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As I understood, the "App memory" is all the memory used by different applications. Now if we take a look at the list, the memory of all applications doesn't come near the memory reported:

enter image description here

Anyone an idea what my real consumption is and if it would be bad if I only had 16GB of RAM? I am trying to figure out whether to get a new 16GB RAM Mac oder 32GB.

2 Answers 2

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Trying to make sense of those figures is like trying to knit fog.
The Mac's memory management is a) very good & b) like voodoo ;)

If you had less RAM, it would use less RAM. The more you have, the more it will use before it recycles some to be more readily available.

Having said that, we have one low RAM Mac in the building -M1 iMac with only 16GB [maximum available at the time] & it's quite easy to start to choke it if you have a couple of memory-intensive apps running. It needs more frequent reboots than all the other Macs combined [which have between 32 & 64GB.]

enter image description here

At the moment this is all green, which is fine. If it hits amber, we reboot it. Quitting the big users helps [usually Photoshop is top user but not running at the moment], but a reboot is a better overall refresh.

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  • Ok thanks, I was just confused that App Memory said 20GB and in the list only around 6GB were listed ;) From your screenshot it looks like the sum of the list items is a better indicator than App memory right?
    – perotom
    Nov 16, 2023 at 13:49
  • Really, unless something is using gigantic amounts of memory, meaning it's best to quit that app if possible to release it, your simplest 'consumer guide' is the memory pressure graph at the bottom. If it's green you're fine. See what do App Memory, Wired Memory, and Compressed mean? & the linked Apple Activity Monitor guide for more detail
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 16, 2023 at 13:58
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Unfortunately this only tells you “32 GB is fine. It’s more than fine”. If you asked whether to upgrade to 64 that would be easy: Absolutely no reason.

With 16GB I would expect a small amount of swapping. Before swapping macOS compresses memory which you won’t even notice; it will throw away cached files which you likely won’t notice, and swapping a few gigabytes is harmless because the SSD drive is so fast.

I would say don’t look at 16 vs 32 GB but at “what do I get for the same money”. For example if you wanted 16GB with an m3 Pro, 32 GB with the 11 cores may be cheaper and better. (It is just as fast until you really, really hammer all the CPUs. Do you do that?). Decide on the price and then get the best value possible for that money.

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  • I don't have an M2 or 3 to compare, but empirically with the M1 having only 16GB, I would never again buy a Mac with such little RAM. We specced up our current M1 with maximum RAM & SSD available at the time… & it just chokes so easily. My own ancient Mac Pro is far better at high intensity tasks [except video, which definitely does benefit from the faster architecture…until it chokes] I get swap with 64GB. Not much & not often, but it happens.
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 16, 2023 at 19:10

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