Does my Mac need more memory?

Apple Macbook Pro Memory macOS

Your Mac can slow down for many reasons but one of the common reasons is not having enough memory.

When you run out of memory (or RAM) your Mac will be forced to use some of your hard disk as memory. Accessing your hard drive is much slower than accessing memory.

With newer macOS versions (Mavericks & above) Macs can compress memory when running low on available memory. This can also add a little overhead to the the Mac depending on its configuration.

Great but how much do I need?

Unfortunately it is not just a matter of saying 8GB is enough because the amount needed varies depending on your Mac and the apps you use.  

8GB is generally advised as the minimum amount required in Macs for good performance but if you use apps that require a lot of memory like Photoshop or run a lot of simultaneous apps more memory will be beneficial.

How do I check if I need more?

  1. Go to your Applications and then the Utilities folder.
  2. Open Activity Monitor.
  3. Click the Memory tab.
  4. At the bottom of the window there will be a Memory Pressure graph.
Activity Monitor – Memory Pressure

Interpreting the graph:

  • Green: Memory resources are available. 
  • Yellow: Memory resources are still available but are being tasked by memory management processes, such as compression.
  • Red: Memory resources are depleted and macOS is using your startup drive for memory. 

If your graph is Red this is the most important indicator that your Mac needs more memory.

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What do Swap, Cached Files, Memory Used, etc. all mean?

  • Physical Memory: The amount of memory installed in your Mac. 
  • Memory Used: The total amount of memory currently used by all apps and macOS processes.
    • App Memory: The total amount of memory currently used by apps and their processes.Wired Memory: Memory that can’t be compressed or paged out to your startup drive, so it must stay in RAM. Compressed: The amount of memory in RAM that is compressed to make more RAM memory available to other processes. 
  • Swap Used: The space used on your startup drive by macOS memory management. It’s normal to see some activity here. As long as memory pressure is not in the red state, macOS has memory resources available.
  • Cached Files: Memory that was recently used by apps, is now available for use by other apps but has now yet been used by any new apps.

Source: Apple