What are the performance implications of hiding an application window vs closing it entirely?

For example: When using an instant message client, it can be set to open automatically when the system boots, and it will show the contact list. But the contact list can be screen clutter when it's not in use.

Does it waste resources to hide (CMDH) applications? Or would it be better to close(CMDW) the application window entirely, without actually quitting the application?


I close windows that I don't want to use anymore; I hide an application's windows when they're in the way, but I'll still need to use them eventually.

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It would depend on the application.

If it was a resource heavy one then close the application, if not (as in this case) just hide the window. Particularly if it was something I was likely to use fairly frequently.

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  • oh, so it wouldn't clog up resources or anything? or cause the computer to slow down in any case? – Laurice Jun 29 '10 at 12:33
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    @Laurice - I wouldn't have thought having a list of contacts would slow the computer down in any measurable way, but if you're that worried close the window. – ChrisF Jun 29 '10 at 12:37

Hiding an application saves it state, if you were in a browser window, that web page is still there when you unhide it. On the other hand, closing a window throws away that state, and you can't get it back.

In terms of resources, closing a window saves resources, especially if you have something heavy (think a YouTube movie or Gmail) open in that window.

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You can easily see for yourself: open Applications, Utilities, Activity Monitor. Looking at the numbers for some application kind of tells you how much resources it needs.

Mail, for example, hardly releases any memory when closed (on my Mac, just 4 MB as opposed to hiding). Other programs might release a lot more. Safari hardly releases anything when closing Super User (which is not a resource-demanding site), but might release a lot more when looking at some site that is showing some (paused) Flash video.

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