Quick Tip: Trim memory usage on your Mac

Ok, I’ve been using Lion since it came out and unlike previous OSX versions, this one has occasionally been freezing up and showing me the beach ball often enough that I decided to investigate.

Immediately I realized this problem was tied to running out of memory.  But wait, I have 4GB of memory… how am I running out?

Well with more memory comes more usage… now that lion has so much memory, it tries to run everything as 64-bit processes, rather then the 32bit of yesteryear (or 16bit before that).  To be honest, for my Macbook Air and its’ limited space, 32bit’s of address space was fine.  64 bits is no faster, only allows other systems with more memory/disk space to utilize the extra resources.  Unfortunately this one size fits all design hurts hardware on the lower end of the scale.

Luckily I’m able to explicitly run my two most common apps in 32-bit mode.  Simply show the process in finder, “Get Info”, and check the “Open in 32-bit mode” checkbox.

I did it for Safari and iTunes and here are my results:

First comparing iTunes, with 32bit mode it takes 78MB after starting, with 64bit 89MB. That’s 14% more, for nothing, as I said 64 bits gives no speed or otherwise benefit.

Now to the big daddy, Safari.  Here I examined both Safari and its’ partner Safari Web Content.  To simulate real world usage, I took 3 readings (all windows opening into my gmail account):

Initial opening :84MB + 119MB (32bit) vs 90MB+183MB(64bit) 32% more

Open 10 windows: 150MB + 780MB (32bit) vs 168MB + 1120MB(64bit) 38% more

Finally close all windows: 115MB + 574MB (32bit) vs 130MB + 912MB(65bit) 51% more

So for everyone running a Mac with OSX, switch Safari and iTunes to run in 32 bit mode.  Save yourself some memory and help avoid system hangups 🙂

The marketing guys always push upgrades with the latest and greatest hardware… but with bloated software it’s a wash.  Better is to optimize both 🙂

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