How to See Which Programs Are Using All Your Mac’s Memory

The activity monitor icon.

If you’re still running low on memory on your Mac, it’s easy to see which app or process is consuming it in Activity Monitor. This utility is included with every copy of macOS. Here’s how to check and how to fix it.

To get started, open the activity monitor. You can do this by pressing Command + period (.) Or by clicking the Search icon in the menu bar. Type “Activity Monitor” in the search box, then press Enter.

Click on the “Memory” tab in “Activity Monitor”.

You will see a list of the processes (programs, applications, system functions, etc.) running on your computer, along with the amount of memory used by each.

The box at the bottom of the window will show you the total amount of memory used. If the number of “memory used” is greater than the number of “physical memory”, your Mac relies on virtual memory (or Swap) to work. As a result, your system may run slower than usual.

If you want to see which programs are using the most memory, click the arrow next to the “Memory” column heading. The processes will be sorted again according to the amount of memory they use, from largest to smallest.

Go through the list from top to bottom. Look for any processes that appear to be using an oddly large amount of memory. What will be labeled “suspicious” depends on how you use your computer and what programs you have.

For example, if you frequently render complex video or audio projects, or edit large files, you might not be surprised that an application is using a huge amount of memory.

If, however, the process using a large amount of memory is not what you expect, the program may not work properly. If so, you can force it to quit. To do this, select the process from the list, then click on the “X” at the top left.

Click “Force Quit” in the dialog box that appears to confirm.

The process will close, and hopefully your Mac will return to normal. It may also be a good idea to restart your Mac, which may solve a variety of problems.

RELATED: Why does restarting a computer solve so many problems?

If you’ve closed all the memory-hungry processes and restarted your computer, but are still running low on memory, here are some other things to try:

Buy more RAM: You may be able to purchase more RAM in a module to install on your Mac. Contact Apple support or make an appointment at an Apple Store for advice on what kind of memory your Mac might need.
Open fewer apps or browser tabs at once: The more applications you use simultaneously, the more memory they require. Close any programs that you are not actively using. Also, limit the number of open browser tabs, as these can also consume a lot of memory.
Free up hard drive space: When available memory is low, your Mac automatically uses some of its hard disk drive (SSD) storage as “virtual memory”. It’s much slower than actual physical RAM chips. If you ever see the message “Your system has run out of application memory”, you are probably running out of physical memory and available storage space. Free up space, then see if the problem persists.
Update your apps: Sometimes an application might have a bug that mistakenly consumes memory. Try update it. If that doesn’t work, you can also try macOS update.

Having enough memory is very important to run modern systems and applications. If you have an older Mac and none of the tips above help, it’s probably time to consider upgrading your computer.

RELATED: 10 ways to free up disk space on your Mac’s hard drive

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.