for sharing. I would also advice that you carry out a SMC (system controller reset) and PRAM reset to see if your Mac will speed up, before splurging on memory that can be quite expensive these days.

  85. Stephan Keen says:

    Oh, by the way, for anyone interested in instructions on how to carry out a SMC and PRAM reset, here are good instructions. http://machmachines.com/macbook-pro-running-slow-heres-how-to-fix-it/

  86. Ranz says:

    MacBook Pro Mid 2012 (4GB RAM)

    Free: 299.4 MB
    Wired: 1.11 GB
    Active:1.08 GB
    Inactive: 1.53 GB
    Used: 3.71GB
    VM size: 215 GB
    Page ins: 5.92 GB
    Page outs: 7.46 GB
    Swap used: 2.54 GB

    Illustrator and Photoshop are stalling on me so I know I need more RAM esp as I typically use large files in PS… but you guys think I should get 8GB or 16GB?? O.o

  87. Bob C says:

    I have bought memory from Crucial a number of times. Sotftware on its website helps you to identify which RAM module will fit your Mac and the speed of delivery of the product is excellent. I’m not affiliated to the company and I would use no other.

  88. Darren says:

    Just tried your link to crucial so you get your commission but I got a 404 error page not found. Just thought you should know. If you email me back with an updated link I can hold off on the purchase until then.


  89. Joliepop says:

    I am dumb as dirt and I was able to read and understand this article. Your screen captures were great! I was able to match w/my Activity Monitor and I still might bring my Mac to the Genius Bar but at least I am more informed that I need RAM. Thanks so much!!!

  90. Geno says:

    Great article, but I have a MacBook Pro5.5 (late 2009), running Mavericks, and the Activity Monitor doesn’t have tabs at the bottom. I’m not seeing anything about Free and Page Outs, so I wonder if something changed with Mavericks? How can I ascertain that same information? It does show Physical Memory (4GB) and Memory Used (about all of it), but I’d like to ensure upgrading my memory is going to have a positive impact on my system performance, which has become progressively worse.

    • Ally says:

      I have the same issue as Geno and JoJoHants with the difference layout – does anyone have any information about how we can get the one with the charts and the mention of Free and Page Outs?

    • Michelle says:

      Did you ever get an update on this? I have macbook late 2009 as well and not seeing the page in or out info.

  91. Brenda says:

    Tks, : ) love this site so easy to get an answer & understand. Dont leave here thinking did that help me or not. Graphs really break it down 2 simple. Marking this site FOR SURE (I’ll B BACK)

  92. Phil says:

    Hi my memory slot says ” PHYSICAL MEMORY 4.00 GB

    Now I’m confused, though my computer does say’ system overload’ in new Garageband 10.3.

    Any help appreciated very much, thanks a lot :)

  93. Hiran says:

    Hi, the approach is really appreciable, but can we have some demo on EI Captain too, as its not using the same words in activity monitor.
    Thank You.

  94. Cathy says:

    Thank you for this helpful post. I am showing green in the graph for physical memory so it seems from your post that I do not need more ram. And I have fib optics yet my Mac is running so slowly. What else should I check for? Thanks.

  95. Matthew says:

    Awesome post.
    I have a mid 2011 iMac. It had 4GB of RAM and is running at 3.5GB used. This looks like I could really do with some RAM. I am unsure whether to go for another 8, 16 or max it to 32GB of RAM. I am thinking another 8 will take it to 12GB and that should be enough. Also, does it matter if I get 2x4GB or 1x8GB?
    This is an old post so I am not expecting a reply and will do further research, but wanted to say thanks for the very simple to follow post.

    • Wayne says:

      I run 8 gig in my macbook pro and it’s fine. I’d say 12GB will be heaps if you only run 4GB now.
      I think you can pick up 2x4GB cheaper than 1x8GB.
      Matched pairs is actually better for performance too, e.g. 2x4GB, is better than 1x8GB.

      • Matthew says:

        Thanks Wayne.
        I decided that for the sake of £30 extra I would go for the 16GB. I went for 2x8GB of crucial. It might be crazy but I thought it would slightly future proof it if I start doing some photo work on my iMac. I might be wrong but for a layout of £76 for 16GB I am happy.

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