If your Mac regularly runs into problems or you frequently experience the dreaded spinning color wheel, one of the potential causes could be your Mac’s RAM running at close to its maximum capacity.
While memory management in macOS, including techniques like using your startup disk as virtual memory, is excellent these days, there are also more demands being placed on RAM thanks to new features and improvements. The more your Mac has to resort to virtual memory, the less well it will perform. And while the best solution is, if you can, to add more RAM, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce memory usage on your Mac.
First thing, find out what apps and processes are using the most memory. You can do that using iStat Menus.
Tip: By default, iStat Menus shows only five processes, but you can make it show more. On the Dashboard, click the Memory tab and click on the Processes to show menu and select the number of processes you want to see.
Hover over the colored bar chart in each section to see a larger graph of memory usage. You can click on the tabs at the top of the graph to change the time period over which it shows memory usage.
By now, you’ll have a good idea of how your Mac’s memory has been used and whether it’s caused your Mac to have problems. For a more detailed view on the processes that are hogging RAM, go to the bottom of the iStat Menus and click on the Activity Monitor icon (bottom panel, left most icon).
One common culprit for hogging RAM 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.
While we’re talking about Finder, your desktop behaves in a similar way. Icons on your desktop are drawn and redrawn each time it changes, and their preview images are stored in RAM, so you can use Quick Look. The more files you have on your desktop, the more pressure they put on your Mac’s memory. The simplest solution is to move files off the desktop. Declutter (available in Setapp) can help here. It moves files from your desktop to color-coded folders automatically, based on rules you set.
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.
CleanMyMac, one of the apps in Setapp, makes it very easy to uninstall login items, extensions, preference panes, and applications that you no longer need.
Note: Not all login items can be removed on their own. Those that can’t have an “i” in place of the checkbox. Click on it to find out why it can’t be removed. One common reason is being required by the application that installed it — the only way to remove it would be to uninstall the application.
If you don’t use the application, click on the Uninstaller tool in Utilities in CleanMyMac. Check the box next to the name of the app and click Uninstall. The app, its associated files, and the login item will be removed.
Adobe Flash is a major culprit when it comes to hogging RAM and making your Mac run more slowly. Most videos on the web today don’t need Flash. To remove it, click on the Extensions tool in CleanMyMac, then Preferences Panes. Check the box next to Flash and click Remove.
While Chrome extensions are shown in CleanMyMac, you have to remove them from Chrome. If you identify a Chrome extension that uses too much RAM, launch Chrome, click on the Window menu, then Extensions. Scan the list of extensions and click the trash can icon next to those that are too RAM-heavy or no longer needed.
Consider that every time you use your Mac it slows down a little bit. You use more files, install more apps, and take up more storage. While going through the cleaning process described above isn’t an everyday routine, try to schedule it monthly and stick to it. Your Mac will thank you for it.