Home Mac When Memory runs tight Give it a little Cleaning

When Memory runs tight Give it a little Cleaning

by Kerry Dawson


Memory! There’s never enough of it. The way memory is managed by the Operating System is critical to the smooth operation of your Mac. If memory is tight you then have to make decisions. Close some apps or reboot your computer. Rebooting often frees up memory on a Mac that is inactive but available for duty.

The thing is sometimes you don’t want to quit an app as it might be important to what you’re doing. As an example, say you’re a researcher and you’ve got research documents open while you’re writing. Closing the apps that hold the research articles simply isn’t viable. Yet, if you’re tight on memory your Mac is going to tell you so by poor operation via performance.

How Much is Enough Memory

Weight scale for memory

Well even though I said you can never have too much memory there are reasonable limits. My view is you need at least 8 megs of RAM. The 4 megs that are in some machines I don’t think will cut it unless you really are a non-multi tasker. The MacBook Air can only have 8 megs of memory so when I order this machine I always order the 8 megs.

8 megs of memory I feel is probably good for most users purposes. On my iMac though I have 16 megs of memory. Because it’s there the operating system will slowly start using more and more of the RAM.

It’s Time to do a little Cleaning


There are some programs that will actually, after running, free up memory. This is really useful. However, it is also considered controversial. Some people insist that the OS will take care of any memory needs and conditions. This is certainly true to a degree. In fact, Mavericks has been engineered to manage memory more efficiently by optimizing and compressing it. However, there is still a role for these memory cleaners, if you will, to free up memory.

Remember when I said restarting your computer is one effective method of freeing up memory. These memory cleaners have a similar effect. They make it unnecessary to do this. In this controversial discussion though of memory and freeing up memory, it’s held that the OS will do this if there is not enough free memory. In fact, the OS is always doing this by swapping data to disk and reading it. The amount of these disk swaps though can tell you you’re short on memory. The more of these disk swaps, the slower your computer will feel as it takes time to swap to disk and read from disk memory calls.

If you go to the App Store and search for memory clean you will find numerous choices there from the paid to the free. However, I’m just going to discuss four of these utilities to give you a feel for them.

Using one of the utilities I’ll mention will help to boost your free memory. Although I understand the view of those that hold these cleaners are of little value I’ll let you be the judge of that. Some are free or cost next to nothing.

Memory Cleaner

Memory cleaner

This $5.99 memory cleaner will clean your memory. Although it will do it’s job I found this to be a slow utility. It took too long to do it’s job and it didn’t free up as much memory as the one’s I’m going to discuss next. However, I felt it important to mention this utility as it is well known.

Memory Clean by FipLabs

Memory Clean by Fiplabs is an award winning app. Fiplabs produces a lot of top notch utilities. This is my personal favourite. It will free up space substantially and it’s fast. It does the job that it says it’s going to do and does it well. Freed memory lasts a long time. If you’re using anything like iStat Menus you will have constant feedback on your RAM. I’ve seen a substantial amount of RAM freed up and it stays that way for quite some time. My system will run smoother after a cleaning.

Statsbar by Fiplabs


Statsbar is intended to give you a visual picture of some of the things that are constantly going on with the system. It is also made by the same company as Memory Clean and it includes this functionality along with constant feedback on four areas of your computers operation. This is the one I use now as it really is Memory Clean but it provides a simple version of iStat Menus in that it is providing feedback on key components of the system. This is an inexpensive but useful utility for more than one reason.



Cocktail is really the only system cleaner I’ll use. I find it doesn’t cause problems with your system after you use it. It is intended to be an all around maintenance utility. It comes with a memory cleaner or it refers to this as purging memory. You can manually run it or set it to run say every thirty minutes.

Cocktail is a more expensive solution but as I mentioned it is designed to do a number of things to maintain your system. It will clean caches, check your volumes for integrity, repair your libraries etc. However, it does have this memory capability.

Just a little Cleaning Can make all the Difference

If your system seems to be performing slowly or erratically one of the first things you want to check is do you have enough memory. If you don’t have active monitors go into OSX’s Activity Monitor and check the status of your system. It will tell you a variety of things including free memory and the number of swaps to disk there’s been.

If you have very low free memory and you don’t have a memory cleaner restarting your computer will clear up memory issues. If you have a high number of swaps to disk and this is a continual thing you need more physical RAM. RAM is the best way to improve the performance of any machine.

My view though is that memory cleaners do have a positive role to play. They are not a panacea to real shortages of RAM. They simply help to improve system performance. A little house cleaning sometimes can make all the difference in the world.

House cleaning

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