How to Fix “Your System Has Run Out of Application Memory” on a Mac

Is your Mac shutting down all the time? Do you see the same pop-up complaining about low memory, asking you to kill some apps? Here’s how to fix it and reduce the chances of it happening again.

Use the Force Quit option to kill running applications

MacOS only shows the “Force Application to Quit” window when memory is completely free, including physical RAM and virtual memory on your startup drive. macOS system memory warning

When you see this window, you will need to force stop unnecessary applications to stabilize your system. Apps you don’t use or apps running in the background that you forgot should be the first to go. Your system should be responsive once you delete a few apps.

In that window, you will see the names of the applications listed next to the amount of RAM currently being used. Click on the app and click “Force Stop” to kill it, but note that the data will not be saved. If you are working on paper and software and are forced to quit, think about losing your job. Sometimes, the system depends on this window when you want to kill an application or restart in a problem situation. You can wait minutes at a time for things to return to normal. If you have a job reserved in line, you will have to wait. Otherwise, you can restart your Mac by pressing and holding the power button until the machine shuts down. Then restart it.

Link: How to restart your Mac

Restart your Mac for a quick fix

Even if you restore macOS to a usable state using the above method, there is a chance that you will see another window soon. Be sure to save everything you’re working on, then restart your Mac using the Apple logo in the upper left corner of the screen. This will help free up as much storage as possible. Restart macOS without opening apps and logging in

Remember to uncheck “Open window in another link” and only open critical applications in the future.

You can save physical and virtual memory by not installing unnecessary applications when your computer restarts. It’s easy to see your startup items by going to System Preferences (System Settings) > User Groups > Login Items. Where you can remove an app from the startup list by highlighting the app and clicking the minus (-) button.

Free up disk space so that the error doesn’t happen again.

MacOS can manage the physical memory (RAM) as long as there is disk space to change things. The system retrieves objects from physical storage and places them into virtual storage as needed. You can get a good idea of ​​this process by opening the Performance Monitor and clicking on the “Memory” tab. Under the tabs, you’ll see your total “Physical Memory” (the amount of RAM your laptop has inside) and your total “Memory Used” (the amount of RAM currently in use). Storage tab in macOS Performance Monitor

You will also see a list of “cache files” which are files that are frequently used by the operating system that are stored in physical memory. “Swap Used” refers to the amount of space used to swap files in RAM. When you are low on disk space (or very little on space), your system has nowhere to store files, and there is no room left to modify them. This is one of the reasons why you will see a window asking you to free up memory by killing the application. You can avoid this by keeping free space on your Mac.

Apple doesn’t specify how much free space your Mac needs to run properly, but if you’re seeing this error frequently, you probably don’t meet the requirements. As a general guideline, we recommend aiming for about 10% of your total disk space. There are many ways to free up space on your Mac, such as emptying your downloads folder, deleting apps you don’t use, or automatically emptying the trash. MacOS Downloads folder

You can also transfer files from your drive to another drive, such as a USB drive, hard drive, or a formatted drive that resides on your MacBook Pro SD card reader.

Avoid doing too many things at once

If you encounter the error “Your system is low on application memory” and you try to reduce your disk space, you may be running into your system’s limits. This is common in older Mac models with less memory. The key is to know your system limits and avoid pushing things too far. This may mean reducing the number of browser tabs open at once, being careful not to open too many applications with resources (such as photo editors or games) at once, and minimizing background processes. Safari tab in macOS Monterey

You can use Activity Monitor to see the processes running on your Mac. You can also see the background process running in the upper right corner of your screen. Some programs, such as helpers for note-taking applications like Evernote or Duet Presentation, can be blocked from loading until you need them.

To stop these processes, you will need to open the preferences of each application to disable the developer. The easiest way to do this is to use a tool like CleanMyMac X to scan for startup users and disable them.

Above all, make sure you keep a good amount of free space on your startup drive for macOS to manage physical storage efficiently.

Detach apps that take up memory space

If the problem seems to be limited to using one application, you may be experiencing a memory leak. A memory leak is a software problem that causes an application to keep asking for more memory that doesn’t have room for it. Monitor memory usage with macOS Performance Monitor

You will need to be vigilant to see if your problem is common when you use the app. You can check the “Memory” tab in the Performance Monitor (click on the “Memory” column to adjust the list using) to see if there are any applications that seem to be using more than their fair share. If you find an app that seems to be leaking memory, you can always kill it by highlighting it and using the “X” button in the Activity Monitor. If an update is available, try installing it to fix the problem. Upgrade your RAM (if you can)
Mac expansion has been on the decline ever since Apple started selling RAM and logic boards around the release of the Retina MacBook Pro. And while it has performance benefits, the decision to go to unified storage didn’t help. Some models are easier to upgrade than others, but none of Apple’s silicon models that use M1, M2, or similar chips can be upgraded in this way.

Some older Mac models, especially Mac mini (2012, 2011 and 2010 models) and iMac (up to 2020 models with Intel processors) are easily upgradeable. The iMac even has a pop-up port on the back for easy installation.

Upgrading iMac and user-updating RAM

Check Apple’s recommendations for RAM models (like this iMac guide or this Mac guide) before buying to make sure you’re buying the right module. If your machine is eligible to have user-upgradable RAM, don’t expect miracles in terms of performance improvements. If RAM is expensive, you may be better off investing in a replacement Mac instead. If the problem is caused by a chronic lack of disk space, you can upgrade your Mac’s SSD instead.

Consider replacing your Mac

For many users, seeing errors in the system running out of physical memory should be a reason to think about the age of the machine. This is especially true if your Mac is too old to receive software updates.

The new Silicon Mac from Apple will deliver a huge increase in performance over the older Intel models. There’s a Mac for almost any budget or need. For example, you can choose the small M1 Mac, which offers incredible performance for the price. Or the powerful Mac Studio M1, which may be the fastest Mac on the market.

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