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Few things are more frustrating than your Mac telling you it has run out of memory when you're trying to be productive. It's more frustrating when you've ignored the problem for quite some time and your Mac's limitations simply won't let you put a solution on hold any longer.

  • How to get rid of low memory notifications

Usually, a popup warning isn't the first sign that something is amiss. You may have noticed that your Mac isn't running as fast as it used to, with the fan louder than normal as if it's struggling to carry a heavy load up a hill.

Although Macs are wonderful computers, they have limitations. Thankfully, there is plenty you can do to resolve this problem and get your Mac operating smoothly again.

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Your system has run out of application memory - Fix it

Mac memory usage is often occupied by apps, even browsers like Safari or Google Chrome. In the most dire circumstances, your Mac will toss a warning at you: 'your system has run out of application memory.'

Don't despair – it's solvable. The first thing to note is this is a natural issue; your Mac has a limited amount of RAM. Though more expensive Macs have more RAM, even they can butt against limitations when too many applications are running.

It may also be an app that is hogging all of your resources. This is especially true of older applications which haven't been optimized for modern computer architecture. Websites may also be a culprit.

Check RAM usage on Mac

To check your RAM use on any Mac, take the following steps:

  1. Open Activity Monitor from your list of applications
    Note: You can do this is the Mac's control center, via the Finder in your Mac's dock, or by pressing command-space and typing 'Activity Monitor' in the Spotlight search field.
  2. Toggle to the 'Memory' pane in the Activity Monitor window

As you see in the above screenshot, Activity Monitor shows you all of your processes, sub-processes, and how much memory each is taking up. The most pertinent portion of the window is the bottom, where it shows you the total memory usage, and how it's affecting your Mac.

A better way to monitor your Mac's memory use is with iStat Menus. After installing the app, it makes a home in your Mac's menu bar, and monitors just about everything, including memory, CPU, GPU, disks, and network usage.

You can choose which systems you'd like to monitor in the app itself. Only the items you're monitoring will have an icon in your menu bar. A simple click on the menu bar icon surfaces a drop-down menu of how your Mac is performing at the time, and hovering over each graphic brings up a larger menu, as you can see below.

How to check CPU usage on Mac

Checking CPU use on your Mac is similar to the steps above for checking memory use. For Activity Monitor, you'd make sure to highlight the 'CPU' section of the window. This will show you all the processes using your Mac's CPU at the time.

Similarly, iStat Menus has a 'CPU & GPU' toggle just above the memory section. Activating that will add a CPU and GPU monitor to your Mac menu bar, which has the same interactivity as the memory icon and menu shown above.

How to free up memory on Mac

Knowing how to clear memory on Mac is important, especially if you have a Mac with limited resources. One option is using Activity Monitor:

  1. Open Activity Monitor on your Mac
  2. Select an app using a lot of memory
  3. Click the 'x' icon on the top left of the screen

This is straightforward, but there's a better way. CleanMyMac X has an automated CPU and memory monitors built-in, which can give you a real-time view of memory usage in your Mac's menu bar. It also has a really quick and easy way to free up memory without digging through Activity Monitor and manually shutting down apps.

All you have to do is click the CleanMyMac X icon, select 'Free Up' in the memory pane, and the app takes care of the rest! Oftentimes, it doesn't even shut apps down.

This is a quick fix, but CleanMyMac X takes it a step further in the app itself. Under the app's 'Maintenance' section is an option to 'Free Up RAM,' which helps you clear RAM on Mac. Once you've got this option selected, simply select 'Run' at the bottom of the window, and CleanMyMac X will do a thorough scrubbing of your Mac's RAM, and clear unused files out of the way.

How to get rid of low memory notifications

Most apps are pretty good about how they use your Mac's resources. Having too many open or running in the background can severely limit what your Mac can handle, and is often why a Mac overheats or slows down.

Here are a few tips to reduce high memory usage manually if you're experiencing unique warnings or issues:

Fix 'kernel_task', a high CPU usage bug

You may have noticed through Activity Monitor something called kernel_task absorbing a large amount of processing power. One of the functions of kernel_task is to help manage CPU temperature; you may find that your Mac fan is loud and always on, even if the device isn't hot to the touch.

kernel_task usually performs this way when one or more applications are trying to use too much CPU. Unfortunately, one of the potential downsides is a Mac can overheat to such an extent that internal systems are damaged, sometimes irreparably.

Working through the following steps in this article is one way to avoid similar problems. If none of this work and kernel_task is still absorbing a high percentage of your CPU, then one or more of the following could be the cause:

  • Cooling system inefficiency
  • A failed or disconnected temperature sensor
  • Another hardware issue, including a worn out batter
  • Your System Management Controller needs a rest

If you're experiencing severe issues, Apple recommends a system management controller (SMC) reset. It's essentially a hard reset for your Mac, and should help your RAM and other hardware components start from scratch. Keep in mind you won't lose any data in this process.

Reduce memory usage in Finder

One common culprit for RAM issues is Finder, your Mac's file manager. If iStat Menus or Activity Monitor has highlighted Finder as using hundreds of MBs of RAM, there is an easy solution: change the default display for a new Finder window so it doesn't show All My Files.

  1. Click on the Finder icon in the Dock and click on the Finder menu, then select Preferences
  2. Click on General. Under 'New Finder windows show', click the dropdown menu and choose any option except All My Files
  3. Close Preferences, press Alt-Control, and click on the Finder icon in the Dock. Click Relaunch

Finder will now relaunch with new windows opening at the option you selected in step two.

Improve Chrome's Task Manager

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Chrome is a popular browser, but it's a resources hog! Chrome uses a GPU Process as standard, which means it speeds up the loading of web pages, which can be great except at times when your computer is struggling with insufficient RAM.

Here's how:

  1. Open Chrome on your Mac
  2. On the right side of the Chrome window, select the three-dot menu
  3. Select 'More tools'
  4. Select 'Task Manager'
  5. Select a Chrome process you'd like to kill
  6. Select 'End Process' at the bottom right of the window

Here's another way to reduce Chrome's use of your Mac's memory:

  1. Open Chrome on your Mac
  2. On the right side of the Chrome window, select the three-dot menu
  3. Select 'settings'
  4. Scroll to the bottom of the page and select 'advanced'
  5. Scroll down to 'System,' and toggle 'Use hardware acceleration when available' off

This will affect how Chrome runs on your Mac, and your experience won't be as smooth. Hauppauge wintv hvr 2250. You can also remove unused or unwanted Chrome extensions to help it use less resources on your Mac.

Get CMM X to free up space

Install CleanMyMac X and streamline the entire process of memory management on Mac. Clever memory usage control done for you.

Clean up browsers

In every browser you use regularly, there are always going to be extensions and popups that take up space and use RAM. You can manage each one manually, or use a tool such as CleanMyMac X to identify and delete them.

In the CleanMyMac X app is a section titled 'Extensions,' which lists each extension you have for your browser or browsers. All you have to do is view the list of extensions, select the ones you no longer want, and remove them. It's really that simple!

Disable login items

Login items, browser extensions, and preference panes, such as Flash, are another common source of memory usage. Most of us have several installed that we rarely use, but which hog memory and reduce performance.

One way to do this is through System Preferences:

  1. From your Mac menu bar, select 'System Preferences'
  2. Select 'Users & Groups'
  3. Select 'login items'
  4. Deselect items you no longer want active at login

Another way, one that is even quicker, is to employ CleanMyMac to identify and cleanup login items.

  1. Open CleanMyMac X
  2. Under 'Speed,' select 'Optimization'
  3. Select 'login items'

You can remove all login items, or select the ones you'd like to remove individually on the right side of the window.

Disable desktop widgets

Mac

Older Macs running a version of macOS older than Catalina can disable widgets. Desktop widgets can provide a useful shortcut to apps you need to access fairly often. But they can take up processing memory that is slowing your whole Mac down. One way to close them completely is in System Preferences.

Go to: Mission Control > switch off the Dashboard

Declutter your desktop

Apple's built in decluttering tool is handy for many. All you have to do on your cluttered desktop is right-click, then select 'Use Stacks.' This places all of your desktop files into folders unique to their filetype, like 'screenshots' and 'images.'

A better way is to use Spotless, an app that gives you far more control over how your Mac is organized. It has several triggers for automated cleanup of files on your desktop, placing them wherever you see fit. It's particularly useful for power users who produce several files daily, but don't want to take the time to place each in a respective folder.

You can also select many files on your Mac desktop, and tell Spotless to tidy them up. You always have full control!

Schedule regular cleanups

Constant use of your Mac, or leaving it on all the time, will slow it down over time. Shutting it down and restarting is a traditional way of 'cleaning up' a computer.

We also like CleanMyMac X's scheduled cleanup feature. Telling the app when you'd like to perform a thorough cleaning up of your Mac's system is a method many prefer to shutting down and restarting often. It has the upshot of removing files and folders you no longer use, and cleaning up tasks that are slowing your Mac down behind the scenes. A simple shutdown may not do this.

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Keeping your Mac in tip-top shape is critical. While we'd all like to think computers are brilliant little devices that can handle anything, they need some care, too.

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All of the apps mentioned in this article help with taking care of your Mac, and protecting your investment. Best of all they're each free as part of a seven day trial of Setapp. Give it a try today!

Setapp lives on Mac and iOS. Please come back from another device.

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“No matter what I do, my Mac is still slow”, an average tech-consultant hears this phrase multiple times a day. Give a person even the most powerful computer, and pretty soon it will be cluttered with apps, extensions, and things that are too much for it to handle. To reverse it, one has to go back and сlean up the mess, removing memory agents one by one. Prepare for a fight — every byte of memory is at stake. So let’s put your Mac on a diet and get it more free RAM to breathe freely.

First, remove desktop clutter. Get a combination of Setapp apps that clear away unneeded desktop files.

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“Your system has run out of application memory”

How do you know your Mac is low on memory? Floating “rainbow wheels” aside, you may notice your Mac now takes ages to load. You’ll also see many browser applications crashing. You’ll be also thrown warning messages as “Your system has run out of application memory”. To help it, you should first visit the Activity monitor to see memory usage on Mac.

How to check RAM usage on Mac

Go to Applications and type in Activity Monitor in the search bar. This invokes a good old Activity Monitor that should tell how much free memory you’ve got left.

A shortcut to open Activity Monitor:

Press F4 and start typing Activity Monitor in the search bar.

I’ve attached a screenshot from my Mac and as you can see my memory usage almost reached full capacity. Here’s what it all means:

App memory: taken by apps and processes
Wired memory: reserved by apps, can’t be freed up
Compressed: inactive, can be used by other apps
Swap used: memory used by macOS
Cached files: memory you can really use

Notice the colored graph under Memory Pressure. If your graph is all but red and yellow, your Mac is really gasping for fresh memory. It seems counter-intuitive, but “available memory” your Activity Monitor is not that important after all. In fact, it’s a system intended behavior to use all memory resources when available. On the contrary, the Memory Pressure graph is much more telling, so grow a habit to check this graph in the Activity Monitor every now and then.

How to check CPU usage on Mac

Open the CPU tab in Activity Monitor to keep in check CPU-heavy processes. Normally an app would be using 0-4% of CPU. If it takes abnormally more than that, go inside that particular item in the list and press the Quit button.

How to free up memory on Mac

Tip # 1. Remove Login Items to lower Mac memory usage

Login items are programs that load automatically upon Mac startup. Some of them covertly add themselves to the list and this is no good. If you’re looking to free up RAM, they are the first candidates for deletion. Don’t worry, you’re not deleting the app itself, you just stop it from auto-launching every time.

So, to remove Login Items and at the same time reduce your memory usage of your Mac, you need to:

  1. Open System Preferences and select Users & Groups.
  2. Click your nickname on the left.
  3. Select the Login Items tab.
  4. Check programs you don’t want to load as your Mac starts.
  5. Press the “–” sign below.

Now, you won’t see these apps pop up the moment you turn on your Mac. Although this method doesn’t require some superpowers of yours, some special Mac optimization and memory cleaner tools may do the job faster and ensure the smooth performance of your Mac. CleanMyMac X is an excellent example of such software. Here’s how to disable Login Items with CleanMyMac X:

  1. Download it for free and go to the Optimization tab.
  2. Check Login Items to see the list of apps that get opened when you start your Mac.
  3. Click Remove.

As you’ve already come to the Optimization module of CleanMyMac, you can also fix hung apps and heavy memory consumers there. In this way, you’ll free up the solid amount of RAM on Mac — 100% free of charge.

Tip # 2. Free up disk space if Mac is low on memory

The available space on your Mac’s drive translates into virtual memory. This comes to save you when you’ve run out of physical RAM. So now your computer relies on your hard drive space to keep your apps going.

The classic geek rule of thumb holds it that you should keep at least 20% of disk space on your startup drive. Not only this potentially reduces your future spending on iCloud storage but it also keeps your Mac speedier.

What to delete to free up space:

  • Large unused files, like movies
  • Old downloads
  • Rarely used applications
  • System junk

But here’s a simpler solution to save your time — clean up your drive with CleanMyMac X— the app I’ve mentioned above. Many users recommend it as an excellent way to free up more space because it searches for large & old files, useless system files, Photo junk, mail attachments and shows everything you can safely delete. Interestingly, it finds about 74 GB of junk on an average computer.

Extra trick: How to free up RAM on Mac with CleanMyMac X

If you have downloaded CleanMyMac, you may also take advantage of its amazing feature — the ability to free up RAM in a few seconds. Try this next time you see “Your system has run out of application memory” message.

  1. Go to the Maintenance tab on the left.
  2. Click Free Up RAM.
  3. Click Run.

As simple as that!

And you can do it even if you download a free version of the app.

Tip # 3. Clean up your Desktop

This tip always comes at the bottom of instructions and unfairly so as it is quite effective. Without even looking at your Desktop I would assume it’s cluttered with mountains of icons. Thing is, your macOS was designed in a way that it treats every Desktop icon as a little active window. The more icons, the heavier memory usage on Mac. So in order to release available memory resources, it’s recommended to keep your Desktop clean.

You don’t have to do it all by yourself. With apps like Declutter and Spotless, every desktop cleaning session will be scheduled in advance and executed automatically. Your only job is to define the rules on how your files should be organized.

Tip #4. Clear cache files

Another way to free up RAM on Mac is to clear it of cache files. Of course, it won’t save you gigabytes of space, but deleting cache regularly, you can help your Mac run faster and avoid system issues.

So, to remove cache files on your Mac, you need to:

  1. Open Finder.
  2. From the Go menu, select Go to Folder.
  3. Type ~/Library/Caches in the field and press Go.
  4. In the window that appears, you will see all your cache files.
  5. Press Command+A to select all files or delete files one by one.
  6. Enter your user name and password to confirm.

If you find some files still in the folder after you emptied it, maybe you have some windows open on your Mac. Just like that, you can save up some space on your Mac. Don’t forget to empty the bin afterward.

Tip # 5. Tune up Chrome’s Task Manager

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Although Google Chrome is not the one to blame for massive memory usage, it can indeed affect your Mac's performance. If you use Chrome as your primary browser, you probably have many windows opened there. Chrome runs a lot of processes to ensure a fast browsing experience for you. So, it uses your RAM for storing your tabs, plugins, and extensions. Look at how many entries Google Chrome has in Activity Monitor:

The question then arises, 'Why does Chrome use so much RAM?' The thing is that each process is responsible for a separate plugin or extension of your browser. For example, when a tab unexpectedly falls, you need to refresh it to continue your work there. If one process were responsible for all tabs and extensions, you would need to restart the whole browser instead. Can you imagine how many times would you do that? That’s the proper answer to why Chrome uses so much RAM.

I’ve been using Chrome for some years only to discover (recently) that Chrome had a task manager of its own. You can use it to force quit memory-heavy processes in the browser. It’s a handy tool because it lets you see how a page weighs on CPU usage on a Mac.

  1. Go to Chrome settings (dotted icon in the top right corner)
  2. Click More tools -> Task Manager

To free up even more RAM, close the GPU process. The GPU Process, though helpful in theory to accelerate pages, eats up a considerable amount of memory. Click to end it to free up RAM on your Mac.

Tip # 6. Manage RAM usage with CleanMyMac X menu

CleanMyMac X has another useful and convenient feature for managing your Mac’s performance and memory usage. As you install CleanMyMac X and start it for the first time, it’s icon will appear in your menu bar. Click the icon to open the CleanMyMac X menu. Here you can find updates on the current condition of your Mac and perform quick tweaks to increase your Mac's speed. Whenever you feel like your Mac underperforms, open the CleanMyMac X menu to check how much RAM is available and free it up as well.

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Tip # 7. Close Finder windows

Okay, suppose you’re still asking yourself, how do I clear RAM on my MacBook Pro/MacBook Air. The next trick is as magical (you’ll see for yourself) as it is time-saving. It’s no secret that each window in the Finder eats up RAM. But how many open windows are there? Some of them are collapsed or stacked in some blind spot on your screen. This Finder command merges all your windows into one. See how to do it:

Click on Finder > Window > Merge All Windows

Now you can manage Finder windows more effectively and free up memory on MacBook.

What else you can do to minimize memory usage on Mac

I’ve saved the easiest tips for the end, as long as these ones are self-explanatory.

  • Replace AdBlock (very memory-demanding) with a lighter extension
  • Keep fewer opened tabs in the browser
  • Restart your Mac more often to free up RAM
  • Close all hung-up print queues

That was my take on how to make your Mac a bit speedier to use. If you’re looking for more guidance, check simple ways to speed up your Mac.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to check application memory on Mac?

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To check RAM usage on your Mac, go to Activity Monitor (Applications > Utilities). In the Memory tab, you will see all the active processes that are using your Mac’s RAM. At the end of the window, there is a Memory Used graph, which indicates how much application memory is used.

How to find out whether your Mac needs more RAM?

Your Mac may be using almost all its RAM, but you don’t need more if it’s using it efficiently. Open Activity Monitor and go to the Memory tab. The Memory Pressure graph shows the current condition of your RAM: green color means your Mac’s using RAM effectively, while yellow is a sign that some application or process is using too much of application memory. The red memory pressure signals that your Mac needs more RAM.

How to quickly free up RAM on your MacBook?

Mac Memory Cleaner App

To free up RAM on your Mac, firstly, you should find out what app uses so much of your memory. The memory-heavy programs are listed in Activity Monitor, Memory tab. If there is an app you aren’t using at the moment, click it and press the “X” sign to quit it. This will, in turn, free some of the application memory

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