I have a Early-2011 MacBook Pro base model. It has 4GB of RAM, and I use it for heavy development work.

It shows a pattern of continuously dumping into a black screen which asks me to restart (a kernel panic) almost once a week. It seems that I don't have enough RAM, as today I had Xcode, Eclipse and Firefox opened side by side (each of these apps are memory hogs), and when I opened iCal and Safari, I got a kernel panic.

I tried a free memory application available in the App Store, and it said that before opening these two applications I had 22 MB free memory and 1.1 GB inactive memory out of 4 GB total memory. It looks like inactive memory is not getting freed (my understanding is that inactive memory is what the OS uses for fast app switching), and the OS simply crashes. Safari only had one tab open.

Will additional RAM help or is there a different problem? I'm also using a Samsung 21.5" monitor through mini DisplayPort to VGA connector if it matters.

Update: this problem started occuring again: the system becomes slow then I get a kernel panic. Would upgrading RAM help? I have nearly 1GB of inactive memory.

  • Inactive memory does not normally get freed into free memory. Although it is technically available as free memory. Have you updated your mac, there were some firmware releases lately. Does this only happen when you have low memory ? Check the Console.app when this happens for the logs. This will probably be very informative. – Kassym Dorsel Nov 15 '11 at 17:00
  • yes it happens only on low memory. – Vaibhav Mishra Nov 15 '11 at 17:33
  • I applied today's EFI firmware update v2.3 for early 2011 model and this porblem seems to be rectified , although device becomes slow , it is not crashing, I opened multiple android emulator(3), eclipse, Xcode, everything on my doc and system still seems to hold. – Vaibhav Mishra Nov 16 '11 at 11:30
  • Being slow and even unresponsive is normal since the OS needs to do many Page in/out since your free memory is low. You're now limited to the speed of your HDD. – Kassym Dorsel Nov 16 '11 at 14:27
  • If the screen is black, how does it tell you to restart? Or is it perhaps like this? – GEdgar Nov 17 '11 at 16:18

Did you disable your swap file? As ghoppe, bmike, and I mention in the top answers to this question, this is a bad idea for exactly the problems you're having.

The other option is that you have bad RAM. Run a memory checker (like Memtest86) to see it you have a bad stick or two and remove and replace the offending modules.


The current memory in Lion is not suitable for developer-oriented task in my case, so I upgraded my RAM, seems like only thing that worked.


I applied recent EFI firmware update v2.3 for early 2011 model and this problem seems to be rectified. And while the device becomes slower, it is not crashing. I opened multiple Android emulators (3), Eclipse, Xcode, everything on my doc and the system still seems to hold.

So, all in all, the problem seems to be fixed in new OS X update and hence the question is not relevant anymore.

EDIT: The asker edited the question to say that they're experiencing the problem again, so this answer seems to be wrong/irrelevant.

  • 2
    Since your problem has started back up again, consider removing this answer - it is giving people the impression that they no longer need to answer your question. – Adam Davis Mar 26 '12 at 18:20

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