LAST UPDATED: Thursday 26 APRIL 2018
Here are my notes on getting out of a low memory situation on the Mac
I use some tools outside of the Mac OS in this article but have no vested interest unless specifically stated. Where possible, I always use free or at least freemium software. There may well be alternative applications to the ones suggested so just please take it as given/shorthand (so I don’t have to launch into a BBC-style speech every time I mention a product akin to ‘other brands of X are available’)
Where commercial software is ever mentioned, I will always try to justify its use.
- Install ‘Memory Clean’. This is a freemium application which does what it says on the tin.
- Install a Mac general cleaner like CleanMyMac or CCleaner * (I worked for Piriform so declare an interest here. See https://www.ccleaner.com/about)
- In the Apple Menu, go to ‘Force Quit…’ to display all the running applications (if your Mac is almost dead, you can also try running Activity Monitor in Utilities, however, you really need to know what you are doing so best left as a ‘weapon of last resort’)
- As you save memory, it may be useful to document this with screenshots like the following to chart your progress, e.g. as below:
- Cycle through all windows for each open application and take a screenshot (Cmd-Shift-3) of everything in the ‘File/Open Recent’ menu (most applications will have this menu item). You can also do a timed screen in Grab for this if it is difficult to keep a menu open for a screenshot. There is a useful article here on that: http://www.idownloadblog.com/2016/05/11/take-timed-screenshot-on-mac/
- If memory is really low, e.g. as I experienced in Chrome and TextEdit, windows may not show when you select them, however, you can always tell which is the active window as it has a check mark by it, as below in Chrome:
- If you are finding that windows do not open (presumably because memory is really, really low), select ‘Re-Open Closed Tab’ in the File menu, e.g. in Chrome, as many times as required in a browser to open windows otherwise unopenable in step 6. above.
- Use Cmd-S to save each selected item e.g. in TextEdit, then Cmd-W to close it (this will save space). Once you have done this for all items and the ‘Window’ menu is effectively empty (i.e. ‘Bring All to Front’ is the last menu item in the ‘Window’ menu), then quit the application (only ever Force Quit if there is no other way).
- If you are finding that windows in an application do not open select ‘Re-Open Closed Tab’ in the File menu, e.g. in Chrome, as many times as required in a browser to open windows otherwise unopenable
- Run ‘Memory Clean’ after you have closed each application and maybe take a screenshot as in step 4. above to chart your progress.
- See Apple article: How to free up storage space on your Mac
- Finally, if the above steps fail to resurrect your mac, look at the more technical article: Simple Ways to Reduce Memory Usage on Mac (MacBook Pro, Air, iMac)