Mac OS X allocates and uses RAM differently than is reported by Windows and can be confusing at times. Microsoft originally built Windows to keep as much memory free as possible. Apple's memory model follows a guideline that empty RAM is a wasted resource that could be better utilized to enhance performance.
Here is a quick and somewhat simplistic breakdown of how your RAM is currently being used:
- Wired: memory reserved by the operating system
- active: memory used by currently running programs, e.g., Chrome, Skype, Activity Monitor
- Inactive: memory used by programs you previously ran since your last reboot, but have since quit. Most people use a few programs all the time and may switch between them by quitting one program and then launching another. Rather than releasing the memory to be "free", the inactive programs are cached and ready to run again. Some or all of this memory will be combined with Free memory as needed by the system or programs.
- Free: memory as of yet unused since the last boot.
- Used: total of wired, active and inactive.
The VM Size is the "total memory footprint available to the computer". When you use VM (virtual memory), the processor swaps unused portions of chip memory with hard disk memory, giving the usability of a larger memory footprint when it might not be available.
Your total Swap used is 0 bytes used, so you're managing to do everything in real or chip RAM without having to use the slower SSD. The zero page outs shows you made a good choice going with the 8GB or RAM.
The VM statistics are reset every time you reboot.
Hope this helps demystify your computer.
additional info added in response to Ando's comment
Let me give you a different perspective on your memory use:
Rather than ask "1.2GB, really?", ask how many services, caches and other system files the Mac loads on boot rather than individually as needed. As long as the amount used remains constant, you should be fine. If the wired amounts tends to dramatically climb as you use it, then you have something to worry about.
Additional wired memory can be used by system preferences, menu bar programs, and other background processes.
Comparing your system to a 2GB Linux machine is similar to comparing your computer to my Mac Pro with 24GB of RAM, multi-terabyte internal arrays, numerous graphic cards, etc. Both were designed and configured for different purposes and footprints.
You can get a good idea of the individual app footprints in the Activity Monitor window above the RAM statistics.
Hope this helps!
third edit in response...
I don't have a lot of experience with Chrome, but don't forget that it has a full instance of Flash living within it. Most of my circle works on iOS or OS X so I run FaceTime instead of Skype.
Here are some procedures to follow:
- Check and see if you have the latest versions, especially for Chrome. Known memory leaks tend to get corrected over time.
- When diagnosing memory issues, it's best to begin with a fresh boot.
- As you run Skype and Chrome, track their memory uses over time.
- As you open another tab, how much additional memory does it grab?
- When you close that tab is all the additional memory released?
Rather than spend a lot of time worrying about minimum memory footprints and such, track system performance with your clock... Does the computer still feel fast and peppy to you?