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OSXpert, Mac Software Engineer
Category: Mac
Satisfied Customers: 226
Experience:  2 years as a geek squad computer technician, 5 years as a software engineer and unix systems admin
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I have a G5 power PC with 6 gig of RAM but the main application

Customer Question

I have a G5 power PC with 6 gig of RAM but the main application is only using 1.5gig and there is 3.5gig unused, can I allocate more ram to the application?
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Mac
Expert:  OSXpert replied 6 years ago.

OSXpert :

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Expert:  OSXpert replied 6 years ago.
Thanks for accepting, but let's chat a bit so I can answer your question.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi Britton, are you able to help with this problem?
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi Britton, I know I clicked the "Accept" tab but it was done by accident, I would at least expect help with the problem before accepting payment, after all, "Satisfaction is fully Guaranteed" Can you please help with this before I have to go through the hassle of requesting a refund!
Expert:  OSXpert replied 6 years ago.
I can help. However, I'll give you a forewarning that the user (you) has very little control over the sort of actions you're talking about doing.

When your Operating System (Mac OS X) is running, there is a portion of it that lives in memory (RAM) the entire time the computer is powered on. This portion of the operating system is called the kernel. The kernel is the entity that handles the allocation of memory to all of the different programs that you run on your Mac. Unfortunately, you aren't able to specifically tell the kernel to allocate specific amounts of RAM to different applications. Part of what makes your system run smoothly is the fact that the kernel is highly optimized to manage memory efficiently in order to give you the best user experience.

In your case, the kernel has actually "allocated" more RAM to the application (as much as 3.5GB more). However, the application is only consuming 1.5GB. As your application needs more RAM, it will occupy more assuming there aren't other programs open requesting RAM from the kernel as well.

Let me know if this helps, I can explain more if you need more details.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi Britton, thanks for getting back to me. Sounds like there is nothing I can do. Just want to check though, the application is Caldera RIP Software (for a digital printer). It is the only application open and running on the mac, that's why I though it odd that there was 3.5 -3.8G "Innactive" and Caldera is using just under 1G.
So, although there is 6G, the mac is only allocating 1G to run this very memory intensive program and leave 3-4G unused, is this normal?
Expert:  OSXpert replied 6 years ago.
Yes, this is completely normal. Think of it this hypothetical scenario:

You have some guests over to your home to watch a Football game, and as a courtesy, you provide a bowl of potato chips for your guests to eat. When you want some potato chips, you don't grab the whole bowl, dump all of the chips out in front of you and deny anyone else the chips, right? You probably grab a handful or so and eat them as needed.

RAM being allocated by the kernel works in the same manner. Instead of allocating the entire memory space to a single application, it hands out memory as needed to ensure that the operating system and any other applications you have open run smoothly. The "Inactive" and "Free" categories basically show the amount of RAM that Caldera can use in addition to what it's currently using. I don't use Caldera, but depending on what you're doing in the software, it very well may occupy more memory from time to time.

That said, here are a couple of things to keep in mind when reading the memory allocation from Activity Monitor.

Free Memory: Memory that is not in use and has not been allocated to an application

Wired Memory: This is memory typically used by the kernel and any other processes (applications) that are needed to keep Mac OS X running. It's called "Wired" because it can not be swapped out to the hard drive (virtual memory)

Active Memory: This is memory that is currently allocated and is being used (Caldera fits into this category when it is running)

Inactive Memory: This one is a little bit trickier and can make memory more difficult to understand. Essentially, it's memory that has been de-allocated from a particular application (because the application has been closed) but, it can be quickly re-allocated if the application is re-started as opposed to having to load the application from the hard disk all over again. For example, if you close Caldera and then immediately re-open it, it will probably load much quicker than it did when you opened it the very first time (i.e. after a reboot) because the memory for it had been de-allocated by the kernel, but it was still considered inactive memory allowing it to quickly be re-allocated to open the application.

Used: Used is the total amount of memory in use by all applications/processes.

Let me know if I can explain more or be of more help. It looks to me like Caldera is running the way it should. If it's performing slowly, it may be because of a hardware inadequacy like the CPU or RAM is too slow.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
HI Britton,
thanks for that, when you explain it that way, it's very logical!
Oh well, could be an issue with Caldera not making the most of the RAM it's been allocated.

Thanks again
Expert:  OSXpert replied 6 years ago.
Sure thing, Colin. Let me know if you need more help.