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Sometimes I see the iMac with 4GB of RAM having a few MB of swap file only, and after I left for a few hours and come back, the swap file is 2.7GB.

Looking into the Activities Monitor, the Finder is using 796MB. How can it use so much memory -- could it be due to some "Search" that was left over in a Finder window?

I then chose File -> Close All (by pressing down the Option key while clicking File, and closed all Finder windows, only that it still won't close but just hidden, and looks like the only way is to reboot. How can this situation be prevented?

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I can't say much about preventing this, but there is no need to reboot. Just kill Finder, using Force Quit from the apple menu or killall Finder in a Terminal window. A new Finder will then be started in the old one's place.

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    but why should we keep having to do this? – SuperUberDuper May 13 '17 at 13:45
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This inconvenience is caused by a finder prefs entry:

"show in new window: all my files" this is consuming too much mem. Select a different folder and all is fine

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    On my computer, changing this setting and following Harald's option reduced Finder's memory usage from ~1GB to ~70MB. – Alex Reinking Nov 12 '13 at 2:31
  • Same for me, from 700-800MBs to ~40 – Vlad Miller Jun 13 '15 at 2:05
  • didn't help me :-/ – sgelbart Jun 30 '15 at 14:54
  • "Harald's option" isn't an option. It is force restarting Finder which will definitely free up RAM, but maybe just temporarily. It shouldn't be included with this option, they are very different things. – mraaroncruz Nov 23 '17 at 11:24
  • Where can this preferences entry be found? (In OSX 10.14 Mojave, in the Finder > Preferences window, I didn't see it under any of the General, Tags, Sidebar, or Advanced tabs.) – Jon Schneider Jan 29 at 21:50
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It appears that the only way to get the memory back is to kill Finder. Finder on my Mac now is using 371 megabytes.

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I have found the following advice most useful to fix the issue of Finder using way too much RAM.

"you may be a victim of a corrupt spotlight index. Here's how you fix a corrupt spotlight index: 1. Open system preferences 2. open spotlight (top right) 3. click on privacy tab 4. click and drag your hard drive into the window (if you have more than one, perform this one at a time.) you will leave this in here for at least 10 minutes. no less. (seems hokey but osx does stuff behind the scene ie removing existing index) after your 10 mins at least is up, go back in and remove your HD from the privacy tab, and osx should start rebuilding a new index. repeat for any additional drives you may have. I would also close out of system preferences while you are waiting your 10 minutes."

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