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I've already read about the different kinds of memory usage shown in OSX Activity Monitor. However I'm still not clear on how you can tell by looking at Activity Monitor if you are using too much RAM.

Does this look like I need more RAM? I don't like it when the system slows down.

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Edit: I added more memory. How does this look?

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Also, why are the page ins much larger even though the swap is much smaller?

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3 Answers 3

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YES.

I was honestly shocked by the graph you provided--at the moment, it looks like you are FAR overtaxing your system, and are likely experiencing slowdowns that would be alleviated by installing more RAM.

Now, I say yes without qualification because I assume you don't want to cut back on your computing style. 4GB should be enough for even a few applications to be open at one time, as long as they aren't particularly resource-heavy. You could help us figure out the specifics by providing information on the rest of your hardware, OS version, and what applications you usually use.

I recently upgraded my recent iMac from 4GB to 12GB of RAM, and experienced a drastic increase in performance. My RAM usage in Activity Monitor was nowhere near as bad as yours, but my "free" usage (green on the graph) was less than a gigabyte. Multitasking systems like to have a bit of "breathing room." Even though not all of the RAM on your system is "active," the only 10MB free signifies that essentially, every last bit of it is accounted for by something running on your system, which is forcing you to use a large amount of virtual memory for things that should be more readily accessible.

On my 12GB system (which I admittedly have far too many things running on at one time), I have about 2-4GB "free," and I never have to wait for virtual memory to be accessed anymore when switching applications and the like.

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Also, you have only ~620MB Free/Inactive memory, which depending on what you're doing isn't a whole lot. Plus you 2.53GB of swap ins, so you're definitely swapping.

In activity monitor, click on the "Real Mem" column to see what application is using so much memory. Often Safari and/or Firefox (especially if running Flash) tend to be at the top, unless you're using something like Photoshop on large files (which lets you adjust how much memory to max out at)

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Well given that you are using 705MB of swap, and that you have 3.99 GB of your RAM used, I would think it would be safe to say that your machine wouldn't hate you if you added more. However, before deciding if you need more RAM, you should try to track down the culprit and see of there is anything that can be done about it.

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