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Better OSX memory management or more RAM?

I am fairly sure this question has not been asked.

I have had a macbook pro in the past that has done this and a current mac pro based system for home theater that loves to use resources and appear to not release them.

I understand this has been an issue people have asked about elsewhere, and flushing the " inactive" memory can be done via command line. I just wasn't exactly satisfied with the answers to this problem i was able to find.

My question is with 4GB of RAM for my media center machine it should be enough with Plex, Firefox and thats usually about it, other then some silverlight, python dependent programs also running in the background. Anyway often times i find Plex and Firefox use about what they should........however after the system has been "up" for a while FREE memory is in a bad way. Leaving me with 50MB of FREE memory or sometimes less and after looking ive been using swap.

Inactive memory show over 2GB sometimes and will not free it's self when the system calls for more resources for current programs, it's my understanding inactive memory is only a temp hold to store info you may need from recent apps.

If that is so then why does my system appear to not do this.

True other apps have been launched and quit after having the machine up for several days or weeks...... it just stays on all the time, it's an HTPC.

Still, why the occasional memory management issue?

why the "inactive memory" being held for nothing, when current running apps can be starving for resources?

Do i really need another 4GB to total 8GB of RAM?

( If so i can do that, but thought i would ask first).

Please understand this does not happen all the time, looking for a better understanding of the memory management process for OSX and my options...... This is a long question any input would be appreciated of course and if " buy another 4GB" or a link to something i have not read is the best answer that would be fine.

Answered! View the answer I have this problem too

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What are you using to tell you about your memory management? Memory allocation changed with the advent of system 10 so lets look at what you have before spending an hour on an answer and research ;-)


sorry, OSX 10.5....... activity monitor and terminal's "top" command.


Does yours look like this (my machine hasn't been off for 5 days, I'm running 8 GBs:

Processes: 67 total, 4 running, 63 sleeping, 347 threads 05:21:57

Load Avg: 0.33, 0.40, 0.40 CPU usage: 4.57% user, 5.49% sys, 89.93% idle SharedLibs: 7384K resident, 8216K data, 0B linkedit.

MemRegions: 21479 total, 1765M resident, 20M private, 379M shared. PhysMem: 623M wired, 2408M active, 372M inactive, 3403M used, 4787M free.

VM: 140G vsize, 1041M framework vsize, 658897(2) pageins, 0(0) pageouts. Networks: packets: 8022768/2013M in, 7889036/976M out. Disks: 1570455/57G read, 2814675/60G written.


everything looks very much the same with the differences in memory.....

Memory: 549M wired, 1859M active, 1421M inactive, 4085M used, 12M free...... the top command isn't showing any page ins/page outs however activity monitor shows 883MB page ins and 170MB page outs and 273MB swap used. ( i suspect if I left the top command running for a long enough period of time it would show swap etc being used too)....... system uptime is only 1day.


I have deleted several video plugins from plex, reducing the individual python processes, however none of this seemed to work.... along with some other things i did.......Plex server is always running with plenty of resources free, so it would seem the Plex client used to actually watch content in the menu driving system is the resource hog. Free memory does not drop below 14MB as far as i can tell....... swap and page in/outs is being used........... So if i get another 4GB of memory would this solve my problem or would i end up with 8GB of RAM with 14MB free ?


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My machine doesn't seems to be touching that second set of 4 GB. Our stats are very close on use. If you feel you must just try another 2 GB and see if your machine even gets to them. I'm running 10.6.8 on a 2.8 GHz quad core xeon, 5.5 GB storage on 4 hard drives & two optical. ATI Radeon HD 2600 256 MB on a 24" monitor. Sonnet PCIe USB and Sonnet Ethernet.

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I will be adding more RAM as soon as i can..... It would seem the longer the plex client is up and playing content the more memory it attempts to keep, i did change the settings for buffering and removed most of the video plug ins..... which seems to have not helped. Still fills the RAM after watching just one HD show and slowly frees it after quiting the Plex client. ( I could not run the client all the time, but most of the time this machine serves as a HTPC). This doesn't impact it's ability to serve it's purpose, i can watch all the shows i want......i just don't like the impact on free memory........ So additional RAM may help or may not however having 8GB of RAM isn't something i am going to complain about since if anything it would allow me to keep a VM running all the time.... I will add a comment to report what happens once i get the additional RAM.


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