I have no idea why but I frequently find myself only having ~40MB of RAM left on my MacBook Pro. This is quite strange as I do not have a lot of things open. I only have:

  1. Chrome: 15 tabs
  2. Skype
  3. iTunes
  4. Evernote
  5. Speed Download Lite
  6. Adium

open. Is there something wrong with my RAM/operating system installation? (2GB DDR3)

  • Why do you want your OS to not use your RAM? If the RAM is full, you are running as efficiently as possible, if it's empty, your OS isn't making good use of it. Aug 22, 2010 at 13:46
  • Well, the question is somewhat wrongly worded-It's just talking about RAM space virtually disappearing within Mac OS X.
    – JFW
    Aug 22, 2010 at 14:29

5 Answers 5


Just a small point: Chrome, because of its process-per-tab model, utilises memory like crazy. I've very clearly seen one work colleague wondering why they get slowdowns and disk swapping and the culprit was Chrome with lots of tabs open. Opera with the same pages opened didn't cause this on his machine.


This is not OS 9.

For example, pages of RAM may be marked as inactive and held in memory for a while. Eventually they'll be paged out to disk if space is needed, but they're not hurting anything.

The important numbers to look at are active and wired. That's your real RAM usage.


I think it's normal, you have 2 GB ram and use this program they occupy it.

you can see in you activity monitor how much RAM each of them use.

you must notice about 1-free RAM 2-Wired RAM 3-Active RAM 4-Inactive RAM


This support article from Apple should answer your questions about memory usage: http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1342

In short, follow the advice others said here (pay attention to Wired/Active, ignore Inactive) when calculating how much actual memory you are using. In reality, you only need to worry when you start to see your Swap file usage increasing.


I'm guessing you mean 40Mb real memory and that you notice your machine slowing down (which does seem to happen once you get below 40-50Mb). The VM system allows you to have have more than 2Gb of memory being used by applications, but I do see noticable slowdown when I have iTunes running and a lot of active browser tabs - i.e. a lot of active memory.

My guess is that the real culprits are iTunes (if you have a large collection) and Chrome (15 tabs can eat a lot of memory if the pages are not simple text display). Also all the web browsers seem to slowly leak memory - periodically doing a real 'quit' can recover a lot of active/wired memory.

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