How to Free Up RAM on Your Mac Featured Image

How to Free Up RAM on Your Mac: 7 Quick Fixes

Optimize your Mac’s performance by freeing up RAM.

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Last updated: December 9, 2023

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TL;DR

To free up RAM on your Mac, use one of the following methods:

  1. Restart your Mac regularly to release RAM used by lingering processes and applications.
  2. Reduce clutter on your desktop as macOS uses memory to display each item.
  3. Use Activity Monitor or MacKeeper’s Memory Cleaner to identify which apps use the most RAM and the close unnecessary ones.
  4. Limit auto-start apps at login to decrease RAM usage at startup.
  5. Delete the cache and junk files regularly.

As someone who has experienced the frustration of a slow Mac, I understand how annoying it is when everything seems to drag. The main culprit? Too much stuff taking up the RAM. I’ve figured out how to handle this problem, and in this guide, I’ll share some of my tried-and-true tips to free up RAM on your Mac.

Before We Begin

If you’re experiencing performance issues on your Mac, it could be due to the lack of available memory (RAM). Download MacKeeper and use its Memory Cleaner to free up RAM on your Mac and address various RAM-related issues in just a few clicks.

How to Check the RAM Usage on Your Mac

Before you free up memory on your Mac, check its RAM usage using Activity Monitor – the built-in macOS tool. Checking your memory usage in Activity Monitor can identify if your Mac is slow due to insufficient memory or other factors, like incompatible software.

To check the memory usage on your Mac using Activity Monitor, follow these steps:

  1. Open Spotlight Search, type Activity Monitor, and press Enter.
type activity monitor in spotlight search
  1. Click the Memory tab in Activity Monitor.
click the memory tab in activity monitor
  1. 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 window, there is 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

Now that you have checked RAM usage on your Mac, let’s see how you can free up memory on your Mac to optimize its performance and prevent crashes.

7 Best Ways to Free Up RAM on Your Mac

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Now that you know which applications and processes are consuming the most memory, try closing them. If that doesn’t work, try one of the following methods to free up memory on your Mac.

I’ve tested all these steps on my MacBook Air M2, 2022, but they also work on other models.

1. Free Up The RAM on Your Mac In One Click Using MacKeeper

Using a Mac memory cleaner can help you free up RAM on your Mac and improve its overall performance. I personally use MacKeeper and it works seamlessly with my system.

Here’s how to use MacKeeper’s Memory Cleaner to free up memory on your Mac:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
  2. Open MacKeeper and click Memory Cleaner under the Performance tab.
select memory cleaner under performance
  1. Click Open.
click open in the memory cleaner
  1. Click Clean Memory.
click clean memory
  1. It will clean your Mac and free up available memory. You can see how much memory it freed under Last Cleanup.
memory cleaned after a cycle

2. Restart Your Mac

Simply restarting your Mac can be an effective way to free up memory. When you restart, all the apps and processes that were hogging the RAM shut down, releasing the memory back to the system. Plus, when your Mac boots up again – it reloads everything more efficiently, often using less RAM than before.

Before restarting your Mac, save unsaved work and close all applications to ensure your files are not lost or corrupted during the restart process.

Here are some of the most common methods I’ve used to restart my MacBook:

  1. Click the Apple menu in the upper-left corner of the screen, and select Restart from the drop-down menu.
click the apple icon and select restart
  1. If you have a frozen Mac and you can’t access the Apple menu or use the keyboard, you can force a restart by pressing and holding the Power button until your Mac turns off and turning it back on again.
macbook pro touch id
  1. Use this Mac keyboard shortcut: Control ^ + Command ⌘ + Power. This will immediately restart your Mac without saving any open and unsaved documents.
macbook air control command power keys

2. Clean Your Desktop

A cluttered desktop doesn’t just look bad, it actually slows down your Mac. You see, macOS uses RAM to display all those icons and previews on your desktop. And if you’re like me, saving everything on the desktop for ‘easy access’, you’re unintentionally bogging down your Mac’s performance.

So, here’s what I do to declutter the desktop and free up some of that precious RAM:

  1. 💻 Evaluate Each Item: I go through every single file and folder on my desktop and ask myself, “Do I really need this here?” If it’s not something I use daily, I move it to a more appropriate spot on my Mac, like a specific folder, or sometimes even to an external hard drive.
  2. 📁 Organize with Folders: Create folders to group related files. This not only cleans up the desktop but also makes it way easier to find what you need.
  3. 🗑️ Discard the Unnecessary: I’m always surprised by how many large, old files I find lurking on my desktop. Getting rid of these, especially the bulky ones, frees up a lot of space.
  4. 🧹 Use a Cleaning Utility: Personally, I find tools like MacKeeper really handy. They clean up system files, cache, and other temporary files that you don’t see but that take up valuable space.

3. Examine the Activity Monitor

Examining the Activity Monitor can help you identify which apps are using the most RAM and free up memory on your Mac if necessary. Here are the steps you can follow:

  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 usage of memory by all running applications.
click the memory tab in activity monitor
  1. The processes are sorted by their memory usage by default. If not, you can 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 that you’re not currently using, you can force quit it by selecting it and clicking the X button in the top-left corner.
select a program and click the small cross in the top menu

Freeing up memory may improve your Mac’s performance, but it causes apps to reload data from scratch, which may take some time.

4. Close the Finder Windows

I’ve noticed that every open Finder window actually consumes RAM. It’s easy to open a new window and forget about it, especially when you’re multitasking. Sometimes, these windows can even get lost, hidden behind other apps, or collapsed in a corner of your screen.

To free up memory on your Mac, close unnecessary Finder windows or merge them together. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Click the Finder icon in the Dock to open a Finder window.
click finder in your dock
  1. Click Window in the menu bar and select Merge All Windows from the drop-down menu.
click merge all windows
  1. This will close separate windows and merge them together. Each window will become a tab in a single window.
merged windows in tabs

5. Delete Cache Files

To free up RAM on your Mac, you can clear your cache files. Cache files are temporary files stored by your Mac to speed up processes and improve performance. However, over time, these files can accumulate and take up a lot of space on your hard drive, leading to poor performance.

Clearing cache files may cause issues with certain apps, so always back up your data on Mac before deleting any files.

Here’s how to delete cache files on your Mac:

  1. Close all the apps on your Mac, as some cache files may be in use and cannot be deleted until the associated app is closed.
  2. Click the Finder icon in your Dock to open a new Finder window.
click finder in your dock
  1. In the Finder menu, click Go and select Go to Folder.
click go in the menu bar and select go to folder
  1. Type the following directory path and press Go:
~/Library/Caches
type library caches in the window
  1. Once you are in the Caches folder, select the cache files you want to delete. You can delete all the files in the folder or select specific app cache files to delete.
  2. After selecting the cache files, press Command ⌘ + Delete or right-click and select Move to Bin.
right click cache files and select move to bin
  1. After deleting the cache files, empty the Bin to permanently delete the files.
right click the bin and select empty bin
  1. Restart your Mac to clear out any remaining cache files that may be taking up space in the RAM.

7. Remove Login Items

Login items are apps or processes set to launch automatically when you log in to your Mac. Having too many login items can slow down your Mac’s startup time and consume system resources. By removing some or all of your login items, you can reduce the amount of RAM your Mac uses during startup and improve its performance.

Follow these steps to remove your login items on your Mac via System Settings:

  1. Click the Apple icon in the top left corner of your screen and tap System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Select General and click Login Items in the right menu.
click general and select the login items tab
  1. Here, you’ll see the items that launch when you start up your Mac. Select the items you want to remove and click the button at the bottom of the list to remove them.
select an item and click the minus icon to delete it

Alternatively, you can use MacKeeper to remove login items on your Mac. Here’s how:

  1. Download MacKeeper and install it on your Mac.
  2. Open Login Items under Performance in MacKeeper.
tap login items under performance
  1. Click Start Scan.
tap start scan
  1. Select unnecessary items from the list and click Remove Selected Items.
select the login items you want to delete and tap remove selected items
  1. Tap the Remove button on the pop-up.
tap remove on the pop up
  1. It will remove your selected items from the system startup list. You can click Rescan to repeat the process.
tap rescan

What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

Besides freeing up RAM and removing login items on your Mac, MacKeeper can perform various Mac optimization tasks, like deleting duplicate files, removing unwanted apps, and blocking ads on your Mac. If you want to learn more about its amazing features, read my detailed MacKeeper review.

Free Up Memory on Mac

Now that you know how to identify memory hogs and free up RAM on your Mac to optimize its performance, here are some tips for maintaining your Mac’s memory health:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I delete system files on Mac to free up RAM?

    No, you should never delete system files on Mac to free up RAM. System files are essential to the operation of your Mac, and deleting them can cause serious issues. Only delete files you’re sure are not needed and avoid deleting any files related to the operating system.

  2. How often should I clear my cache on Mac?

    You should clear your cache on Mac at least once a month to free up memory. However, the frequency may vary depending on your usage and the amount of data you generate. If your Mac is running slow or apps are taking up too much memory, clear their respective caches.

  3. How do I check how much RAM is left on my Mac?

    To check the memory on your Mac, open the Activity Monitor and click the Memory tab. You’ll see your current memory usage information in the Memory Pressure box at the bottom. The color of the graph shows how much of your available memory you’re using. Green means you have memory available, yellow means your Mac is starting to manage memory, red means your memory is depleted.

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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