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How to Check the Memory Usage on a Mac: 2 Quick Ways

Monitor your Mac’s memory usage with Activity Monitor and MacKeeper.

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Last updated: December 9, 2023

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TL;DR

To check the memory usage on a Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Finder icon in the Dock to open a Finder window.
  2. Click Go in the menu bar and select Utilities.
  3. Find and open Activity Monitor in the Utilities folder.
  4. Click the Memory tab in Activity Monitor to view the memory usage details.

You can also use MacKeeper to see occupied and available memory on your Mac.

As a Mac user, I’ve experienced the frustration of a sluggish system. Over time, I realized the importance of regularly checking memory usage to maintain optimal performance. In this guide, I’ll share two efficient methods for monitoring and managing memory on your Mac. I’ve tested these methods on my MacBook Air M2, 2022, but they work on many older models, too.

Before We Begin

When your Mac runs out of memory, it starts using virtual memory, resulting in sluggish performance. Download MacKeeper to monitor your memory usage and free up RAM in a few simple steps.

1. Check the Memory Usage on a Mac Using the Activity Monitor

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Activity Monitor is the Mac Task Manager equivalent, a reliable tool for tackling slow performance and preventing crashes. This built-in utility in macOS offers real-time insights into your Mac’s operations, helping you understand and manage what’s happening on your system.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to check the memory usage on a Mac using the Activity Monitor:

  1. Click the magnifying icon in the menu bar to open Spotlight Search.
click the magnifying icon in the menu bar at the top
  1. Type Activity Monitor in Spotlight and press Enter.
type activity monitor in spotlight search
  1. Click the Memory tab to see the memory usage statistics for each app.
click the memory tab in activity monitor
  1. Here, you’ll see a list of running processes and how much memory they are using. By default, the processes are sorted by their memory usage, with the most memory-intensive processes at the top of the list.
memory usage column in activity monitor
  1. At the bottom of the Activity Monitor window, you’ll see a Memory Pressure chart that shows if your Mac needs more RAM (yellow or red) or if it has sufficient memory (all green).
memory pressure bar at the bottom of activity monitor

How to Interpret Memory Usage Statistics in Activity Monitor

After checking your Mac’s memory usage, it’s important to interpret the statistics to understand your computer’s performance fully. Each metric offers valuable insights into the state of your Mac’s memory.

Let’s explore the meaning of each statistic:

Memory Usage StatisticInterpretation
🧠 Memory PressureThis graph indicates the level of pressure on the Mac’s memory. If the chart is green, it means there is enough memory. If it’s yellow or red, it indicates the Mac needs more memory.
📊 Memory UsedThis refers to the amount of memory currently in use by the Mac.
📂 Cached FilesThis is the amount of memory used by the Mac to cache files for faster access. It is a normal process and doesn’t necessarily indicate any problem.
🧾 Swap UsedThis indicates the amount of virtual memory used by the Mac.
📦 CompressedThis is the amount of memory compressed by the Mac to save space. If the number is high, it may suggest that the Mac is running out of physical memory.
📄 Page OutsThis indicates the amount of data the Mac has to move from RAM to virtual memory. If there are many page outs, it means the Mac is running out of physical memory and relying on virtual memory.

2. Check Memory Usage on Mac Using MacKeeper

Using Activity Monitor to check the memory usage on a Mac is fine, but I personally find it hard to read the memory pressure graph. So, to avoid confusion, I use MacKeeper – an awesome third-party application that will help you keep your memory usage in check. You can see how much memory your Mac uses and then free it up right from the app.

Follow these steps to check and free up RAM on your Mac with MacKeeper:

  1. Download MacKeeper and install it on your Mac.
  2. Open Mackeeper and click Memory Cleaner in the left sidebar.
select memory cleaner under performance
  1. Click Open to start the Memory Cleaner.
click open in the memory cleaner
  1. You can see the occupied and available memory on your Mac. Tap the Clean Memory button to free up available memory.
click clean memory
  1. Once the memory cleaning cycle is complete, it will free up available memory and you’ll see how many GBs it cleaned in the last cleanup.
memory cleaned after a cycle

What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

Besides checking and freeing up your Mac’s RAM, MacKeeper can perform plenty of other Mac optimization tasks. You can use it to clear the cache on your Mac, remove duplicate files, and keep your apps up to date. Read my detailed MacKeeper review to learn more about these features.

Free Up Memory on Mac Using Activity Monitor

Examining the Activity Monitor can help you identify which apps are hogging up all the system resources and slowing down your Mac. But you can also use it to free up the RAM.

Follow these steps to free up the memory using Activity Monitor on Mac:

  1. Open the Activity Monitor by navigating to Finder > Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor.
open activity monitor in utilities
  1. Click the Memory tab to see the current memory usage by all running applications.
click the memory tab in activity monitor
  1. The processes are sorted by their memory usage by default. If not, sort the list by clicking the Memory column to see which applications are using the most memory.
click memory in activity monitor to sort by memory usage
  1. If you see an application using a lot of memory, you can force quit it. To do that, select the app and click the X button in the top menu.
select a program and click the small cross in the top menu

Freeing up RAM improves your Mac’s performance but also causes applications to reload data from scratch, which may take some time.

Tips to Reduce Memory Usage on Your Mac

Maximizing the efficiency of your Mac’s memory ensures smooth performance, especially when multitasking or running demanding apps. From personal experience and gathered expertise, I’ve compiled a set of practical tips to help reduce memory usage on your Mac.

To use less memory on your Mac, consider these tips:

  1. 🚪 Regularly Close Unused Applications: I’ve found that many of us keep apps open we’re not using. It’s a simple habit to develop: frequently check and close apps on your Mac to free up valuable memory.
  2. 🛠️ Manage Startup Items: It was a game-changer for me when I cleaned up my Login Items. You’d be surprised how much smoother your Mac starts up without unnecessary apps. I use MacKeeper for this, but you can also clean up via System Settings.
  3. 🌐 Optimize Browser Usage: As someone who tends to open too many tabs, I’ve learned that disciplined browser use is key. Fewer tabs and extensions mean less memory strain.
  4. 🔄 Keep Your Mac Updated: Always update your macOS. Those updates often come with optimizations to enhance your Mac’s memory usage.
  5. 🧰 Use Memory Management Tools: Tools like MacKeeper have been helpful for me in managing memory without much hassle. They’re worth trying out to streamline memory usage.
  6. 🔄 Increase Virtual Memory: While not a permanent solution, increasing virtual memory can temporarily relieve memory constraints. Keeping your disk from getting too full can help the operating system efficiently manage virtual memory, providing better performance under memory constraints.
  7. 💾 Upgrade Hardware: If your Mac is older and supports hardware upgrades, this can be a worthwhile investment. More RAM equals better performance.

Monitor the Memory Usage on Your Mac

Now that you know how to check and interpret memory usage statistics, here are some more tips for managing memory usage on your Mac:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How much memory should my Mac have?

    Your Mac should have at least 4GB of RAM for basic tasks and 8GB of RAM for more demanding tasks. Higher amounts of RAM will improve your computer’s speed and enable it to run more complex tasks. It is also important to choose an SSD hard drive over a traditional hard drive to make your Mac faster and more responsive.

  2. Can I add more memory to my Mac?

    You can add more memory to your Mac, but it depends on its model. Some Macs allow upgrading the RAM, while others don’t. For instance, you cannot upgrade the RAM on a MacBook Air. So, check your Mac’s specifications to see if it’s possible to upgrade the RAM.

  3. What should I do if my Mac runs out of memory frequently?

    If your Mac runs out of memory frequently, you should optimize your system by closing any unnecessary applications or processes. Also, quit background processes and applications using large amounts of RAM. Additionally, delete unused files and programs to free up valuable RAM resources. Finally, if possible, upgrade your Mac’s RAM to a higher capacity.

Hashir Ibrahim

Author

I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.

Ojash

Reviewer

Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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