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Mac system memory free wired active

I just recently, as in a few hours ago, updated my Mid 15" Macbook Pro 5,3 from While everything is running smoothly so far, I noticed that I have been getting the pinwheel of death and things have been pretty sluggish - even typing this has taken forever. I am only running safari, smcFanControl, and activity monitor at the moment. I also have avast! I took a screen shot of what my system memory is -- Imgur. I'm an architecture student so I put some pretty heavy use on my mac, the majority of my computer use is rhino, autocad, and adobe creative suite so my files are ususally pretty large as well.

I am taking up about gigs of space from my hard drive and have about 65gigs of free space left. How can so much of my system memory be used when I am barely doing anything on my computer at the moment? I have read that spotlight indexing files can slow a computer down for the first few hours, but I am wondering if there is something else going on. Anyone have any clue? Don't buy additional ram from the Apple store. It's a rip off. Here's a great website for mac computer parts at reasonable prices. I upgraded my MBP from 4gb of ram to 8gb of ram.


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I've used them in a bunch of macs and never had a problem. Fast order processing in my experience also. Not affiliated with them in any way, I've just repeatedly used their products over the past 20 years or so. That means that the memory usage of the currently-running applications on your computer have exceeded your 4GB of installed RAM by a very significant amount.

When more memory is needed than is physically available, inactive applications are saved out of RAM into "virtual memory" on your harddrive, which on OSX, Linux, etc. When you switch to an application that has been moved out of RAM into virtual memory, that means that some other application will be swapped out and then this one will be read back out from your hard drive. This process is monumentally slow compared to working only within RAM. If you are frequently multitasking, this gets compounded by how frequently things are saved into and read out of the swap file. Other than the advice of purchasing more RAM, definitely keep an eye on the memory usage of your open applications.

As Windows-flavored as the following advice sounds: consider quitting anything you aren't going to use immediately, and restart memory-hungry applications periodically. In your example screenshot, it's sorted by CPU usage so we can't see most of the other big offenders, but it does show that Safari alone is using over 2GB of memory out of your 4 total. Unless you still had a dozen tabs open, that seems way too high.

In contrast to other operating systems, "swap used" on Mac OS X is not a useful metric.

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OS X counts program code and data that has not yet been called into main memory as part of used swap. This number can be very high and it's still possible to have very good performance. Wasn't aware of that. I know they won't immediately shrink to 0 when all swapped programs are closed or memory frees up, but I thought it was at least a reasonably direct ratio between allocated memory and swap used, if not 1-to Thanks for letting me know!

Well, let me try to be a little clearer: Swap used is certainly part of OS X's total memory allocation. It's just that if a program never happens to use the part that has been allocated for it which sits in swap, then it's more or less "theoretical" swap from the perspective of performance.

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High values indicate disk "thrashing" and the need for more ram. Cheers, Backspace. The "purge" command, available at the Terminal, releases inactive memory back to free. I created an Automator app around the purge command, which I dock near the Activity monitor that displays mem on the icon. When the monitor has little teal free and most dark blue inactive , I run the purge command. Sounds like the iFreeMem app effectively executes the purge command. Excellent explanation, but I'm still wondering one thing; why is the virtual memory allocation for each application so large?

I can see in your screenshot the same sort of thing I see in Activity Viewer; tiny applications like dashboard widgets each having a virtual memory size of around MB. Once you've got a reasonable number of applications open, I can easily have a VM size in excess of 15GB in total, which is actually getting pretty close to how much free disk space I have worrying! And yet if I use the iStat Menu tool, the swap file never goes above 2GB the same as my physical memory. So what's the story there? A quick thought is that OSX allocates virtual memory base on page table entries or a certain block size.

Something to consider is that most Dashboard widgets and Cocoa apps link against the same libraries and frameworks. Activity Monitor may be showing the total amount of virtual memory used by each widget or process, but Dashboard apps, for example, may be sharing a large portion of that virtual memory space. If I remember I'll dig around and see if I can learn anything else once the semester is over. If anyone else knows better or more than that feel free to correct me. The VM used by an application pretty much consists of the application itself and shared libraries.

Using the ever-handy vmmap command, you can get a lot of useless information about a process' VM usage, and some useful tidbits towards the end in the summary breakdown by region. If you use "vmmap -resident" you can also see how much of the program is actually using up physical memory, broken down by region in that same summary section at the end. In other words, to throw out a quick answer to the question, about MB is mapped into the virtual memory space of any app specifically written for Mac OS X not the various UNIX tools and services.


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  • However, this doesn't take up disk space in the swap file, nor is it actually using memory - this MB consists of just common OS libraries that are mapped into the address space of every application. For that matter, most of the IOKit isn't even loaded into physical memory.

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    It's certainly not wired, or at least not in its entirety, since I've only got MB of wired memory on my system at the moment. Most likely the IOKit is loaded up and then most of it is paged to disk, since I'm sure a substantial chunk isn't used at any given time. In fact, it may not really even be MB; that number seems a little too perfect, making me think there's some other reason it's exactly N pages One more thing - I've never used it before I just ran across it in the man pages for vmmap , but there's apparently this nifty "leaks" command you can run that searches for unreferenced malloc'd memory in a given process.

    Maybe that would help with tracking down memory leaks, as someone was asking about earlier? Then again, they had constantly-growing wired memory, which sounds like a proliferation of kernel objects, so it might not help in that case, dunno. This is a great site.

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    Thank you for your information. Ok people. I speak English. I don't read or speak any other language. If you have something constructive to add to the discussion, do it in English, please. If I can't understand what you're writing, I'll remove it. First of all, I found your topic about physical memory in Mac useful. Thanks for letting me know the facts. I just wanted to know why inactive memory tend to quickly eat up all the free memory making the capacity seem almost in a single digit!

    Once you completely delete it, the inactive RAM is freed. Again, page-ins aren't a terrible thing, you're just reading something into memory to be used. And as long as you have plenty of physical memory you can page in all you want.

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    The problem comes when you have to swap something out to virtual memory in order to have room to page in. This is when you start thrashing. Hey Thanks, I have been a linux admin for over 10 years and my home mac mini was running real bad. Just want to say that, as accurate as this information is, when the little green slice of my memory pie starts to get thin 50MB or less everything grinds to a halt even though there's MB of Inactive. Many thanks for this useful information, and thanks to other contributors for the useful links. Bookmarking, with respect Thank a lot for the information.

    I was freaking out because my activity monitor widget was telling me i was using a lot of memory and i didn't know why.

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    Lion uses a lot of the memory when i start multitasking so having four gigs of ram on my pro is apparently a necessity. I am relatively new to the mac world but I need to use parallels pretty much all day. I was running into problems when my free memory is pretty much obsolete. I had the guy that works on our macs come in and upgrade the memory. So now I have a processor that is 3. From what I understand that this is pretty close to top of the line?

    Why Is My Mac System Storage So Big? (MacMost #1808)

    But when I run the parallels and all of the applications that I use day to day once my free memory becomes really small this mac starts acting crazy Do you have any suggestions? Please email me if you like This could be a contributing factor.

    Free Up Inactive Memory On Your Mac Using The Terminal Purge Command

    We are new to Mac and seem to have out MacBook running slow. All my wife runs is Safari and MSN most of the time. We keep getting the pin wheel. Our number are like this: Free 8. Any ocean why this are Soooo slow and why the pin wheel keeps coming up? Please help. I have no idea what Packrat is, but list your processes by Real Memory usage in Activity Monitor and you can see who the culprits of using the most memory are. Sometimes just quitting Safari for a minute or two can free up a surprising amount of memory.