“Your system is running out of application memory” is not a warm and friendly alert. It’s cold and dark, as if your Mac was telling you “the end is near”. Fortunately, the end is not close, but receiving this alert on your computer is still a concern. Depending on your machine, this may just be a bug or a persistent issue that you need to watch out for. Let’s see how you can distinguish the problems.
Your Mac’s RAM is the key to this alert
Let’s start with a basic explanation for anyone not in the know: Your Mac has a fixed amount of RAM (random access memory). This RAM allows your computer to run multiple applications and tasks at the same time. In short, the more RAM you have, the more your computer can do at once; the less RAM you have, the less your computer can do it. Easy enough.
Apple’s macOS generally does a good job of managing RAM, so you don’t often have to worry if you’re doing too many tasks at once. However, occasionally the system is pushed beyond its limits. If there are more apps running than available RAM, macOS cannot continue to run, which triggers this app memory alert.
The problem is that this app memory alert affects Macs with many of RAM. You wouldn’t expect a Mac with 16, 32, or 64 GB of RAM to have problems running apps like Mail, Photoshop, or even Final Cut Pro. And yet, Macs of all kinds see this alert while performing tasks their computers should do without a hitch. The affected machines range from the brand new MacBook Pro M1 Pro and M1 Max to older Intel-based Macs.
The problem is probably a software bug for many Macs.
These applications also do not use a typical amount of system memory. Some applications consume GB of memory, which is completely abnormal. According to 9to5Mac, one user reported that Apple’s Pages and Keynote apps use 80 to 90 GB of memory or more. This is a huge red flag that something is wrong and since there are many reports of similar memory monopolization, it indicates that the problem is with a software bug.
While there are reports of the issue affecting older versions of macOS, the majority of cases are found in Macs running macOS Monterey. It is therefore very likely that Apple will release a fix for this bug soon.
How to know if the alert is a bug or legitimate
TIt is important to note, however, that this alert is not just a bug. He exists for a purpose; your device can Running out of app memory, in which case you’ll need to delete apps to get things started again. If you see this alert, however, it can be difficult to tell if it’s legitimate or if it’s part of the bug.
The biggest clue to look for is the amount of memory used by an application. Typically, most applications will use MBs of memory, possibly GBs of single-digit memory. If you see apps using double-digit memory for no reason, it’s a sign that your Mac is affected by this memory bug. However, if all the numbers seem reasonable, you might just have run out of application memory. Of course, there are exceptions, as professional and heavy-duty applications can use a lot of memory. But, since these alerts affect users during normal use, that’s what we’re looking at here.
When legitimate, this alert tends to affect Macs with low amounts of RAM. If you’re using a MacBook Air with 4GB of RAM, for example, you might already be familiar with these alerts. Most software and programs today prefer at least 8 GB of RAM, if not more, so the less RAM you have the more likely you will be pushing the system to its limits, especially if you are using memory-intensive applications like Google Chrome.
If you can, add more RAM to your Mac
In some cases, you are not stuck with the RAM you have available. If your Mac is eligible for a RAM upgrade, you should consider it. Giving the system more RAM will help avoid these frustrating situations and allow you to perform more tasks at once.
The only way to know for sure if you can upgrade your Mac’s RAM is to find your machine. Apple has a list of iMac compatible here, MacBook Pro here, and Mac mini here, in addition to instructions on how to install more memory in the machine. If you don’t see your Mac listed on one of those particular pages, it means the RAM can’t be upgraded and you’re stuck with what you have. If you have a Mac mini, however, Apple makes it clear which models can’t be upgraded, rather than leaving those models off the list.
This is unfortunately the side effect of Apple’s design philosophy in recent years. Rather than making components like RAM accessible and removable to the user, they solder them directly to the computer board, making upgrades impossible. It’s okay if your Mac has enough RAM, but for older Macs that are struggling to keep up, there’s no way to give them an extra boost.
Besides buying a new machine, the best thing you can do for your low RAM Mac is to keep in mind how many apps you have open at the same time. Keep browser tabs (especially Chrome) to a minimum, and try to only keep apps open if you’re actively using them. It’s a pain, but it’s better than running application memory alerts several times a day.