How to free up RAM on MacBooks

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, at no extra cost to you.
Please check the Affiliate Disclaimer for more information.

In this article, we’ll focus on how to free up RAM on MacBooks. RAM stands for Random Access Memory and it is the amount of memory your MacBook has to carry out day to day tasks. It’s not the same as, for example, the storage needed to save photos, documents, or other stuff.

The RAM is specifically designed to store working data, speeding up the way you use your Mac. If you have noticed that your computer has started to slow down, you’ve come to the right place.

How much RAM does my MacBook have?

Most of the newer models come from the factory with 8GB of RAM. To check the RAM, click on the apple in the top left-hand corner and select “About this Mac”. A small window will pop-up, and the third line down indicates the amount of RAM:

How to free up RAM on MacBooks

If you notice that the spinning rainbow wheel lasts for a while, applications take a long time to load, or if they are crashing, you may need to free up RAM on your MacBook. Another sure sign is the message telling you that you are low on memory.

How to free up RAM on MacBooks

The simplest way to free up a big amount of RAM is to restart your MacBook. Switching your Mac off and on again will automatically empty the RAM and disk caches.

However, if your computer has frozen in the middle of an important task, you do risk not saving the progress you have made. So, the following steps on how to free up RAM on Mac are better solutions for continuous maintenance.

Upgrade your system

Keeping your software up to date is essential for a healthy Mac with optimal features. Remember that notifications on app updates aren’t the same as updating the software.

If you open the “About this Mac” window, there is a button for “Software Update”. By clicking on this, you will be able to see if there is a new software version and you can follow the steps to update it.

Use the Activity Monitor

From the Launchpad in your Dock, open Utilities and look for “Activity Monitor”. Open this and select the tab “Memory”. This is a great way to see how much memory is being used and also some of the activities you carry out that eat away at your RAM:

How to free up RAM on MacBooks

Notice that after restarting the computer, the memory is significantly freed up:

How to free up RAM on MacBooks

By selecting one of the processes in the list it will be highlighted. You can then click on the “X” above “Process name” and this will close the activity, further saving your RAM.

Remember to only close those activities or processes that you know. If there is something unknown it is best to leave it running in case your MacBook requires it.

You can repeat the same process to help the CPU usage because this will help reduce the overall processing power that is being taken. Again, only stop the processes that you know of.

Close apps that aren’t needed

It’s normal to have a ton of apps open and not even realize. You should close these because even though not in use, they will take up RAM. Scroll over your Dock. All of the apps that have a dot under them are open. Right-click on the app you wish to close and select “Quit”:

How to free up RAM on MacBooks

Try to get into the habit of either closing apps once you have finished using them or checking your open apps regularly as this will help to free up RAM on your MacBook.

Check the apps that open at startup

There will be some apps that you want to open automatically when you start your MacBook as it will save you time. Still, if your MacBook opens apps that aren’t necessary, you will notice a strain on your RAM.

Open “System Preferences” and then “Users & Groups”. Select the right tab that says “Login Items”.  The apps that open automatically will appear in the list. You may choose not to automatically open any apps on startup.

How to free up RAM on MacBooks

Keep your desktop tidy

It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but your MacBook will treat every icon on your desktop as an active window. Create folders for as many things as possible as it is far better to have one folder with 20 items instead of 20 items on the desktop.

We absolutely love Stacks. Stacks groups together the various files you have on your desktop and group them into one icon. Choosing Stacks means you will have one icon for documents, one for PDFs, another for spreadsheets, etc.

To turn Stacks on, click anywhere on your screen so that Finder appears on the top left-hand side. Select “View” and then “Use Stacks”. It’s the type of thing that once you start using you will never want to stop.

ow to free up RAM on MacBooks

Free up disk space

When you are running low on RAM, your MacBook will look for virtual memory which is the available space on your Mac’s drive. For optimal Mac running, you should try to leave about 20% of your disk space free. To check your available disk space, open the Launchpad and then Disk Utility:

How to free up RAM on MacBooks

You can choose to run First Aid that will help to find issues and fix them. Depending on your system this can take a few minutes or even hours.

Delete all of the larger files that you don’t need. You can open individual files and sort them by size. This will help you to quickly identify and delete those files that will free up more space on your Mac’s drive.

How to free up RAM on MacBooks

Wrap Up

As bizarre as this may sound, learning how to free up RAM on your MacBook is like having a good declutter of your home – it’s good for the soul. MacBooks are notorious for their durability but when you take care of your RAM, you will be able to enjoy a faster Mac for years to come.