Mac Performance

How to Free up RAM on Mac

When you don’t have enough RAM, you can experience all sorts of problems with your Mac not working properly. For example, your Mac might perform slowly or continuously freeze. But worry not, as we can help you get rid of RAM on Mac and decrease your computer’s performance-related problems.


Keep reading to learn our experts’ tips on how to lower RAM usage on Mac, along with the top signs you need to hurry up to free up some storage space.


Before we begin


It takes a long time to manually empty RAM on Mac, which is why you should strongly consider using a third-party app that can do most of the difficult work for you. MacKeeper’s Memory Cleaner tool is an efficient way to fix many RAM-related problems, since it only takes a few clicks.


Here’s how to use MacKeeper’s Memory Cleaner tool:

  1. Download MacKeeper.
  2. Go to Performance > Memory Cleaner.
  3. Select Open and tap Clean Memory.

Once you’ve used MacKeeper’s Memory Cleaner, your computer will run more effectively. The program removes cached files, memory that was previously required for using apps, and much more.

What is RAM?

RAM is short for Random Access Memory, and it refers to a relatively small amount of memory space in a computer that is reserved for temporary files. This memory allows a computer to transfer files to and from your system drive while carrying out tasks and processes. It’s essential for your computer to work properly.


RAM is usually measured in GB, and many MacBook computers come with 8GB or 16GB of RAM these days. However, some of the newer devices let you store up to 96GB. In some cases, you can increase your storage capacity and get a RAM upgrade by ordering a custom version.


Below is a table of optimal RAM sizes for different Mac models:

Mac Model

Optimal RAM

2019 MacBook Air (M1 chip)8GB
2019 MacBook Pro (M1 chip)8-16GB
2020 MacBook Air (M1 chip)8GB
2020 MacBook Pro (M1 chip)8-16GB
2021 MacBook Air (M1 chip)8GB
2021 MacBook Pro (M1 chip)8-16GB
2022 MacBook Air (M2 chip)8GB
2022 MacBook Pro (M2 chip)8-24GB
2023 MacBook Air (M2 chip)16-24GB
2023 MacBook Pro (M3 chip)8-96GB
2023 MacBook Pro (M2 chip)8-32GB
2024 MacBook Pro (M3 chip)8-96GB

Don’t confuse RAM with internal storage on your Mac, which is also measured in GB. Internal storage is where you keep all your documents and files, on a separate drive within your computer. You can’t choose to store any files in your RAM. Why, we hear you ask? Because your computer needs to flexibly move files in and out of that memory all the time to work properly.


Think of RAM as your computer’s workspace. It transfers files from long-term storage into the workspace whenever it needs to work on them. The more RAM you have, the bigger the workspace, and the more tasks your computer can handle at once.

What is using RAM on Mac?

You can use RAM on a Mac in several ways, and your device mainly uses it to ensure that programs run as they should.


Here are some of the ways that a Mac will use RAM:

  • Opening apps on your device
  • Processing different actions you take, such as watching a video
  • Writing and editing documents
  • Loading pages on the web
  • Accessing multiple files simultaneously
  • Running games
  • Using design software
  • Editing photos and videos.

For each of these, your RAM will need to use more space. However, the performance will often depend on other factors—such as how many files you already have on your computer.

How much RAM do you need?

Some apps require a lot of RAM to work efficiently, such as 3D design software, video processing apps, and graphics-heavy video games. You’ll also need more RAM to edit photos on your device. But for the most part, 8GB of RAM in a Mac is plenty of memory for almost anything you’re going to throw at it.

5 signs you need to free up more RAM on your Mac

If your Mac tries to do too much at once, it can run out of RAM, causing performance problems. This usually happens when you’ve got lots of demanding apps open at the same time, and they’re all working hard to complete different tasks. You’ll almost certainly have experienced this problem if you’ve tried playing games on your device while also attempting to browse on your desktop in Safari or Google Chrome.


If you don’t have enough RAM on your Mac, you’re likely to see the following problems:

  1. A popup alert says “Your system has run out of application memory.”
  2. Everything on your Mac is slowed down—from opening apps to playing videos.
  3. Typing still works, but there’s a delay before anything appears on the screen.
  4. Apps freeze and become unresponsive to anything you do.
  5. Your entire Mac freezes, and the cursor turns into a colorful spinning pinwheel (also known as the rainbow wheel of death).
When your Mac's RAM needs to perform too many tasks at once, you'll see a colorful pinwheel. Stop this from regularly occurring by lowering RAM usage on Mac.

Many of these issues, like when your Mac is running slow, can come up for other reasons as well, not just because you’ve run out of RAM. Nevertheless, they’re a good indicator that you should check your RAM usage and try to optimize Mac performance.


Further reading: How to Speed up a Mac.

How to check the RAM usage on your Mac

Checking the RAM usage on your Mac is easy. You’ve got the built-in utility called Activity Monitor at your service, and here’s how it works:

  1. Press Command + Space to open Spotlight and type Activity Monitor to find it. If your Mac is unresponsive, try restarting it first by going to Apple > Shut Down. If that doesn’t work, hold down the Power button instead. You may lose any unsaved progress in your open apps if you do this, so make sure you’ve saved everything in advance.
  2. After opening Activity Monitor, go to the Memory tab at the top of the window. This shows a list of all the active apps and processes on your Mac, along with how much memory each of them is using. At the bottom of the window, you should see a Memory Pressure chart along with a breakdown of how your memory is being used.
To check your RAM usage and clear RAM on Mac, go to Spotlight and search for Activity Monitor. Then, open the app to continue the process.
Step 1. Open Activity Monitor via Spotlight
In Activity Monitor, click on the Memory tab. Here, you'll see the top apps for memory consumption. You can then decide which ones you'd like to delete.
Step 2. Move to the Memory tab

You might notice that the breakdown amounts show that almost all of your memory is being used by Memory Used, Cached Files, or Swap Files. This is totally normal. Unused RAM is a wasted resource, so your Mac always tries to use as much as it can, and this shouldn’t be causing any problems.


Having lower amounts of used RAM won’t necessarily improve your Mac’s performance at all.


Instead, the most important thing to look at is the Memory Pressure chart, which shows up in green, yellow, or red based on whether your Mac needs more RAM or not. This chart also shows spikes in time when more RAM is in demand by the system.

The Memory Pressure chart is crucial when understanding RAM usage on Mac. If it's green, your device is running as it should without too much to worry about.

As you might expect, if the Memory Pressure chart is all green, you’ve got nothing to worry about as far as RAM is concerned. When it shows yellow, it means your Mac might benefit from more RAM, and when it shows red, it means your Mac definitely needs more RAM.

Best ways to free up memory on your Mac

If the Memory Pressure chart in Activity Monitor is showing up in yellow or red, then you need to free up some more RAM for your Mac to use. There are several different ways to do this, which we’ll outline below.

1. Restart your Mac

The simplest way to empty RAM on Mac is to restart it. This is especially true if you have a Mac developed after 2018, which doesn’t offer the chance to reset RAM.


Here’s how to restart your MacBook:

  1. Open the Apple menu in the top left-hand corner.
  2. Select Shut Down to confirm the action.
  3. Tap Shut Down again when the pop-up window appears. Once your Mac has powered off, it clears all the files from the RAM.
  4. Click on your keyboard’s standby button to turn your Mac on again.
In the Apple menu, you'll see the option to shut down your Mac. This is an excellent way to free up RAM on your Mac. Select the option to commence.
Step 1. Apple logo > Shut Down
When you opt to shut down your Mac, a pop-up window will appear with a Shut Down button. Select this to turn off your device and subsequently clear RAM on Mac.
Step 2. Select Shut Down

2. Update macOS

It’s possible that a macOS bug is causing your Mac to use more RAM than it needs to. This happens from time to time, but Apple is usually quick to fix it with a patch update.


Here’s how to clear RAM on Mac by updating your computer’s software.

  1. Go to System Settings > General > Software Update to check for new updates, which might fix your RAM problems.
  2. If your device is up to date, you’ll see a message on your screen confirming this. But should you need to get the latest version of macOS, select Update Now.
  3. Confirm that you comply with Apple’s licensing agreement and let your computer install the new software.
Apple releases software updates to fix many glitches, and it might help you empty RAM on Mac. Go to System Settings > General > Software Update to check if you have one.
Step 1. System Settings > General > Software Update
You'll see an option to update your Mac if one is available. You'll need to first agree to Apple's licensing agreement. The update will then commence.
Step 2. Update Now

Hint from our experts: 


Users can also switch on Automatic Updates to ensure that they don’t miss the latest macOS update. The key benefit is that you no longer need to manually check for potential upgrades on your device, allowing you to focus on more important tasks. Here’s how:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Software Update and tap the information icon next to Automatic Updates.
  2. Toggle the following options: Check for updates, Download new updates when available, and Install macOS updates. You can also toggle on Install application updates from the App Store if you want to put that on autopilot as well.
Set your Mac to automatically update and ensure that your device always runs efficiently. Start by going to System Settings > General > Software Update > tapping Available Updates.
Step 1. Settings > General > Software Update > Automatic Updates
Once you've accessed Automatic Updates on your Mac, make sure that you've put the required toggles on for keeping your device always up-to-date.
Step 2. Toggle on the preferred options

3. Close some apps

RAM helps your Mac complete more tasks at once, but we usually only need our Mac to do one or two things at a time. Anything more than that will reduce its capacity to work effectively.


Follow the steps below to close some unnecessary apps on your Mac:

  1. Take a look at the Dock to see if you’ve got many apps open.
  2. Then, control-click and click Quit to close those apps.
In your Dock, you'll see all of the apps currently open. Choose to Quit those that you don't need to use. You should then free up RAM on your Mac.

You might also want to kill background processes on your Mac, using Activity Monitor or a memory cleaning app.

4. Close some windows

Even if you need to keep some apps open, try minimizing how many windows and tabs you’ve got open. Two particularly bad culprits for using a lot of RAM are Finder and web browsers. So, you can decrease the problems you have by closing them. Here’s how:

  1. Go to Finder.
  2. Open Window and select Merge All Windows to change multiple windows to tabs.
  3. Close any windows that you no longer need.
Free up RAM on Mac by minimzing how much you use Finder. Go to Window in the toolbar at the top, before selecting Merge All Windows. Then, remove any tabs you don't need.

Note from our team: We’d like to remind you that you can only pick Merge All Windows if you have more than one window in Finder open. If you don’t, the option will be grayed out on your screen.

In a web browser, like Safari or Google Chrome, close as many tabs as possible so you’ve only got a couple of web pages loaded at a time. You can also empty cache in both browsers if computer performance is your primary concern.

5. Quit processes in Activity Monitor

If something is still using a lot of RAM on your Mac, you should be able to find out what it is by using Activity Monitor. For this purpose, follow our instructions:

  1. Open Activity Monitor.
  2. Go to the Memory tab.
  3. Click the Memory column to list all the processes in order of how much memory they’re using.
Go to Activity Monitor > Memory to view all of the programs and processes consuming most of your device's horsepower. Tap the Memory tab to change the order and put the main ones at the top.

Close suspect applications

You might also feel like specific applications are consuming the bulk of your RAM capacity. When that’s the case, you can manually close these instead. This works especially well if you’re using creative software that requires significant energy, such as Adobe Photoshop.


Here’s how to close applications you suspect are causing your RAM to perform less efficiently:

  1. Take a look at the items at the top to see if there’s anything suspicious going on. You might need to search online for different processes to find out what they do; some of them are essential for macOS to work, like Kernel_Task.
  2. If you find a process that doesn’t need to be there, select it and click the i button for more information about it. Then, tap the x icon.
  3. When the pop-up window appears on your screen, select Quit (or Force Quit if the app isn’t responding).
Step 1. Highlight app > press the x icon
After selecting the x icon to quit a process, you'll see a pop-up window asking you to Quit or Force Quit. Choose your preferred option to free up RAM on your Mac more effectively.
Step 2. Select Quit or Force Quit

6. Scan for malware on your Mac

Computer viruses, adware, spyware, and other types of malware that can infect your Mac might use up all your RAM in the background to make your computer slow. To find out if this is the case, download a reliable malware scanner, like MacKeeper, and run a complete scan of your Mac.


Here’s how to proceed with the full scan of your MacBook within the MacKeeper app:

  1. Open MacKeeper.
  2. Click Find & Fix in the sidebar.
  3. Choose to Start Full Scan.
In MacKeeper, you can use the Memory Cleaner to quit apps and processes. As a result, you'll give yourself more RAM. You can easily update apps here as well.

7. Clean RAM with Terminal

Terminal is an incredibly useful tool for ending processes that aren’t running properly on your Mac, and it’s one of the best ways to clean RAM and lower RAM usage on Mac.


Here’s how to clear the RAM on your Mac through the Terminal app:

  1. Go to Spotlight and type Terminal. Select the app when it appears in your search results.
  2. In Terminal, type sudo purge. Then, press Enter on your keyboard.
  3. Enter your password and hit the Enter key again.
  4. Close the Terminal app when you’ve finished. Your RAM should now have less space used.
Go to the Spotlight app on your Mac and type Terminal. You'll then be able to open the app when it appears. From there, you can clear RAM on your Mac
Step 1. Spotlight > Terminal
To reduce RAM on Mac, you'll need to type sudo purge into Terminal. After doing that, hit the Enter key. Then, Enter your password when the option appears.
Step 2. Type sudo purge and confirm your password

8. Remove RAM cache

Clearing the RAM cache will also help you free up RAM on your Mac. You can perform this action via the Finder app. Here’s how to do that:

  1. Open the Finder app on your Mac.
  2. Select Go and tap Go to Folder.
  3. Type ~/Library/Caches/ and hit the Enter key.
  4. Drag and drop the folders that you don’t need into the Trash, before emptying your Trash.
Begin the process of looking for caches on your Mac by opening Finder. Here, tap Go and select Go to Folder to continue the process.
Step 1. Finder > Go > Go to Folder
Continue the process to free up RAM on Mac by typing ~/Library/Caches/ and hitting the Enter key. Here, you can access and delete all the caches you need.
Step 2. Type ~/Library/Caches/

Another alternative you can try is MacKeeper’s Safe Cleanup tool. The main benefit is that you don’t need to go searching for caches, and the process is, therefore, faster. Moreover, you can view your caches in an easily displayed format—making it easier to decide what you should and shouldn’t delete.


Here’s how to remove caches with MacKeeper’s Safe Cleanup solution:

  1. Open MacKeeper and go to Cleaning > Safe Cleanup > Start Scan.
  2. When the scan is complete, tick the box next to Caches and anything else you want to delete.
  3. Tap Clean Junk Files when you’re ready to clear out your Mac.
Clear caches from your Mac more easily with MacKeeper's Safe Cleanup solution. Select Cleaning > Safe Cleanup before tapping Start Scan to continue.
Step 1. Cleaning > Safe Cleanup > Start Scan
When your Mac has found the various files and caches, tick the box next to Caches and anything else you'd like to remove. Then, select Clean Junk Files.
Step 2. Tick the box next to Caches > select Clean Junk Files

Once you’ve gotten rid of excess caches and other files with the Safe Cleanup tool, your Mac should start running in a more effective manner again. Besides caches, you can delete logs and empty your Trash folder—both of which will free up more space for important files and folders.

9. Clean your Desktop

You should also clean up your desktop and remove files and folders that are no longer required. Doing this will give your computer more space to perform at a high level.


To clean your desktop, do the following:

  1. Simply drag and drop the files, folders, and apps you don’t use into the Trash.
  2. Then, open the Trash folder and select Empty.
Regularly clear your Mac's desktop to ensure that you don't use too much RAM. You can simply drag and drop files that you no longer use. Then, go to Trash and empty it.

10. Setting up Chrome Task Manager

Do you use Google Chrome? You should check which programs and websites are consuming most of your energy if you do.


Here’s how to set up Chrome Task Manager:

  1. Open Google Chrome.
  2. Tap the vertical three dots icon in the top right.
  3. Select More Tools > Task Manager.
  4. For any processes that consume lots of space you don’t need, highlight it, and tap End Process.
Check which processes consume the most memory on Google Chrome and clear more RAM on Mac. Tap the three-dot icon and selecting More Tools > Task Manager.
Step 1. Three-dot menu > More Tools > Task Manager
After opening Task Manager, all of your biggest processes will appear on your screen. Choose whichever ones you want to stop and tap End Process in the bottom right.
Step 2. Highlight the process(es) you want to stop > tap End Process

11. Remove Login Items

Login items are the programs that start when you turn on your Mac. While this feature can be useful for helping you quickly access programs that you regularly use, they also require significant RAM.


However, you can remove login items that aren’t strictly required. Follow these steps to have it done:

  1. Open System Settings by selecting Apple logo > System Settings.
  2. Search for Login Items in the search bar.
  3. Select Login Items and go to the section titled Open at Login.
  4. Highlight the app(s) that you don’t want to open upon signing in to your device.
  5. Tap the - button to remove the app or program from your Login Items.
  6. Restart your Mac once you’ve deleted all of the login items that you don’t want to automatically start up.
Instantly remove RAM on Mac by closing login items. Go to System Settings > Login Items and view the apps that open in the Open at Login Section.
Step 1. System Settings > Search Bar > Login Items > Open at Login
Under Open at Login, highlight the apps you want to stop opening as soon as your Mac switches on. Hit the - icon to put all of this into effect; it's worth restarting your Mac first.
Step 2. Highlight apps you want to stop opening at login > tap the - icon

You can also use MacKeeper’s Login Items as an alternative way to remove caches. Here are the steps you should follow to make the process easier and more automated:

  1. Open MacKeeper and go to Performance > Login Items.
  2. Select Start Scan.
  3. Tick the box next to each login item you’d like to delete. You can see which apps your login items belong to on the right-hand side.
  4. Choose Remove Selected Items when you’ve picked all the login items you’d like to stop using.
  5. Confirm your decision by selecting Remove when the pop-up window appears on your screen.
Search for login items that may consume extra RAM on your Mac by going to Performance > Login Items > Start Scan. You can access these via MacKeeper.
Step 1. Performance > Login Items > Start Scan
A list of startup items will appear, and you can tick the boxes next to each one you want to quit. After doing that, select Remove Selected Items.
Step 2. Tick the boxes next to login items you want to stop using > choose Remove Selected Items
A pop-up window will appear and ask if you want to remove your selected login items. Tap Remove when it does and the process will finalize.
Step 3. Tap Remove when the pop-up window appears

12. Free up disk space

Besides knowing how to get rid of RAM on Mac, it’s also a good idea to learn how to free up memory on your Mac for general maintenance.


There are plenty of ways to free up disk space on your Mac, such as deleting apps and clearing caches. Another highly effective way to ensure that you have more storage on your computer is by getting rid of duplicate files. Besides freeing up RAM, having more disk space also helps declutter your Mac and enable your device to last longer.


To free up disk space on your Mac efficiently, check out our separate guide on how to clean up your Mac.

13. Keep fewer browser tabs open

When using Safari, you might sometimes notice a pop-up message that says a web page is consuming significant energy. But even if you don’t, and regardless of whether you use Chrome, Safari, or Firefox, having fewer browser tabs open will result in your Mac needing to use less RAM.


You should only keep browser tabs open if they’re essential to the task you’re currently performing. And ideally, you won’t have more than 7-10 open at any given time. In addition to freeing up RAM on your Mac, having fewer browser tabs open means that you’ll find it much easier to concentrate on tasks.

14. Use a Mac memory cleaner

If you’re still not sure exactly how to clear RAM on your Mac, the easiest option is to simply use MacKeeper’s built-in Mac RAM cleaner. Here’s how:

  1. Open MacKeeper and click Memory Cleaner in the sidebar. Then, click Open to start using it.
  2. The Memory Cleaner tab will tell you how much RAM is available on your Mac and how much is currently being used. Specifically, look at the Memory Usage or Apps & Processes tabs for more visibility on current processes.
  3. When you’re ready to free up your RAM memory, go back to the Memory Cleaner tab and click Clean Memory.
Free up RAM on your Mac by going to Performance > Memory Cleaner in MacKeeper. From here, you can easily close apps and processes that consume significant energy.

Once the cleaning is complete, your Mac should have far more RAM available, and, hopefully, it’ll start performing better as well.

How to lower RAM usage

You can reduce your macOS RAM storage in multiple ways. Here are five of the main things you can try:

  • Delete all apps and programs that you don’t use (unless they can’t be deleted).
  • Only have one or two apps open at any given time.
  • Keep your catalogs streamlined in apps that require lots of RAM (e.g. Adobe Lightroom).
  • Only allow login items that are absolutely essential on your Mac.
  • Allow fewer apps to run in the background by going to Settings > Login Items > Allow in the Background > toggle off.

How to optimize RAM on Mac

When using your Mac, it’s very easy to optimize the RAM on your device. Below, you’ll find a few more steps that you can take:

  • Only have a maximum of 2-3 Finder windows open at once (and ideally, one).
  • Check for and remove all malware on your device. You can use a third-party app like MacKeeper’s Antivirus solution for this.
  • Check to see which apps are consuming most of your energy in Activity Monitor, before closing these once you’re finished with them.
  • Buy a Mac with larger RAM capacities if you regularly perform demanding tasks (e.g. you’re a filmmaker or graphic designer).

How to manage memory on Mac

To free up memory on Mac, you’ll need to perform regular checks to ensure that you don’t encounter the same problems again. Here are some ways you can manage your Mac memory:

  • Audit the apps you use every 3-6 months and delete those that aren’t necessary.
  • Remove duplicate files, especially if they’re larger ones like RAW or PNG image files.
  • Clear caches for any apps that you delete if they don’t get removed.
  • Turn on the Empty Trash Automatically feature in System Settings > Storage > Empty Trash Automatically > Turn On. Your Mac will automatically delete anything that’s been in your trash for longer than 30 days.
  • Regularly clear your Downloads folder.

How to get more RAM on Mac

Getting more RAM on your device is difficult, and the best way to do so without getting rid of your old device is to follow the steps listed in this guide. However, there are a few additional ways to get more RAM on your Mac:

  • Buy a newer Mac with larger RAM.
  • Order upgraded RAM for your Mac. It’s a good idea to get a professional to do this, as you can cause significant damage to your device by trying on your own.


Why is my Mac RAM so full?

Your RAM is probably full because your Mac needs to perform far too many actions at once. Close unnecessary apps and programs, and stop all background processes that aren’t required. For the latter, go to the Activity Monitor app > Memory and highlight the processes you want to quit. Then, select the x symbol and tap Quit when the pop-up window appears.

How much RAM does a MacBook Pro have?

The MacBook Pro usually has either 16GB or 32GB of RAM. However, the 2023 MacBook Pro has up to 96GB of RAM.

How can you see what's taking up the most memory on your Mac?

To view what’s consuming most of your memory on a Mac, go to System Settings > Storage. For RAM, go to Activity Monitor > Memory.

How can you save memory on your MacBook?

You can save memory on your MacBook by deleting apps you don’t use and removing login items. Moreover, you can update your software to remove any glitches that may consume more storage space and delete malware.

How to refresh RAM on Mac?

On Mac models released before 2018, you can shut down your device and simultaneously press Shift, Option, Control, and the standby button for 10 seconds. However, this is not possible on newer Macs.


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