on my MBP I use a small app called "Free Memory". This small app shows me constantly how much free RAM I have available.
Working with Aperture and PDF and other applications all at the same time, quite often I could see that the available RAM WENT down quite drammatically to few Mb and the entire system was very slow until the process was completed.
Since I have increase the RAM to 16 Gb, the problem disapeared completely because I always have some Gb of memory available.
The small app I mentioned above, but I am sure there are others and eventually you can also monitor the RAM usage from the Activity Monitor, would give you a good indication on how much RAM you really use and therefore you can decide if it is worth for you to upgrade or not.
Beside all the accademic discussions I think this is a very pragmatic approach. Look at how much memory you use before upgrading!
This is a pic I took before the upgrade:
Thanks for the tip about FreeMemory!
I went to the AppStore and decided to download the paid version, "FreeMemory Pro" ($0.99). "FreeMemory" is Free! Both apps have strong reviews...if that matters to anyone.
You are absolutely right. It is a nice little app with good information about your RAM status. As this thread has explained, knowing your Free Memory status is not the whole story (i.e. Page Out - Page In, etc.), but it is certainly importaint information and this litttle app makes accessing that information easier than going to the Activitiy Monitor. "Free Memory Pro" also has a feature where it will automatically clear out RAM in inactive status (if your free memory goes below a user determined value-default is 20 MB) and place it into free memory if it is efficient to free up inactive memory. Also, when free memory goes below this limit, the menu bar icon showing how much free memory is available turns red. I don't know if the free version has these features.
So, for users barely getting by on, say, 4-8 GB of RAM this app and these features may just make a positive difference in the permance of their machine. The information it provides seems worth it to me. I recently had this "Smart Auto Free" functionality kick in and and my free memory went from below 20 MB to 1.83 GB of free memory. My MBP only has 4 GB of RAM.
Cheers, Mr. Luigi
The information from FreeMemory may be useful, but keep in mind, the information is freely available in the Activity Monitor included in OS X. If you want to keep your Mac running as efficiently as possible, you might not want Menubar items running full time. Again, fine for doing an analysis, but not the most efficient thing to do full time after you've already done the analysis.
Also, don't "Free Memory" (unless you really know what you're doing*). Free memory is wasted memory. You're potentially slowing down your system when you're freeing memory.
Data goes from being active to inactive. When more memory is needed it's taking from inactive memory dynamically. Otherwise, it stays inactive and available to be called back into active memory instead of being re-loaded from disk (or elsewhere).
So when you you went from 20MB to 1.83GB of free memory, you really went from 1.83GB of available memory to 1.83GB of available memory. And if any of that 1.83GB of memory was memory you were going to re-use, you slowed your Mac down as it had to be re-loaded.
*There are times when freeing memory makes sense, which is why it's available. Often devs will want to do this, or bugs will exist in some apps where freeing memory can resolve the issue (this is rare). For the most part don't free memory unless you really know what you're doing. And remember, inactive memory is a good thing.
Thank you very much for taking the time to respond. Your explanation was very clear and helpful. I was first drawn to using FreeMemory simply for the convenience of having the status of my RAM displayed in a way that was a little more "user friendly" than Activity Monitor as I want to watch my MBP's RAM's status for a couple weeks in anticipation of purchasing a Mac Mini. I know I need to upgrade the RAM from the stock 4 GB the M-Mini comes with. But, I didn't feel as though I had any substantive hard data to decide if I should jump to 8 GB or 16 GB. If 8 GB would more than serve my needs then I would probably just upgrade through Apple. The extra cost is $100 and that is not all that much different than buying "quality" RAM from a third party vendor (I also get a slight discount from Apple as a teacher). However, if my observations point to needing 16 GB then I will go with RAM from a 3rd party vendor as Apple charges $300 for that bump. I can get 16 GB of RAM from a 3rd party vendor for much, much less than that...as we all know!
Anyway, blah...blah...blah! Once I saw all the other functionalities of FreeMemory I thought "What the heck! Go for it." Now I know that was premature.
I am going to go back to settings and use FreeMemory for its original intended purpose. To simply give me a quick, easy way to watch the status of my RAM for a couple weeks before buying my Mac Mini.
Again, thanks so much for sharing your expertise with me.
Best regards, Mr. Luigi
Mr. Luigi wrote:
I was first drawn to using FreeMemory simply for the convenience of having the status of my RAM displayed in a way that was a little more "user friendly" than Activity Monitor
I prefer MenuMeters (free) for this, or iStat Menus.
Hi Network 23,
MenuMeters looks very cool! iStat Menus is jam packed with functionality. I have the iStat widget on my MBP Dashboard. It's a handy little character and free. Here's the link if you're interested.
Thanks for sharing,
I just thought you might find this interesting. When I went to "disarm" the auto smart memory free feature of "Free Memory" I ended up having to go into their help menu. While there I read the following:
You don't have to worry about low values in the menubar and you don't need to push the Free memory option whenever your free memory is low (OS X handles normal memory management issues well). "So why is Free Memory app good for me then?" - you might ask. The click on "Free Memory" menu becomes very useful in various use cases when you know more about how you'll use your apps, so OS X can't guess better than you.
One example: You're done using a big memory consumer app (like Safari or Mail) and you are planning to run something else (a game for example). You check on the menubar and it shows you have not much free memory left. The inactive memory left behind by the app you've closed will be freed up with a click on Free Memory for the new app. (otherwise the inactive memory is just waiting for the closed app to open again faster).
Anyway, this seems to fully support what you were saying (not that I doubted you!). Under normal circumstances OS X does a fine job of handling memory management. There are circumstatances where OS X may not be as smart as the user and FreeMemory gives one example with Safari. I assume this is what you meant by "(unless you really know what you're doing*)"
I think the best solution is to have a butt load of RAM so you don't have to deal with any of this.
Mr. Luigi wrote:
I have the iStat widget on my MBP Dashboard. It's a handy little character and free.
I started out with the widget, but I don't like the Dashboard because you have to leave what you're doing to pull it up. I prefer the menu bar system monitors because you can glance at the menu bar and see what is going on without leaving your work.
The article is correct that page outs are a better indication of whether you are low on RAM. It is also correct that installing lots of RAM is the best and fastest-performing solution of all. Good thing RAM is very affordable these days.
@ Network 23
Agree. Agree. Agree. The iStat dashboard widget would be much more convenient if it wasn't a dashboard widget! I use it sometimes, but agree that something on the menubar is more helpful.
I thought I would also let the forum know that after reading everyone's comments and observing the performance of my computer via menubar info, widgets, activity monitor...I decided to get a Mac Mini, i7 quad core processor, 1 TB hard drive, with stock RAM (4GB). Then I bought a 16GB RAM upgrade from Crucial for $125. 16GB is the largest RAM the new Mac Mini can take. So, I went with the philosophy that "bigger is safer" when it comes to RAM when the RAM is that relatively cheap and one's future RAM needs are often unpredictable.
I also want to thank SierraDragon and dbmoore for the data they recently shared regarding paging out with Aperature and Photoshop. I use both of those applications and it was of great help to have that information.
Cheers and Good Night, Mr. Luigi