Question: My use of my Mac is rather intensive. I have large amounts of email, work files and media operations going on. At times, my computer gets sluggish and the “spinning beach ball of death” spins for several seconds. I looked at my Activity Monitor and I noticed that there was very little RAM available, with a high number of “page outs”. What do I do now?
Answer: This is a classic case of lack of Random Access Memory (RAM) on your Mac. Up to a certain point, your Mac will manage its RAM and virtual memory to keep your data accessible at the fastest possible speed.
However, there are limits to that. If you run out of RAM to keep everything active, your Mac starts using your hard disk drive, which is much slower, to store data temporarily. It will put scarcely used information on the disk and retrieve it if necessary. We call that a page out. It will slow things down if the number of page outs gets equal to page ins.
Here are solutions. The first is to add RAM to your computer. Since RAM chips are not expensive nowadays, this shouldn’t be too hard to do. If you cannot do it, whether it is for financial reasons or because your Mac already uses the maximum amount of memory it can handle, it is time to tighten your belt. Find the best way to run fewer applications at once.
Forget application updates that can eat up more memory when you run them. Many people will be able to streamline their activities when forced to. Or, if money is not an issue, they might just use this situation as an excuse to get a shiny new Mac :-)