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This is how you can see which programs are taking up all of your Mac’s memory

The activity monitor icon.

As your Mac becomes more and more free, you can easily see which application or process is consuming it in the Activity Monitor. This utility is included with every copy of macOS. Here’s how to check and how to fix this problem.

First, open the activity monitor. You can do this by pressing Command + Period (.) Or clicking the search icon in the menu bar. Type “activity monitor”

; in the search box and press Enter.


Under Activity Monitor, click the Storage tab.


You will see a list of the processes (programs, applications, system functions, etc.) that are running on your computer and the amount of memory used.

The field at the bottom of the window shows the total amount of memory used. If the “Memory in Use” number is greater than the “Physical Memory” number, your Mac relies on virtual memory (or swap) to function. As a result, your system may run slower than usual.


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

Press the

Check the list from top to bottom. Look for processes that appear to be consuming a suspiciously large amount of memory. What is classified as “suspicious” depends on how you use your computer and what programs you have.

For example, if you often render complex video or audio projects, or edit large files, you might not be surprised that an application is consuming a lot of memory.

However, if the process is not what you expected with a large amount of memory, there may be something wrong with the program. If so, you can force it to exit. To do this, select the process from the list and click the “X” in the top left.

Press the

In the dialog box that appears, click Force Quit to confirm.


The process will end and your Mac will hopefully go back to normal. It can also be a good idea to restart your Mac to resolve a variety of problems.

CONNECTED: Why does restarting a computer fix so many problems?

If you’ve closed all memory-intensive processes and restarted your computer, but you still run out of memory, here are some things to try:

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

Sufficient memory is very important to run modern systems and apps. If you have an older Mac and none of the above tips help, it is probably time to consider upgrading your computer.

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

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