I have a perplexing problem with my Macbook Pro (16GB RAM, OS X 10.8.4). If I use up all my main memory, the computer crashes. The screen freezes on whatever window it was on (not a kernel panic), and is totally unresponsive.

I have also noticed that the "wired" memory usage in Activity Monitor seems to get very high - most of my RAM usage is "wired". And even upon boot, there is a kernel_task process that uses 1.5GB + of memory which seems somewhat high. These points may or may not be relevant.

I know I have needed virtual memory in the past and had no problems, so I have no idea what is wrong. It seems as if the computer just flat-out refuses to use virtual memory - that would certainly explain the crash. In fact, my /private/var/vm/ folder does not even exist.

  • if you have a hard drive (as opposed to a solid state drive) any virtual memory provided by the disk will be orders of magnitude slower than RAM -- additionally your computer freezes (perfectly normal), not crashes, when you run out of RAM, given what you say Jul 12, 2013 at 16:39
  • I have an SSD. I think you misunderstand my problem. I'm not experiencing slow-down, the machine is 100% unresponsive, and I can leave it like that for half an hour or more and it still won't respond. This is not normal.
    – Moriarty
    Jul 12, 2013 at 17:10
  • If you have a SSD you should not have a drastic degradation of performance when processes move to the SSD from RAM -- is the hardware ok? Jul 12, 2013 at 17:24
  • try resetting your SDC
    – Ruskes
    Jul 12, 2013 at 17:26
  • Problem solved! See edit of original post. user1256923, the problem was that my system simply refused to use the SSD as virtual memory. "Totally unresponsive" and "crash" are not synonymous with "slow" ;).
    – Moriarty
    Jul 12, 2013 at 17:30

1 Answer 1


Turns out the simple solution sometimes is the proper one after all! It seems /private/var/vm/ should always exist (even if it is empty, ie on restart), so however it got deleted the answer was to just sudo mkdir /private/var/vm/. Seemingly non-robust coding on Apple's part, but at least it's fixed. Never mind!

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