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Here’s how to see which applications are using your entire Mac’s memory

Activity monitoring icon.

If you continue to run out of memory on your Mac, it’s easy to determine which application or process is eating it up in Task Monitor. This tool is included in every copy of macOS. How to check and some things you can do to fix the problem.

To get started, open Activity Monitor. You can do this by pressing Command + period (.) Or by clicking the search icon in the menu bar. Type “Activity Monitor” in the search box, then press Enter.


Click the “Memory”

; tab in “Activity Monitor.”


You see a list of processes (programs, applications, system functions, and so on) that are running on your computer, as well as how much memory each one uses.

The box at the bottom of the window shows the total amount of memory used. If the “Memory Memory” number is larger than the “Physical Memory” number, your Mac relies on virtual memory (or Swap) to work. As a result, your system may run slower than usual.


To see which programs use the most memory, click the arrow next to the “Memory” column heading. The processes will be re-sorted according to the amount of memory they use, from largest to smallest.


Review the list from top to bottom. Look for any processes that appear to be using a suspiciously large amount of memory. What will be termed “suspicious” depends on how you use your computer and the programs you have.

For example, if you frequently render complex video or audio projects or edit large files, you may not be surprised that an application uses a huge amount of memory.

However, if the process of using a large amount of memory is not what you expect, something may be wrong with the program. If so, you can force it to stop. To do so, select the process from the list and then click on the “X” at the top left.


Click “Force Quit” in the dialog box that appears to confirm.


The process shuts down and hopefully your Mac will return to normal. It can also be a good idea to restart your Mac, which can solve a variety of problems.

RELATED: Why does restarting a computer solve so many problems?

If you have shut down all memory-intensive processes and restarted your machine but are still out of memory, here are some other things you can try:

  • Buy more RAM: You may be able to purchase more RAM in one module to install on your Mac. Contact Apple Support or book an appointment at an Apple Store for advice on the type of memory your Mac needs.
  • Open fewer applications or browser tabs at once: The more applications you use at the same time, the more memory they need. Quit all programs that you are not actively using. Also limit the number of browser tabs you have opened, as they can also eat up a lot of memory.
  • Free up hard disk space: When available memory is low, your Mac will automatically use part of its hard disk drive (SSD) as “virtual memory”. This is much slower than actual physical RAM chips. If you ever see the message “Your system has run out of application memory”, you have probably run out of both physical memory and available storage space. Clear some space and see if the problem persists.
  • Update your applications: Sometimes an app may have an error that accidentally eats up memory. Try updating it. If that does not work, you can also try updating macOS.

Having plenty of memory is very important for running modern systems and apps. If you have an older Mac and none of the above tips help, it’s probably time to consider upgrading your computer.

RELATED: 10 ways to free up disk space on your Mac hard drive

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